, Derry, New Hampshire

May 1, 2014

Officials ponder need for community staffer

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — The town has had its share of people through the years working on economic development issues.

But with most of that past effort falling by the wayside, some believe, it’s time to get started again and put someone in place to handle the work.

That, according to acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau, is why it’s time to try again.

Budreau reported to the Town Council that he hoped the group would consider hiring a community development coordinator as part of the fiscal year 2015 budget.

Councilors are currently working on the proposed budget and have held many workshops to discuss each town department’s request for money.

This job would cost the town an estimated salary of $112,300.

Budreau said the position falls into place with the Town Council’s established goals for the town, including “creating a supportive environment for downtown redevelopment.”

Having someone focused on the coordination of that redevelopment would be key, Budreau said.

“Derry has recognized for years that it needs to have focused attention on economic development,” he said in his message to the council.

In the past 10 years, Budreau said, the town’s efforts have included adding a community development role to planning director George Sioras’ job, hiring business development coordinator Elizabeth Thompson, followed by securing the Arnett Development Group to work on economic development. The town also put local entrepreneur George Kassas in place to come up with a plan.

None of these efforts worked, Budreau said.

“Naysayers say we have tried a number of approaches and spent a lot of money without receiving tangible results,” he said. “The trouble is, it’s not a short-term results issue. It’s about shaping the future of the community for generations to come.”

Budreau said other communities have similar people in this type of job. Derry needs to do the same, he said.

Town Councilor Tom Cardon said it’s time to do something.

“We’ve seen past efforts, and it’s been there, done that,” he said. “I’m not opposed to putting money into a position with some contingencies.”

Council Chairman Mark Osborne called the economic development issue a “Hatfield/McCoy” issue for the town.

“It has been for several years,” he said.

Most councilors agreed the job could be important, but it is also important to have a new town administrator in place first.

“We should hold off on this position and look at where we are after budget season,” Councilor David Fischer said. “It should be done after we hire a new town administrator.”

Councilor Michael Fairbanks said the town should look at what other communities are doing with this type of position.

“To see what the role would be so we don’t make the same mistakes of the past,” he said.

Budreau said the position is included in the proposed budget. He agreed having a new administrator in place could aid in the selection of the right person for the job.

Councilors say more research on the job is needed before a decision can be made.

“We need to have a workshop to see what this person would do,” Councilor Al Dimmock said. “The money we spent in the past hasn’t brought us anything. We need to decide what we are going to do where economic development is concerned.”