, Derry, New Hampshire

October 25, 2012

Town officials deadlock on dam ownership

By Julie Huss
Derry News

---- — DERRY — A dam deal may not be dead in the water if residents can get the issue back on the Town Council agenda.

Councilors were deadlocked last week over whether to take ownership of the Adams Pond dam, a highly charged issue that brought people out on both sides of the issue.

The 3-3 tie vote ultimately defeated a proposal to accept a deed transfer from Londonderry developer Jean Gagnon, the dam’s owner.

Councilors Phyllis Katsakiores, Neil Wetherbee and Brad Benson all voted to accept the dam plan. But Councilors Michael Fairbanks, David Milz and Joel Olbricht said no.

Councilor Brian Chirichiello, a real estate agent, stepped down from the vote, citing potential dealings with Gagnon.

The state cited the dam as deficient last year.

The state also gave the owner a timetable on how long he had to make repairs or remove the dam completely.

Gagnon and the town had agreed on the plan that would transfer ownership of the dam and surrounding embankment to the town at no cost.

The town would then consider several options on how to deal with the dam’s future and what it would cost.

For the past year, officials have listened to people on both sides of the dam issue, some wanting to save the dam and pond, but others saying the town shouldn’t spend money to help bail Gagnon out of his dam dilemma.

Councilors were torn over what to do.

Olbricht said the town should not make this type of deal a priority.

“It’s just not a goal of ours,” he said.

Wetherbee said he would be willing to make the dam plan work.

“I’m willing to make the leap of faith,” he said. “Let’s see what can be explored. We can’t get to that point unless we take ownership of the dam.”

Emotions still are running high following last week’s vote.

Citing the historical integrity of the 300-year-old Adams dam site, some want the structure to remain.

Many said removing the dam would mean the end for Adams Pond.

Resident Ellie Sarcione wants to do everything she can to save the dam and the pond, not only for its historical value, but for its importance to other waters in town.

“This pond gives Beaver Lake 75 percent of its water,” Sarcione said. “For the Town Council to not even look into it, I don’t even understand.”

Sarcione said people have offered to donate money to help the town keep the dam.

She said she hopes to get the issue back on the council’s radar before it’s too late.

“I really think they should take a second look at this,” she said. “We need to get it back on the agenda. This is a diamond — save it.”