By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — Town officials are moving ahead with a plan to review the way the town handled its impact fees for the past 18 years.
Melanson, Heath and Company of Nashua has been chosen to do a forensic audit of Londonderry’s impact fee structure and system. Town councilors announced the hiring of the firm at a meeting Jan. 14.
The decision follows a ruling issued by Rockingham Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wageling last month after Londonderry officials sought guidance for an impact fee situation where more than $1.2 million in fees were either collected erroneously or not spent within the required six-year timeframe.
In her ruling, Wageling strongly suggested the town hire an independent auditor.
“Our hope is to be as transparent as possible,” Londonderry police Chief and acting Town Manager William Hart said.
Melanson, Heath and Company also performs the town’s annual financial audit.
Last June, the town announced it would make significant changes in the way it handled the fees collected from property owners and developers.
Shortly after, former Town Manager David Caron resigned. Town Council Chairman John Farrell said at that time that it was advisable “for Mr. Caron and the town to sever their relationship,” but never directly placed blame on Caron for the impact fee problems.
Hart took over as interim manager once Caron left the job and soon after announced the town would refund more than $1.2 million in impact fees.
The audit will look at the fees collected and the process dating back to 1994, when the town’s program was put in place.
The judge’s ruling called the town “lackadaisical” in the way it handled impact fees and said the audit was the only solution.
Councilor Tom Dolan said the audit is the only way for the town to make sure things are done correctly.
“It’s a very complex issue,” he said. “It takes a lot of deliberation and careful thought to make sure we get it right and fix everything that needs to be fixed.”
Hart said the audit will help the town be as open as possible about the issue.
“We’re taking a very global review of this and looking at this as broadly as we can and how to do our business more efficiently going forward,” he said. “(We want to) cure this problem and put it to rest the best we can.”