DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

August 29, 2013

Londonderry impact fee audit now complete

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — Officials were notified last week that the audit of the town’s impact fees was now complete.

The court-ordered audit looked at Londonderry’s impact fee structure dating back to 1994, covering a total of 18 years, and looking at potential improprieties in the way the town handled its impact fees.

Nashua-based Melanson, Heath and Company performed the audit.

A Rockingham Superior Court judge ruled last December that Londonderry had been “at best, lackadaisical in their handling and documentation of impact fees.”

The ruling came after Londonderry officials requested guidance over how to refund more than $1.2 million in impact fees collected erroneously or not spent within the required six-year time frame.

Officials said last year they hoped to make significant changes in the way impact fees would be handled once collected from developers and property owners.

That announcement came shortly after former Town Manager David Caron resigned, effective July 20 of last year. Police Chief Bill Hart took over interim manager duties at that time.

Caron had been on leave since June 18 of last year and the impact fee problem came to light during his leave.

The town then severed its relationship with Caron.

Acting as manager, Hart announced last July the town would refund the more than $1.2 million in fees.

Twenty-five property owners were owed refunds of at least $5,000. But the town also owed refunds of lesser amounts to owners of more than 400 properties.

The audit found many discrepancies, missing records, and other errors for various time frames during the audited period of time.

“The data entered on the schedules accounting for impact fees was often incomplete or in error,” the report stated. “The information sent over from the Building Department did not always include map and lot information nor did it always include category breakdowns.”

There were also bank statements missing, including evidence of actual fees being collected, but not deposited, as some old out-of-date checks were discovered.

The audit also found some fees being distributed without the proper Town Council order authorization.

Town attorney Michael Ramsdell told town councilors last week there were many issues in the town’s records when it came to how impact fees were handled.

It is now time to move forward and clean up the problem, he said.

“This covered an 18-year period,” he said. “There were issues with the way the impact fee program had been administered for some time.”

The final audit is now available on the town website at londonderry.org.

“Hopefully, we can put this to bed,” Ramsdell said.

Officials will continue discussion on updating impact fee procedures. They will look at what other towns are doing and then move forward.