Derry town councilors are still in a quandary about the fate of the historic Adams Pond Dam.
Councilors and the public are split on what to do with the dam, which is in need of repair. The owner of the dam, developer Jean Gagnon of Londonderry, has said he cannot afford the estimated $150,000 cost of rebuilding the dam. So he has offered to give the dam and the surrounding embankment to Derry. The problem of fixing the dam would then belong to the council.
The council’s choice boils down to these options: accept the dam and the responsibility of fixing it, which could cost up to $150,000, or reject the offer and leave the decision to Gagnon. The developer, who is building a subdivision on 85 acres around Adams Pond, has said he will remove the dam, which could reduce the pond to a mere stream.
It is a difficult choice, one the Town Council needs to examine more closely.
The council already has rejected the offer of the dam once. Last week, the council deadlocked 3-3 in a vote to take ownership of the dam. Councilors Phyllis Katsakiores, Neil Wetherbee and Brad Benson all voted to accept the dam plan. But Councilors Michael Fairbanks, David Milz and Joel Olbricht opposed it.
Councilor Brian Chirichiello, a real estate agent, did not vote, citing potential dealings with Gagnon. The tie vote meant the proposal was defeated.
Now, residents are trying to get the matter back on the council agenda. And at least one councilor, Wetherbee, says he’s willing to hear the matter again.
“I’m willing to make the leap of faith,” he told reporter Julie Huss. “Let’s see what can be explored. We can’t get to that point unless we take ownership of the dam.”
Others disagreed. Olbricht said the town should not make this type of deal a priority.
“It’s just not a goal of ours,” he said.
Residents are split on the proposal as well, which has been under discussion for months. Opponents say taxpayers should not face a bill for a dam repair that primarily benefits Gagnon and his subdivision. Supporters say the dam is historic, dating to around 1719.
“The dam site has historical meaning to this town,” town historian Richard Holmes told Huss. “It’s older than this town is.”
The dam also creates a site of scenic beauty and maintains a source of water that flows into Beaver Lake.
“This pond gives Beaver Lake 75 percent of its water,” resident Ellie 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.
“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.”
The Town Council should reconsider its vote. Too much of our communities has been lost, plowed under for development or simply forgotten. The Adams Pond Dam adds history and beauty to Derry, something all residents can enjoy.
If the council votes to accept the dam, it can then take time to consider options for its repair. But even the full replacement estimate of $150,000 isn’t much to preserve a piece of Derry’s history.