, Derry, New Hampshire

September 5, 2013

Editorial: Market value

Derry News

---- — There apparently is a brighter tomorrow for the Derry Farmers Market.

Market manager Beverly Ferrante announced a new partnership between the market and the East Derry Village Improvement Society, which oversees Upper Village Hall. The hall will be home to the winter market, as it was last year, then will be the event’s summer home, too.

It could be a win-win.

Upper Village Hall is a gem in the making, but not enough people take advantage of it. Moving the market there could help that, by attracting more people who will see what the hall has to offer.

There was no question, the market needed to move.

The move to the municipal office parking lot was a bad one. The market was invisible to passers-by and the hot pavement hardly lent itself to shoppers lingering in the frequent heat.

It just never drew the crowds or vendors that people were accustomed to seeing when the market set up near the pocket park.

Budget battles this spring led to a serious funding reduction, one that was needed. Now, the town provides a healthy $5,000 for the market. Whether that continues remains to be seen. If it doesn’t, the market should be self sustaining, as so many others are, or more rethinking is required.

The idea of a downtown market is appealing, but the parking lot wasn’t the right spot. Upper Village Hall might be, although it is off the beaten path.

When the Town Council slashed funding, Ferrante vowed to keep the market going. It appears she has a plan for doing just that. For that, she deserves credit.

But some of the earliest vendors gave up on the event and moved on. Perhaps this move will entice some of them back. There’s still a desperate need for local produce and fresh food, the basis for any healthy farmers market.

Others deserve some applause, too.

Bud and Ann Evans, owners of Derry Feed, have offered to extend the market’s downtown presence this fall. Some vendors will continue to sell their wares at the feed store every Wednesday in October.

That sounds like a win-win, too.

Speak up, councilors

Derry’s Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau has been on vacation, no doubt well deserved with all that’s been going on in Town Hall of late.

In his absence, Public Works Director Michael Fowler filled in, the fill-in for the fill-in. Budreau is in the position because Town Administrator John Anderson has been on administrative leave since mid-July, pending the outcome of first a police investigation and now criminal charges against him.

Meanwhile, the Town Council has held several closed-door meetings to deal with the mess this has become. They’re certainly entitled to do so, given the nature of the indecency charges against Anderson and the personnel issues at hand.

The Town Council has silenced itself publicly, opting instead to make Budreau the only person with the authority to address the situation. Councilors have been operating under a self-imposed gag order.

That doesn’t sit quite right with some residents, not with at least one town councilor.

When the council met last month and ultimately voted to change Anderson’s status from being on paid leave to unpaid leave, Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores wanted that conversation to take place in open session.

“Going to nonpublic all the time is an injustice to the public,” she said. But she was on the short end of a 6-1 vote to go behind closed doors.

Last week, when Anderson finally turned himself in on the arrest warrant, Budreau was out of town. Fowler couldn’t be reached for comment and a secretary told our reporter he couldn’t speak to that issue anyway.

Now, there’s a problem. One person is allowed to speak to an issue and he’s on vacation. Again, Budreau certainly deserves a vacation, but someone has to step up in his absence. We’re not faulting Fowler, who no doubt was following orders.

Once again, Katsakiores spoke up.

She didn’t have much to say, but at least she spoke, expressing satisfaction Anderson had complied with the warrant and saying it was time for the town to move forward.

Indeed it is and councilors need to keep residents in the loop.

We understand the need to tread carefully, but, ultimately, councilors answer to the people and they ought to be trusted enough to answer questions with putting the town in any legal jeopardy.