LONDONDERRY — The year began with the annual hair-cutting rally to support cancer patients, school and town budgets to consider, celebrations of a new fire station project and continuing success with the town's trail system.
Londonderry honored a new holder of its Boston Post Cane, but bid a longtime music educator farewell as retirement called.
It was a year of growth, looking ahead, and milestones met for longtime projects in town including Woodmont Commons and the Exit 4A project.
Here is a look back at some of Londonderry's top stories for 2018:
Amazon picks its spot
As 2018 got its start, the decision was announced that mega-company Amazon wouldn't be calling Londonderry home for a new second headquarters facility.
The company announced that southern New Hampshire didn't make the cut, after Londonderry and many other locations across the nation hoped to lure the billion-dollar business to town.
In the 78-page New Hampshire proposal to Amazon, the benefits of what Londonderry and the state had to offer was explained with demographic information, charts, economic, housing, education, and other information that could be a draw for the company to bring a facility here. In the end, Amazon chose New York City and northern Virginia as the top locations for its new facilities.
Hair's to helping others
The ponytails were tied and the cutting was about to begin.
In January, Londonderry High School hosted its 12th annual Pantene Beautiful Lengths “Day of Giving” event with a large circle of students and community joining together for a massive hair-cutting event to support Pantene and the Hair-U-Wear program.
The ponytails cut are then shipped off to be used to make wigs for cancer patients of all ages through the American Cancer Society.
Those waiting to have their hair cut were flanked by friends and family members. Many had stories about why they were donating, including supporting friends and family members who are battling the disease. Londonderry High teacher and event organizer Steve Juster said the rally was to celebrate the program’s “angels” while sharing stories of survival and hope.
"And everyone deserves to feel beautiful," Juster told the crowd at the rally. There were 173 donors offering their hair at the 2018 Day of Giving event.
Soucy steps down
He was known as the music man in Londonderry and after more than four decades teaching young musicians, Andy Soucy decided to step down after serving the school district for 46 years. The music director announced his retirement in February.
School officials touted Soucy's decades of success as an educator, friend and supporter of the community.
Soucy’s long tenure in Londonderry began when the Nashua native was fresh out of college, a member of the Keene State College Class of 1972.
The community had no high school at that time, so Soucy took a job teaching music at the junior high school until the town built its own high school in 1978.
Soucy led an early band of about 65 young musicians that has now grown through the decades into a prominent, successful music program often leading students onward after graduation to college music careers and beyond.
It’s all about the kids, always, Soucy stressed, saying he has always been happy to provide music opportunities to his students — to give them life experiences they will always remember and to give them the proper recognition they deserve.
“The kids are really amazing,” Soucy said. “It’s all the kids. That’s my favorite part, giving the kids an experience of a lifetime. I’m just the guy behind, I’m not up there. That’s the way I like it.”
Soucy was heralded by school officials as someone that has an impeccable reputation, coast to coast, due to all the performance opportunities available to music students, including trips around the world to Beijing, China during a 2008 Olympics performance and also the chance to march in two presidential inaugural parades in 2009 and 2013.
Just this year, Soucy led his marching Lancers in an appearance at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, the group’s fifth trip to the famed New Year’s Day parade. He was also honored with a commemorative brick at the entrance to the Rose Bowl stadium.
Honoring the eldest
In March, the town honored its eldest citizen and presented the Boston Post Cane.
Forrest Pratt, 89, received the prestigious cane in a ceremony prior to a Town Council meeting March 5. Fire Chief Darren O'Brien presented Pratt with the cane as Town Manager Kevin Smith read the official commendation.
Pratt was surrounded by friends and family and not only received the cane, but also recognition from Gov. Chris Sununu.
The Boston Post Cane tradition dates back to 1909, beginning as an advertising program at the Boston Post newspaper, offering 700 New England towns the opportunity to present elder citizens with a cane crafted from African black ebony wood, with a gold, engraved head.
Towns owned their canes and first offered them to the oldest men originally, then women became eligible to receive the cane in 1930. The last person receiving the cane in Londonderry was Barbara Eaton, who died at the age of 98 in 2015.
Fire station project underway
In November, shovels officially went in the ground for the Central Fire Station expansion project on Mammoth Road.
The $6.4 million project was approved by voters at the polls in March of 2018, with 68 percent voter approval.
It's an exciting time, according to Londonderry Fire Chief Darren O'Brien, adding the current station has outgrown its space.
"This station was built in 1978, and has served the community well for 40 years," the chief said. "Hopefully it will serve this community for another 50 years."
O'Brien and his department worked for many months to plan the renovation and what would suit the current station property at 280 Mammoth Road best.
That included feasibility studies, engineering work and plans put in place for the expansion that will help the current station grow by about 21,000 square feet by adding much-needed space for offices, operations, and firefighter living quarters, training space and storage.
Add in all the new development taking place in town, including the massive Woodmont Commons project, housing projects, and new development on Pettengill Road, and the department is kept busy, officials said.
Right now, the station is an 8,400 square-foot facility. Planned additions will help the station grow up to 22,000 square feet with added space for training, equipment storage and administration/dispatch offices.
Managing the midterms
The general election Nov. 6 spawned big voting numbers and plenty of challenges.
Town Moderator Tom Freda gave a post-election update to town councilors at a meeting Nov. 19, saying the election was a lot of hard work, drew impressive ballot tallies, but had some challenging costs attached to the process.
Freda said about 10,859 voters cast ballots for federal, state and local officials — more than 50 percent of the town's registered checklist. He also credited poll volunteers and town staff who were at the polls throughout the day at the Londonderry High gym.
"They did an excellent job," Freda said.
But Londonderry's election came with some challenges. That included having to reprint ballots after one local state representative candidate, Alex Rego, moved out of town. Another election challenge came in the form of one Democratic candidate for state representative, Luisa Piette, saying she received death threats and racist insults via Facebook.
"Obviously our main interest is in the safety of the public and Luisa Piette, so we are investigating this as a credible threat," said Detective Christopher Olson, spokesman for the Londonderry Police Department.
"I think these are some credible threats," said Piette, after she filed a police report. "It's just ignorance, and there is nothing anyone can do about that."
LONDONDERRY — The town's communications infrastructure was aging and needed upgrades. That's the word that came from town officials who said it was time to bring updated technology to the town's system to help alleviate gaps in communication when it comes to providing police, fire or highway services.
Voters gave their approval for the $2.7 million project at the polls in March, putting a plan into action that would support the updates and help the collaboration among police and fire departments.
Fire Chief Darren O'Brien reported at several meetings that the town's infrastructure needed major improvements as some equipment dates back 15 years and was growing old fast.
The town's communication system dated back to post-9/11 when federal grant money supported agencies and their equipment and dispatching needs. More development in the community also increased the need for better coverage and updated services, officials stated.
Ground breaks for Sanborn Crossing
Ground was officially broken Dec. 7 for Sanborn Crossing, a plan that will bring an affordable, 102-unit, two-building project to 12 acres at 30 Sanborn Road. There will be 62 one-bedroom units and 40 with two bedrooms, affordable to senior households under 60 percent of the area median income.
Developer Steven Lewis had come before town boards for several years prior to bringing the project to town. He was joined at the ground breaking by local and state officials, development partners, Gov. Chris Sununu, and other supporters including officials representing New Hampshire Housing Authority and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Once used as a junkyard from the 1950s through the 1980s, the Sanborn Road property is classified as a brownfield site, where past industrial or other uses may have caused potential contamination issues.
The property has been remediated by the town and the state encourages development of this type of property through various programs. The senior housing plan has been vetted extensively through different layers from the federal government and state departments.
Woodmont progress continues
As 2018 neared its end, a massive, multi-use development years in the making continued to take shape.
Planning Board officials got a brief update in December on the 600-acre plan, hearing about the project’s progress up until now and learning what’s ahead for the project.
Developed and owned by Pillsbury Realty Development, the multi-use plan will combine streetscapes, retail, housing and green space —a new urban form of development for people to live, work and play.
Woodmont Commons has been before town boards for years until reaching its conditional approval for Phase I in 2017. The project will be built in phases with each phase on a multi-year timeline.
Phase I included plans for considerable road building, parking, substantial supporting infrastructure and the beginnings of buildings that will house a brewery, retail, housing and office space.