The year began with school and town budgets to consider, celebrations of a new fire station project making progress and continuing success with the town's trail system.
Londonderry honored its Citizen of the Year and also paid tribute to 300 years of history. It was a year of growth, looking ahead, and continued progress for projects in town including Woodmont Commons and the planned Exit 4A project. Town intersections made the state's official radar for improvements. Residents felt concern and sadness over two homicides in town and at year's end, a hallowed piece of steel arrived in town to honor those who fell on Sept. 11, 2001.
Here is a look back at some of Londonderry's top stories for 2019:
Citizen of Year
Every year, the community picks its Citizen of the Year, announced at the annual Deliberative Session prior to the March elections. For 2019, Londonderry native and high school Assistant Principal Katie Sullivan took the top honors in 2019.
Sullivan grew up in Londonderry, is a 1990 graduate of Londonderry High and was a point guard on the school's girls basketball team. She said she knew she wanted to be a teacher even as an elementary student.
Her first teaching job after graduating from Keene State University was as a physical education teacher at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Derry. She spent many years there teaching and working as the school's athletic director.
Sullivan continued master's degree studies and then worked as a school counselor at Matthew Thornton Elementary School in Londonderry. After receiving more master's honors in school administration, her next job landed her back at her alma mater, Londonderry High. Sullivan always knew she wanted to live and work at home.
"I wanted to stay local," she said. "My heart and soul was always in Londonderry."
School and town budgets took the early 2019 lead, with hearings, deliberative sessions and eventual voting at the polls in March approving town and school district numbers.
Incumbent town councilors John Farrell and Tom Dolan won top vote tallies for three more years on the job, as did incumbent school board member Jenn Ganem.
Voters approved a $33.8 million town budget, $74.3 million school budget and various town and school warrant articles.
603 makes a move
A local brewery made a big move in 2019, growing its business and offering customers a bigger space and service for its craft beer business.
603 Brewery celebrated its new 18,000-square-foot location within the Woodmont Commons development Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce members, town officials, local business people and other supporters came out to the new space for a summer ribbon-cutting to view the expanded brewing operation and new beer hall.
The brewing company was founded in 2012 by three college friends — Tamsin and Geoff Hewes, and Dan Leonard — all wanting to put something they loved into an action/business plan. The friends began brewing about 10 gallons at a time. Now 603 is one of the top five craft beer producers in the state. The new building houses not only a new, custom-built brewing operation, but the new beer hall that offers seating for customers, and access to an outdoor patio space, complete with corn hole and fire pit.
Alleged murders grip town
A Londonderry man was accused of murdering his wife in April at the couple's West Road home.
William Argie, 46, of Londonderry, was arrested and charged with two alternative counts of second-degree murder — for knowingly causing the death of his wife Maureen, 41, by strangling and/or smothering her, and for recklessly causing her death, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.
Argie pleaded not guilty in June, and was held at the Rockingham County Jail without bail.
At the time, Argie was still serving his suspended sentence on previous criminal threatening charges when he was arrested for his wife’s murder, according to court documents, stating that on Dec. 18, 2017, New Hampshire State Police received a phone call from a tractor-trailer driver saying a man in a pickup pointed a gun at him while driving on Interstate 93. Police later identified that man as Argie.
According to the affidavit, Argie “began to feel that the (tractor-trailer) unit operator was purposefully swerving into his lane. Argie then sped up to pass the (tractor-trailer) unit. Argie stated that as he passed the (tractor-trailer) unit he retrieved his handgun from under his seat, took the handgun with his left hand and stuck it out the window.”
After pleading guilty in February 2018, Argie was given a suspended two-year sentence, according to court documents. He had to complete 25 hours of community service, get a mental health evaluation, and could not possess firearms, according to court documents.
According to court documents provided by Argie’s lawyer Donald Blaszka, he complied with all of those requirements — completing 27 hours of community service at Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Derry, participating in bi-weekly counseling, and selling his two firearms.
According to Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley, Argie is expected to face a bail hearing Jan. 7.
Fire station expansion
In 2019, the David A. Hicks, Central Fire Station on Mammoth Road was growing and improving. Thanks to a big vote of resident support at the ballot box in March 2018, the $6.4-million project made big strides in 2019. The fire station expansion had been listed as a priority on the town’s capital improvement list for several years.
The current station was built in 1978 at a cost of about $100,000. Community volunteers, firefighters, contractors and crews representing the Army Corps of Engineers helped prepare the site and construct the building. Space was getting tight.
The former 8,400-square-foot station is growing to about 21,000 square feet, adding more space for operations, firefighter living quarters, training space and storage. The project includes a one-story addition to the north of the existing structure to house dispatch and training rooms. A two-story addition on the south side will be the operation wing. The station will also have additional apparatus bays.
Central Fire Station was renamed in 2008 in memory of Hicks, a firefighter in Londonderry for 33 years. He spent 17 years as Londonderry’s first full-time fire chief. Hicks died in 2007.
Intersections make state list
A pair of Londonderry intersections could get improvements and upgrades and made the state's draft 10-year transportation list. The Governor's Advisory Council on Intermodal Transportation hosted a public hearing in Londonderry in September, one of 20 hearings scheduled across New Hampshire to review and receive public input on the draft 10-year Transportation Improvement Plan for years 2021-30.
The 10-year plan continues the progress of the Interstate 93 widening project and the planned Exit 4A project that will impact both Derry and Londonderry, with increased funding for that project included in the plan.
Other Londonderry projects listed are safety and operational improvements at the intersection of NH 28/NH 128 at a cost of $1.7 million with construction proposed to begin in year 2028.
"That continues to be a problem intersection in town," Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said at the hearing, adding that if the state could move that project higher on the list it would be appreciated.
Another local project listed is operational and capacity improvements at the intersection of NH 28 and Stonehenge Road at a cost of nearly $1.7 million with construction in year 2021.
In October, Brandon Castiglione was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with a homicide that occurred on Ridgemont Drive.
He pleaded not guilty and waived his arraignment on second-degree murder charges in Rockingham Superior Court.
Police say Castiglione shot Luis Garcia of Manchester, 60, in the neck on Oct. 1 at Castliglione's home at 15 Ridgemont Drive.
Castiglione’s mental competency remained an issue in the ongoing case. A competency hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27, according to court records.
Castiglione previously pleaded guilty to multiple drug related crimes and was on parole for two years before Garcia's murder. In 2013 the former Londonderry High student was arrested for operating a drug lab at the same address where Garcia’s murder occurred, according to reports in The Eagle-Tribune.
At the time, police had obtained a search warrant to find drug paraphernalia stolen from the Londonderry Flea Market, according to the reports. While there, investigators found highly explosive materials in the then 19-year-old Brandon Castiglione’s bedroom, believed to have been used to make honey butane oil, reports state. The materials included cans of flammable Sterno cooking fuel, the chemical butane and propane torches.
Since then Castiglione had been charged in multiple cases in Derry and Londonderry, including driving under the influence, simple assault and criminal mischief.
Happy trails in town
Londonderry's trail system got financial boosts and expanded in 2019 thanks to a lot of support including local voters and other funding.
Londonderry Trailways joined with local and state officials, and supporters to cut the ribbon in November on the newest paved section of the community rail trail network. The segment in North Londonderry off Mammoth Road is approximately 1 mile in length and is the Phase 5 Little Cohas portion of the trail system.
About 3,500 old railroad ties were pulled from this section alone along with old tires, and other remnants of trash and tossed materials. Londonderry's first paved mile of trail system was in 2013, and now with Phase 5 complete, the total amount of trail pavement is 4.8 miles.
The next phase has already gotten support at the ballot box, with 77 percent of Londonderry voters approving a warrant article in March 2019 to help the trail system move forward.
Londonderry's trail system was also one of nine statewide chosen for money from the Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP. A total of $5.7 million was slated to be awarded to Granite State communities for projects including sidewalks, multi-use paths and rail trails. Londonderry will use TAP funding to build a one-mile, multi-use path along the sides of Harvey, Webster and Grenier Field roads — Phase 6, that will extend the trail up near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
911 tower relic arrives
It was a salute to fallen heroes as a piece of American history made its way to Londonderry in November.
On a dark Friday night, a motorcade arrived at the Central Fire Station carrying a steel relic from the World Trade Center, made possible through the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named in memory of a fallen 9/11 firefighter.
As the piece was removed from its trailer, a huge American flag blew in the wind as Londonderry police Capt. Patrick Cheetham played the bagpipes nearby. With much visible emotion on the faces of fire and police officials and others gathering at the fire station, the 3-foot, 60-pound section of the fallen towers was brought into the station in silence and placed carefully on a display while many people stood in salute. A ceremony followed, featuring fire and police officials, special music and remembrances.
“This is important for me,” said Londonderry fire Chief Darren O’Brien. “This piece of steel represents resilience, a piece of remembering.”
The chief added that he wants people to continue to remember what happened 18 years ago — and to never forget.
Full day kindergarten
School officials heard details, numbers from various surveys and other information on whether it might be time to pursue bringing a full-day kindergarten program to town. Right now, kindergarten is offered in either morning or afternoon sessions at Moose Hill School.
School enrollment numbers were also on officials' minds as potential projects to explore expanding facilities remained a key focus. At year's end, school board members decided they needed more information on a full-day kindergarten plan before bringing that to any ballot for voters to consider.
As the year drew to a close, it was time for the Londonderry High School Lancers football team to be on top, earning the Division 1 state championship, beating Exeter for the title 21-10 in a game held at University of New Hampshire.
The undefeated and top-ranked Lancers had a stellar season, outscoring opponents 531-122 and averaging 44.3 points per game.
“Words can’t describe this feeling,” said senior Tyler Kayo. “All of the time that we put in, for it to finally end like this, end the way we wanted it to on our terms, it’s just the greatest feeling in the world.”
Londonderry’s last state title came in 1998.