Londonderry board OKs $1.6M budget, adds gravel land purchase to articles

The proposed land purchase is labeled as "Watermill Real Estate" on the Londonderry tax map.

The proposed land purchase is labeled as Watermill Real Estate on the Londonderry tax map.

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

It’s up to the voters. I don’t think it’s our job to sell any of this,” said Londonderry Select Board chair Jim Ameden on Monday night of the financial demands on the town that he says need to be slimmed down. The board was wrapping up its fiscal deliberations and voted to send a base budget of $1,621,664.52 to the March 1 Town Meeting.

Londonderry’s revenue calculations were presented separately from expenses and are here. With additional articles that could push that up by $383,800, voters will be asked if they want to add as much as 4.5 cents per $100 of assessed value representing a 16 percent hike in the municipal tax rate.

This year’s town meeting warning features several big-ticket items including the purchase of approximately 20 acres of land south of the Transfer Station on Route 100 North for $150,000. The purchase was negotiated during an executive session at the Jan. 4 Select Board meeting.

The board spent a few minutes reviewing what were seen as the merits of the purchase including a supply of sand and gravel which they estimate to be more than 100,000 cubic yards, a location for a salt shed, a new, safer entrance for the transfer station with better sight lines on Route 100 and a solar farm location once extraction is completed.

The current owner, Jeff Yrsha of Weston, bought the property at auction, closing on Oct. 23, 2015. The purchase price listed in Londonderry town records is $49,000 with an grand list value of $90,400.

From left, Londonderry Select Board member Paul Gordon, Town Administrator Stephanie Johnson, and Select Board chair James Ameden and members Steve Prouty and Wayne Blanchard.

Around the table, from left, Londonderry Select Board member Paul Gordon, Town Administrator Stephanie Johnson, Select Board chair James Ameden and members Steve Prouty and Wayne Blanchard. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

Yrsha told the board that engineering had been done and pointed to 108,000 cubic yards of gravel and aggregate and 30,000 cubic yards of sand, saying that the town could easily recoup the cost of the land in savings on material. But he added that if the town was not serious about buying it, the board should call it off.

Board member Steve Prouty noted that this was the first public meeting where this had been mentioned and suggested that the town budget $30,000 for this year and finance the remaining $120,000 over five years.

Board chair Ameden said he thought the purchase was a “great investment for the town” but was concerned at how many financial articles are being put on the table. “If I can help it,” said Ameden, “we need to get rid of something … to slim things down.”

In an interview with the Telegraph on Tuesday, Select Board member Paul Gordon said that the town had been offered the land in 2014 for a little over $200,000. At that time, according to Gordon, the owner had not been open to negotiating. Then last year, the land was auctioned but the town did not bid because it would first need a public vote to buy land.

Yrsha said he felt better that the information was being discussed in a public meeting. “We want the public to be informed,” said board member Cathy Aragi.

Other large ticket items on the warning include $60,000 for a Town Infrastructure Improvement Fund that would go toward work on the Twitchell building, $100,000 toward the Highway Equipment Fund and a proposed $86,000 contract with the Vermont State Police to, as Ameden characterized it, patrol the town “when they decide they want to do it.”

In addition to the articles representing large expenditures, a number of organizations had applied to the town for money. While the idea of not listing some of these was broached, several board members thought it would be unfair to take them off the warning after the time to petition for space on the ballot had passed.

“We’ll have lots of scrap paper,” said Town Treasurer Tina Labeau in response to a suggestion that there would be many votes on individual items.

Town Meeting for the voters of Londonderry will meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 1 at Town Hall on Middletown Road.

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