Derry Candidates Night: Three vie for open Select Board seats

By Bruce Frauman
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

With the death of Londonderry Select Board chair Steve Prouty and members Wayne Blanchard and Bill Wylie deciding not to run for re-election, three Select Board seats will change hands on Town Meeting day.

Emmett Dunbar and Cathy Aragi each came to the town’s Candidates Night on Feb. 16 thinking about running, but making the final decision after learning that only George Mora expressed an interest in serving.

Select Board candidate George Mora. Photos by Bruce Frauman.

Mora told the meeting she has lived in Londonderry for almost 30 years and has  been self-employed as a technical editor for almost that long. Mora is one of two representatives to the Windham Regional Commission, sits on the Development Review Board, is a founding member of the community resilience organization, Mighty Londonderry, and is the administrator for the Londonderry Community Forum on Facebook.

“Obviously if I am elected, I will unload some of those positions,” said Mora. “I’d really like to be doing something much more active at the town level.” Asked by Cathy Aragi her opinion about policing, Mora replied, “I have to say it has worked well. It seems to me the burglaries have really been curtailed in town. And that alone, I think is a really good thing.” Mora is running for the two-year seat being vacated by Blanchard.

Select Board candidate Emmett Dunbar.

Dunbar said he will be running for Prouty’s three year seat, telling the two dozen in attendance that although he has been living in Londonderry since 2000, he is “absolutely from Rhode Island and absolutely a flatlander” but that “my roots are very deep here,” learning to ski at Stratton when he was 3. Dunbar, who owns Anjali Farm on Middletown Road, is the development director in Rockingham and “is very involved with helping the community develop culturally and economically.” Dunbar said he was a past board member at the West River Montessori School, has worked on the Flood Brook schools garden and Farm to School program and has been a Farmers Market member for about 20 years.  “I guess I’m kind of wonky and like to connect things and make things work,” he said.

Select Board candidate Cathy Aragi.

Aragi, who has sat on the board in the past, said, “Honestly, my intent was not to run at all.” Health issues led her to run for Wylie’s one-year seat.

When asked about policing, Aragi replied, “I hope it continues because I think it is a good thing and I think we need it as a town.”

School board openings
without candidates

The Mountain Towns RED board has three vacancies, with only one candidate stepping forward to run for a director’s position. The terms of Melissa Brown and Charles Cave both expire this year and neither chose to run again. Rosalind Klezos was due to serve until 2019 but resigned. Dick Dale announced he would run for one of the positions as long as there were not other candidates. Dale offered 41 years of teaching experience, 14 years on the board of education, and having served as Londonderry’s representative on the merger committee as qualification for his request to be elected to the board. If the merger vote passes, the RED board will meet for one year in parallel with the new Taconic and Green School Board.

In other elected positions, Town Clerk Kelly Pajala announced that Doug Friant would run for town moderator. He has taken a course in preparation but was out of the country for this meeting. Pajala asked to be returned as Town Clerk, saying “I really enjoy being in the office and I enjoy working for the town and I want to keep doing it.” Treasurer Tina Labeau said, “I’ve been the treasurer now for 2-1/2 years and was the assistant before that and plan on running again. My work isn’t done yet.” Moderator is a one year term while clerk and treasurer are three year terms.

Lister Sandra Clark strongly endorsed Geof Long for a three-year term as lister.  Clark said, “It’s a good choice. He’s going to do a good job. He is willing to take classes that he needs.” She added, “he has been outstanding when people come into the office.”

Approximately two dozen residents participate in Londonderry’s Candidates Night.

In other elected offices:

  • Roger Sheehan announced he would like to serve as First Constable again, noting that “numerous dog complaints is a growing problem in this town.”
  • Nick Doane will stand again for Second Constable.
  • Joan Dayton will run again for Delinquent Tax Collector.
  • Peter Pagnucco is willing to serve again as Town Grand Juror.
  • Doug Friant will likely run again as Town Agent unless it is incompatible with being moderator. All are one-year posts.
  • Paul Gordon, who chaired the meeting, said that Laurie Krooss Mullen “would stand for reelection” for a five-year term as a Cemetery Commissioner.
  • Trustee of Public Funds Michael Goodbody said that he believed Katherine Mosenthal was willing to serve another three-year term as a trustee.

While not on the agenda, the proposed school merger came up several times during the meeting. Gordon pointed out that voting on merger will be held in Town Hall on Middletown Road and not at the town office building as printed in the Mountain Towns RED booklet. When asked, Gordon said the Select Board had not taken a position on the merger, but that personally he would recommend it be passed.

John Barry expressed confusion about the four at-large positions on the new school board. Pajala responded that “four at large seats were available to the towns that have the largest populations. Nobody in Londonderry wanted to be nominated for those seats.”

Gordon read Article 10 on the Town Meeting Warning, which asks for the approval of “a sum not to exceed $200,000 for a Salt/Sand shed to be constructed on the Prouty Land.” The town had been storing salt and sand in the state’s sheds in Londonderry since 2001 or so. “The salt was allowed to stay in their garage this winter,” said Gordon “but that agreement will expire this coming summer.” Both salt and sand are best stored under cover.

According to Gordon, the Development Review Board approved a conditional use permit the previous night and all but one state permit has been obtained. “The building we are proposing is 42 by 80  with a footer poured foundation and poured walls with a wood structure on top of that with metal siding and a metal roof” Gordon explained.

Jeff Duda asked why lights are needed. Road Foreman Duane Hart said power will be needed for a block heater for the loader and lights are not a significantly added expense.

Policing Committee Chair Peter Pagnucco defends the record of the VSP contract over the past year.

An extensive discussion followed Gordon’s reading of Article 8, asking whether the town would “approve a sum of $86,000 to fund contracting with the VT State Police for policing the Town of Londonderry.” Policing Committee chair Peter Pagnucco said that after six months of policing, the committee circulated a survey and attracted 40 to 50 people to a meeting. “The feedback we got from the folks that returned the survey and attended the meeting was very positive,” he said.

Bill Wylie and John Barry each questioned whether the added police coverage was worth the cost. Pagnucco said that “folks at that meeting expressed a feeling of comfort in town, particularly in the public places in town and the parks.” Gordon added that “we specifically require them to regularly drive our back roads, check our garage, the office here, the front and the back of the plaza, Magic Mountain area, the school, the parks and a couple of others.”

The police are also out in the community meeting people.  “I believe we need it,” Aragi agreed,  noting that the number of calls the police physically responded to increased from 196 to 677 after the first six months of policing. The policing committee will look into getting more detailed reports demonstrating the effects of the police presence.

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