Derry board hears Lowell Lake concerns, hires town administrator

By Bruce Frauman
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Even the hiring of a new Londonderry town administrator was overshadowed by the ongoing uproar over the state’s plans for Lowell Lake Park. While the Select Board voted to appoint Shane O’Keefe as the new Town, Zoning, and Floodplain Administrator, former administrator Robert Nied, who left his position on Nov. 5, continued his concerns about the plan for the park.

Residents attend the Dec. 17 Select Board meeting – mostly to talk about Lowell Lake. Photos by Bruce Frauman

O’Keefe spent more than two years as the interim municipal manager of Rockingham and Bellows Falls.

When he submitted a letter of resignation after a year in service, he was asked to stay for another year by the Select Board. Beattie told The Telegraph that O’Keefe lives in Walpole, N.H., and has also worked as town manager in Brattleboro. “He has also worked in towns in Vermont and New Hampshire as a town administrator and has experience as a zoning administrator,” said Beattie.

Concerns over Lowell Lake

Board member Tom Cavanagh put Lowell Lake State Park on the agenda to “get the state to be more cooperative with letting us be part of the process.” He later said he wants to encourage town boards and commissions to work with the state as it develops plans for the park as part of a long discussion about those plans.

Larry Gubb speaks of the original discussions with the state in 1999.

Larry Gubb said there was an extensive discussion with residents as the state developed plans for the park in 1999. He said the notion then was “if the state needs to do some sort of development at the lake, and we all have access to the lake because the state owns it, that we work on planning it and having it done to a sense of satisfaction for everybody.”

Nied said his sense is that the state just wants to increase the head count at the lake and has been dismissive of public comments in the past. He said the state has yet to conduct “a comprehensive environmental impact study any of these issues that have been raised.”

Larry Gubb responded that the state can not do an impact study on a plan when there is no plan yet.

Marie Porreca notes the historical use of the cabins and advocates for banning dogs

Resident Marie Porreca said that rehabbing cabins that have been used for lodging in the past is in line with what other state parks do. She said the state’s interest is being able to afford maintenance of the lake and that she does not want to drive the state away for another 10 years. She also suggested banning dogs from the park.

Porreca said having the lake as a resort is a “wonderful resource for the local economy” and that 100 local Air BnB rentals mention Lowell Lake in their advertising.

Maya Drummond said she has sent people to the lake from the Londonderry Inn and now realizes that the lake is “small and fragile” and all these visitors may be causing it harm.

Robert Nied believes that the state is not taking local concerns seriously

Nied said state representatives told him they do not have to comply with local zoning regulations. But state Rep. Kelly Pajala told the meeting that the state must abide by local laws or get an exemption from the Development Review Board.

She added the the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is looking into another public meeting, but that government works slowly. Pajala said that when there is a plan, the state will come to the DRB and the Conservation Commission, so it is important to keep the door open to communication.

Funding requests for Town Meeting ballot, fire and smoke

As the board went line by line through appropriation requests to appear on the Town Meeting warning, two agencies were turned down. Those that were denied a place on the warning must now submit a petition if they want their request to appear. Those organizations were Recovery Alliance and Vermont Family Network.

Organizations that will appear on the ballot include West River Montessori ($3,000), Mountain Valley Medical Clinic ($5,000), the Londonderry Volunteer Rescue Squad ($10,000) and SeVEDS ($5,307.)

After a long discussion, the board agreed that the two road crew members who are also members of area volunteer fire companies should be paid for their time when volunteering at “justified calls,” when there is not a big snowstorm. Board member George Mora said that the town should look into the legal aspects of this and come back for a final vote.

Beattie requested $240 to purchase smoke detectors so Flood Brook School could qualify as a shelter when needed. Porreca offered to pay for them herself, telling The Telegraph that the rescue squad had saved her life and she wanted to give something back to the town.

In other business

Kelly Pajala, acting as Town Clerk, said her office will be closed on Dec. 25 and New Year’s Day and open from 8:30 a.m. to noon on New Year’s Eve. On the days the office is closed, Pajala said she will leave on the door information about how to obtain Transfer Station passes and permits and will include envelopes if anyone wishes to mail in an order.

Beattie said that annual stickers for the Transfer Station for 2019, including commercial stickers, are now available at all five town offices: Weston, Londonderry, Peru, Landgrove and Windham. Beattie also said that Windham County did not meet the threshold for federal disaster relief for the recent power outage so there will be no reimbursement for cleanup costs.

Town Treasurer Tina Labeau said that the Select Board should plan to approve the warning for the Town Meeting and the budget for the next fiscal year at its Jan. 21 meeting.

The board approved a request from the Conservation Commission to donate $5,000 from its fund to the Nature Conservancy for purchase and maintenance of the 3,500 acres of the McGraw property on Glebe Mountain. Commission chair Irwin Kuperberg made the request saying “it is the kind of thing the fund is there for.”

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