Derry Main St. paving wraps for season as town begins to focus on future Master Plan

By Cherise Madigan
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Londonderry’s Main Street paving project will continue into November, Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe announced at Monday’s Londonderry Select Board meeting, and the project is on-schedule to be completed this fall with the exception of a wear coat — the final driving surface for the newly paved road that will be applied in the spring.

Town Administration Shane O’Keefe updates the board on the Route 11/Main Street work.

Meanwhile town officials and residents are beginning to focus on the town’s future with an eye toward a Master Plan.

Vermont Agency of Transportation personnel said that end-line paving will be completed by the end of this week, O’Keefe explained, though there is still some driveway work needed to smooth out the pavement in the downtown area. The project comes after years of repair requests from towns along Route 11 between Chester and Londonderry, as well as multiple delays.

O’Keefe noted that, while there was some “controversy” over the project with property owners, the state is “working with them very closely” to resolve the issue. Select Board chair George Mora also addressed purported confusion regarding the storm drains impacted by the project, explaining that the process of raising the drain’s iron lid with each round of paving is standard practice.

“There’s been some suggestion that they screwed up on the drainage structures, that they’ll have to re-do them three times,” Mora said. “I can assure you that’s not a mistake, it’s how it’s done.”

Looking to Londonderry’s future

Planning Commission chair Sharon Crossman discusses Project Londonderry and going for a master plan grant.

Planning Commission chair Sharon Crossman presented an initiative known as Project Londonderry, as well as potential funding for the development of a Main Street Master Plan. Led by members of the Planning Commission alongside other community members, the project aims to revitalize the town by spurring economic activity and creating a stronger, more inclusive community.

While the pandemic’s impact has certainly become a focus for the group, Crossman said, Project Londonderry actually found its origins in the wake of Hurricane Irene and the resulting changes in appearance to Londonderry’s Main Street. Since then, local businesses have been lost due to a number of reasons, impacting both the town’s tax base and services available to residents.

Both the North Village area and the center of South Londonderry are a designated “village center” with the state, Crossman said, making the town eligible to apply for special funding sources. Those who wish to invest in either area may also be eligible for tax credits.

One potential resource that Project Londonderry is pursuing is a Municipal Planning Grant available through the state, Crossman said, which would allow for the development of a master plan for the downtown area. Currently, the town is reviewing its zoning bylaws through similar funding. Crossman said the town would apply for the maximum available amount — $22,000 — and would have to make a matching 10 percent contribution if approved.

Select Board chair George Mora says, ‘Without water or septic, there is no potential for growth.’

After confirming that sufficient funds were available, the board unanimously passed a motion authorizing Crossman to apply for the grant. O’Keefe noted that he and Mora would also be moving forward with a traffic safety study in the North Village area and are additionally in the process of having a feasibility study done for a community wastewater treatment facility.

“That’s a huge issue for the village areas,” Mora added. “Without water or septic, there is no potential for growth, and anytime any of those businesses are sold it is — I believe — incumbent on the seller to upgrade the wastewater and sewage systems. In a lot of cases, that simply isn’t possible.”

Crossman noted that a grant application submitted by the Okemo Valley Chamber of Commerce had also been approved. The grant provides $10,000 in marketing funds for area towns including Londonderry. whether they are members of the chamber or not.  At Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously moved to re-join the OVCC at an annual cost of $149.

Voting how-tos; Emergency Operations Center may be deactivated

Looking ahead to the general election in November, Town Treasurer Tina Labeau announced that Londonderry’s mail-in ballots will be sent within the week. Residents can expect an announcement once the exact date of the mailing is confirmed, and should contact the Town Office if their ballot is not received by Oct. 1.

Emergency Management Director Kevin Beattie discusses disbanding the four-town Emergency Operations Center.

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, ballots must be returned to Londonderry’s polling place (the Twitchell building, 100 Old School St.) by 7 p.m. A ballot can be:

  • inserted in the pre-paid return envelope,
  • hand delivered or
  • dropped off through the mail slot at the clerk’s office after hours.

A virtual Emergency Operations Center in the region, set up by four member towns — Londonderry, Weston, Peru and Landgrove — in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, will likely be deactivated in mid-October, said Emergency Management Director Kevin Beattie. Established to coordinate information, planning and response efforts across the four communities, Beattie said that the center’s de-activation was delayed for a few more weeks to gauge the impact of school reopenings. He also noted that Flood Brook School’s gymnasium is once again available to the town for use as an alternate shelter if needed.

In his role as constable, Beattie requested the board’s approval to follow through on a request he received from Vermont State Police to “stand-by” in an ongoing conflict between a local landlord and their former tenant. VSP has asked that Beattie be present when the former tenant retrieves their belongings from the property, and Mora gave Beattie the OK to act as a witness, although no formal action from the board was necessary. New Town Health Officer Richard Phelan offered to accompany Beattie as a witness.

In other business

Up to $4,000 was also approved from the Town Building Reserve Fund to pay for a structural assessment of the Twitchell Building.

Richard Phelan is Londonderry’s new Health Officer.

The board also reviewed two bids for winter plowing and sanding at the Transfer Station from Dana Griswold and Hart’s All Season Maintenance, ultimately moving to sign a three-year bid with Hart’s for $6,500 per year. Though Griswold submitted a lower bid and plowed the Transfer Station last winter, the board was swayed by the availability of additional equipment and thus more reliable service through Hart’s. Last year, according to Board member Tom Cavanagh, equipment issues required town road crews to clear the Transfer Station a couple of times though Griswold provided “great service” overall.

Board member Taylor Prouty provided an update on the Derry Woods culvert installation, which has been successfully completed with the exception of a guardrail. The board also appointed Mora as deputy health officer, following the appointment of Phelan as Town Health Officer earlier this month. At the end of the meeting, held via Zoom, members went into executive session alongside O’Keefe, LaBeau, and Town Highway Department employee Jarrett Sanderson to discuss “the appointment or employment or evaluation of a public officer or employee.”

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About the Author: Journalist and photographer Cherise Madigan specializes in writing about outdoor recreation, the environment and travel. She has roots in Manchester and a history of reporting throughout Southern Vermont. Madigan is a graduate of Nazareth College of Rochester, earning her degree in Political Science summa cum laude in 2015.

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