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Derry economic development budget reduced $20,000

Union Leader Correspondent

May 03. 2013 12:38AM

DERRY - The lack of a cohesive and effective downtown economic plan is a source of frustration for at least one town councilor.

At a recent council budget review meeting, councilor Tom Cardon made a motion to cut the $50,000 set aside for economic development in the town administrator's executive budget. Although the motion failed after some debate of the purpose of economic development funds, the council did vote to reduce the amount in the budget from $50,000 to $30,000.

Town Administrator John Anderson said that in the past the economic development money was used for consultants and that this year it would toward the marketing of a request for proposals for several pieces of downtown property.

"I've seen a lot go on with economic development over the years with a lot of money put into it," said Cardon. "I still go downtown and see lots of stores empty. I'm not against economic development, but I am against what has been going on for years."

Cardon pointed to a folder with clippings outlining various downtown economic initiatives over the past two decades.

"I hate to say it, Mr. Anderson, but my favorite was when the Town Council voted to take half the town administrator's salary and dedicate it to economic development," said Cardon. "I'm not for that, but it was one of the proposals. Until I can see something clear where this is going to help, I'm against it."

Councilor Neil Wetherbee said he did not disagree with Cardon that there have been issues getting downtown economic development off the ground over the years but that cutting funding was not the answer.

"If you don't fund any money into economic development, then you will have no economic development," said Wetherbee. "If you say you want to cut $50,000 here and want to do something different someplace else, that's a solution."

Councilor Mark Osborne, who also supported cutting the economic development money out of the budget, said the downtown will not recover by having the government throw money at it.

"The reason we have stores downtown or don't have stores downtown does not depend on whether the Town Council hands out money," said Osborne. "I think that will depend on how hard the people who own the stores work and what their products and services are."

Wetherbee asked Osborne whether he thought all the towns that do spend on economic development were wasting their money.

"You'd have to ask them," Osborne said. "They're not before me."

Councilor Brad Benson said the town has not had the best economic development plans in the past, but that there should be money in the budget to try to reach a solution and come up with a plan the makes sense and would be endorsed by the majority of the council.

The motion to eliminate the economic development budget failed, 4-3, with councilor Al Dimmock joining Osborne and Cardon in opposing the funding.

Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks then made a successful motion to cut the economic development budget by $20,000, which gained the support of all the councilors with the exception of Dimmock, who abstained from the vote.

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