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Town or city? Derry councilors weigh options

By CHRIS GAROFOLO
Union Leader Correspondent

December 14. 2017 12:57AM




DERRY — As the Town Council engages in a debate over whether to pitch a non-binding question asking voters if Derry should become a city, the town administrator’s office has presented an option that has not been accomplished before in New Hampshire.

Town Administrator David Caron said the state Legislature has to enable any merging of a school district under a municipality. And while Derry discusses the possibility of becoming a city to achieve this goal, Caron said there may be an opportunity for the town to remain a town as part of a never-before-attempted request to lawmakers in Concord.

Caron recently presented two options to the council. Both center around seeing if voters support including the school district under the municipal structure, but one would allow Derry to stay a town and incorporate the school department while the other would consider it under a city form of government.

But there is a risk if the council requests the Legislature to allow the Derry School District to become part of the town government. If it’s rejected, the council will have to decide whether to maintain the status quo or go back to the drawing board and debate the city form of government.

During its Dec. 5 meeting, the council also discussed other options to present to voters.

District 1 Councilor Richard P. Tripp spoke about having a citizen-led petition to wait for the voters to act.

There was also discussion of including both of Caron’s prepared questions to the voters, although that was met with a lukewarm response because it may be more complicated than helpful.

“I think it can get muddled and very confusing if there’s two questions, then there’s a lot more education that needs to take place,” said Council Chairman Joshua Bourdon. “I guess what I’m in favor of doing is putting the town question on the ballot.”

Councilors will need to formally adopt one or more measures by their Jan. 16 meeting if they want to present the issue to voters in March without the need for a special town meeting.

“I’ve advised the council (that) if they’re going to present a question to the voters, present one option. I think it’s clearer; I think it’s helpful,” Caron said.

If approved by the voters, the town could then seek legislative approval.

If passed by lawmakers, the referendum would return to Derry voters, unlikely until 2019 or later, for a charter amendment.


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