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January 08. 2013 3:32PM

Londonderry ordered to hire auditor in response to impact fees fiasco

LONDONDERRY - The town of Londonderry has hired an independent auditor to take a closer look at the town's past two decades of impact fee collections after receiving an order by the Rockingham County Superior Court late last month.

On Dec. 31, Judge Marguerite Wageling ordered the town to hire the auditor. In court documents, Judge Wageling stated that "the Town has been, at best, lackadaisical in their handling and documentation of impact fees . the Court cannot rely upon the Town's representations as to payment amounts, dates and the purpose for which impact fees were used."

Wageling added, "The Court sees a full accounting of the impact fee program to be the only solution to the Town's widespread misfeasance."

As a condition of the court order, the independent auditor will be tasked with a full review of the town's fee collections and expenditures since the time of the program's creation in 1994.

Town officials received the court order Monday, according to a press release issued Tuesday afternoon. This past July, interim town manager William Hart announced that the town was believed to owe up to $1.3 million in combined impact fees to local developers and property owners, which Hart attributed to improper collection processes.

Hart, the town's police chief, has been serving as temporary town manager since June 2012.

Longtime town manager David Caron had been on a leave of absence due to a family medical issue, but he resigned shortly after the mishandling of the impact fees was revealed. Like many other Granite State municipalities, Londonderry imposes impact fees to help defray the additional costs of the town's capital improvements. Based on the town's records and investigations into its impact fee practices, town officials concluded last summer that the town should refund the impact fees collected for improvements on state highways.

The town's record-keeping, accounting and notification practices also have been revised to ensure that the errors do not happen again. According to Hart, as part of its efforts to remedy the situation, the town has filed a motion in Rockingham County Superior Court seeking guidance on how to return the impact fees. Namely, would the impact fees be returned to those who paid them, or to the current property owners?

Judge Wageling ruled that those who paid the fees would be eligible for refunds, regardless of who currently owns the property. Town officials said there are no plans to appeal the court's decision, and the plan is to comply with the court's guidance in the matter.


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