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March 08. 2013 12:23AM

Londonderry suspends impact fee collections

LONDONDERRY - Town officials are suspending all impact fee collections as they await results of a mandatory audit of the town's books, Town Planner Cynthia May said Wednesday evening.

A public hearing on the 2012 school impact fee collections and alternative assessment schedules had originally been on the agenda for this week's Planning Board meeting. But at the recommendation of town attorney Mike Ramsdell, that hearing will have to take place at a later date, May said.

"It's been recommended that the town suspend all impact fee collections until the investigation is completed," said May. "Once that happens, the hearing can be rescheduled."

The Planning Board voted unanimously in favor of rescheduling the hearing, with little discussion, but a new date has not been set.

The suspension of Londonderry's impact fee process will apply to all areas of fee collections, including those for school, recreation, police and fire, May said. Ramsdell, who was present at Wednesday night's meeting, said he would be meeting with William Hart, the acting town manager, and the auditors tasked with investigating the town's impact fee process this week.

"We'll soon have a much better idea as to how close they are to finishing the audit, and, quite frankly, where things stand with the issues they've discovered," he said.

The topic will be discussed further at an upcoming board meeting, Ramsdell added.

"Given the number of issues that exist right now, I think it's prudent to just stay things for the moment," he said.

An audit of Londonderry's impact fee process began in January, with independent auditor Melanson Heath and Company, PC, now poring over two decades' worth of impact fees following an order from a Rockingham County Superior Court judge back in December.

As a condition of the court order, the independent auditors are conducting a full review of the town's fee collections and expenditures, going back to the inception of Londonderry's impact fee program in 1994.

Early last summer, Hart revealed the town owes up to $1.3 million in combined impact fees to developers and property owners, believed to have stemmed from improper collection practices. Like many other area towns, Londonderry imposes impact fees to help defray costs for needed capital improvements, but recent investigations into the practice determined that the town needs to refund impact fees collected for state highway improvements.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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