Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

May 2, 2013

Major votes before Town Meeting

Budget, land buys, zoning questions to be decided

It will be a busy three nights at this year’s Annual Town Meeting, with several major issues before voters and plans by one newly formed group in town to spread its message of curbing spending as loudly as possible.

Three Andover residents responsible for organizing the website TownOfAndover.com are expecting to ensure their voices are heard on key articles on this year’s warrant. The website aims to increase transparency in town government through a resident-driven grassroots effort and is not considered an official town website.

Town Meeting starts Monday, May 6, at 7 p.m. at the Andover High School field house, 80 Shawsheen Road. Three nights are scheduled, with the second night broken up by a Special Town Meeting. More than 60 articles are seeking votes.

Starting at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, the Special Town Meeting will address two articles involving the use of a town-maintained trust fund for elderly programming and the Cormier Family Youth Center. A $645,000 appropriation is slated for each.

That is one of several issues members of TownOfAndover.com are seeking to challenge at the meeting.

As the group contends, using half of the $1.29 million Wood Trust on the youth center violates the Board of Selectmen’s “solemn promise” that only $2 million of taxpayer money would be used on the project, Bob Pokress, one of the site’s founders, said.

“We’re talking $650,000 of taxpayer money. That’s our money, sitting in the town trust, to do something with,” Greg Rigby, a site founder and past Finance Committee member, said. “The question is, what was the deal — $2 million? Or $2 million plus whatever money we can get from the taxpayer?”

The group also objects to the project’s relationship with a $2.5 million article to improve paved areas around Doherty Middle School, a capital project that has been lined up with youth center construction for cost savings. Officials have said that the only money associated with the youth center project is the cost to pave 19 parking spaces near the youth center. Those costs are coming from the youth center project’s budget.

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