The School Building Committee and some neighbors suing Andover to challenge plans for a new Bancroft Elementary School fought for eight months over how many soccer fields should be created and how stormwater runoff should be controlled.
In the end, it was Selectman Paul Salafia's direct communication with residents Dana Willis and Stanley Mann, both of South Main Street, that helped broker a deal, minutes of the town's closed-door meetings show.
While the building committee had voted for Salafia to approach the neighbors with a plan for two soccer fields instead of the one field the neighbors wanted, Salafia refused to do so. After Salafia's refusal, the School Building Committee agreed to accept play space allowing one soccer field and settle the lawsuit.
The minutes released cover 24 closed-door School Building Committee meetings from Aug. 31, 2011 to May 29, 2012.
The minutes show that while an attorney for South Main Street residents Dana Willis and Stanley Mann regularly met with Andover Town Counsel Tom Urbelis, others, such as committee members, neighbors suing the town, and Salafia hammered out the details of what ultimately became a revised play area design on which both sides reluctantly settled.
"I don't think the School Building Committee was particularly happy about it, and I don't think the appellants were happy about it," said Salafia. "But that's how these things are. Nobody is happy to go to a settlement, and it's probably the right settlement, but nobody is happy."
After discussions between the legal counsels dragged on for months, Salafia was approached by a friend of Willis, he said, who asked him to talk to Willis.
"He said, 'I think you should call him. He's really struggling,'" said Salafia. "'He'd really like to settle this, but he doesn't know how, and I think you should help him.'"