Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 17, 2013

Youth Center pulled from Feb. meeting

By Dustin Luca
Staff Writer

---- — Changes to the proposed youth-center plan will not be addressed at Special Town Meeting, leaving the Bancroft Elementary School issue the only one voters will debate.

Two Special Town Meeting articles seeking to modify the proposed Cormier Youth Center will become part of Annual Town Meeting instead.

The deadline to get an issue on the Annual Town Meeting warrant is Friday. Some other issues already proposed include improving the town’s fire hydrant infrastructure and buying conservation land.

The youth-center articles are being held for Annual Town Meeting after supporters heard feedback during four consecutive meetings last week. After hearing from four town boards, Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski said it was clear more discussion was needed before the proposals came to a vote.

Because of the amount of concern surrounding the changes, “we basically made the decision to withdraw those articles and just present one basic article for the Bancroft Elementary School,” Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski said.

Andover Youth Center Building Committee members recently proposed two articles: one to change the project’s 2011 Special Town Meeting vote so construction can be broken into phases and built as a one-story building, and one to move the building due to a wetlands concern.

In four straight nights, the two articles were presented to the Board of Selectmen, Council on Aging, Finance Committee and School Committee. All four focused on parking concerns to some degree, while the individual meetings also focused on other issues, such as fundraising.

The articles were being pitched for Special Town Meeting in order to begin construction in June, something that officials have said will not be possible with an April vote. One side effect of that is that the project could cost more amid escalating construction costs.

But “the upside is we do get the time to talk about it, which I think will build consensus,” Selectmen Chairman Paul Salafia said. “I think building consensus is more important.”

With the move to April’s Annual Town Meeting, construction could still begin as early as August, according to Stapczynski.

Nancy Jeton, building committee chairwoman, said ground could be broken as early as July if planning moves quickly. Either way, she said the change “is a positive thing for the youth center.”

“It got a lot of visibility last week. I was impressed by the questions that people on the volunteer boards asked,” she said. “They were very thoughtful, insightful questions that we would have gotten to eventually. But to see them all converge in one week, I think, was very useful for people.”

After hearing Stapczynski’s logic behind moving the articles to Annual Town Meeting, the Board of Selectmen signed a one-article Special Town Meeting warrant, with the only issue facing voters being the Bancroft Elementary School vote.

With extra time to talk about youth center details, “I’m very confident that we’ll continue moving this process along and get a terrific building that everyone’s proud of,” Jeton said.

Residents who seek to put a private article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant have until tomorrow, Jan. 18, to act. They must put together the language for their article and gather 10 petition signatures from registered Andover voters, and submit the papers for certification to the town clerk’s office within Town Offices at 36 Bartlet St. by 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

For feedback or story-related inquiries, email dluca@andovertownsman.com.