By Dustin Luca
---- — The Cormier Family Youth Center will come up frequently at this year’s Annual Town Meeting, with at least three separate votes impacting the project.
A Special Town Meeting within the regular Town Meeting will ask people to divide a town-maintained trust and spend half the money on youth center construction. A separate Annual Town Meeting article has been written to move the building 35 feet to the north.
Finally, voters will be asked to spend $2.5 million to replace all paved surfaces around Doherty Middle School, a capital improvement request that follows the town’s work last year to redesign all paved surfaces around West Elementary School. The youth center will be built behind Doherty Middle School, so supporters believe it makes sense to redesign the Doherty Middle parking lot next, rather than another schools.
The Doherty Middle project was slated to go before voters a few years down the road, according to Ed Ataide, superintendent of the town’s building division.
“When the youth center talked about being built back there, we moved [the Doherty project] up to the same year to introduce some cost-saving measures, so we didn’t dig up the same site twice,” he said.
Original estimates put the Doherty Middle project’s price tag at $3.2 million. Efficiencies gained by running the project at the same time as the youth center construction lowered that cost estimate by $700,000, Ataide said.
The site’s soil conditions are less than favorable for a large-scale construction project, adding to the work that needs to be done, according to Ataide.
A variety of buildings were built on the land at the turn of the 20th century, including a power plant, according to Ataide. When soil samples were done on the site during the youth center’s design phase, officials found fill that a youth center could not be built upon.
Because of that, “the soil has to be removed — [across] the whole footprint of the building,” Ataide said.
To comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, a sloping section 16 feet long that starts eight feet deep must also be dug out around the building’s footprint, according to Ataide.
That digging would cut into the Doherty Middle School’s driveways. Additional digging would also cut through the school’s driveways to run power, water and sewer service from nearby streets to the youth center, Ataide said.
The plan is to dig in and build the youth center’s foundation while the town also replaces the paved areas around the school, according to Chris Huntress, Andover Youth Center Building Committee chairman.
Officials are hoping the $2.5 million warrant article is approved. They’re unsure what would happen if the youth center construction went forward without a process to replace Doherty’s paved surfaces set in stone.
“If they don’t approve the [Doherty project] and the youth center is definitely breaking ground in August, we’re going to be working throughout the fall, ripping up that bus lane and drop-off area behind the school,” Huntress said.
A portion of the youth center’s budget is also paying for a share of the Doherty Middle site project, though how much will be spent exactly wasn’t available this week, according to Huntress and Ataide.
The youth center’s portion of the project covers the 19 parking spaces set aside for the building and any work needed to run utilities to the building, Ataide said.
TRAFFIC PATTERN IN FLUX
Another detail about the project currently in flux is access to the site. As it stands, one entrance for the senior center, youth center and Doherty Middle School would feed off Chestnut Street, run along Whittier Court and lead out to Bartlet Street, according to Huntress.
The building committee is hoping to make the Bartlet Street access two-way, giving traffic intended for the youth center a second means of accessing the building through a parking area to the south of the school, according to Huntress.
The driving lane for buses and parent pick-up and drop-off wrapping around the school would remain one-way, flowing from Chestnut Street to Bartlet Street, according to Huntress.
Town fire and safety officials are reviewing the plan, and Huntress hopes they’ll side with the committee, he said.
“I think that’s too much of a demand on Whittier [Court] to have every vehicle show up and come in that direction,” he said.