By Dustin Luca
---- — Residents Tuesday night voted overwhelmingly to break up a $1.4 million town trust fund and spend half on senior programming and the other half to complete the funding for the Cormier Family Youth Center.
The William M. Wood Memorial Trust was created by the Andover family that built the American Woolen empire and created Shawsheen Village in the early 20th century.
In March, officials with the Andover Youth Center Building Committee and Council on Aging announced a partnership to divide the trust, originally though to contain $1.29 million, according to Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski. The fund balance recently was pegged at $1.4 million.
Many who spoke on the article at Tuesday’s deliberative session praised the partnership for the union it has created between the town’s seniors and youth.
“As a member of the Andover Youth Foundation and a senior myself, I’m proud of the collaboration the youth had with bringing this together,” David Drive resident Michael Miller said. “We’ve always sought to work with seniors, to try to make a community center.”
Sam Kefferstan, 18, of Haverhill Street, spoke highly of both articles as well.
“I’ve grown up here and lived here for my entire life,” he said. “My family, and so many others, have donated, and this is exactly what we need to push it over the edge and get shovels into the ground.”
Gerry Caruso, a Somerset Drive resident, said his college-aged daughter encouraged him to get out and vote in favor of the youth center.
“My daughter was a member of AYS. She’s been in college for two years now,” he said. “She sent me a text message, ‘Don’t forget to go to Town Meeting and support the youth center.’
“It’s something they carry with them for a long time, and I think the town has to get over the hump and move forward with this project.”
Not all comments on the project were positive, however. Several questions were raised on how the $700,000 appropriation affected the town’s prior agreement with the Andover Youth Foundation, made at a 2011 Special Town Meeting.
In the agreement, the foundation agreed to provide the first $2.2 million needed to pay for the project, with the town committing $2 million after the foundation put in its share.
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote, many felt the use of the trust fund was in violation of that agreement. That drove two Finance Committee members to oppose the article.
With Tuesday night’s vote, the initial agreement will have to be amended, according to Andover Town Counsel Tom Urbelis. How it will change, however, is not clear. But one requirement will stand: the Andover Youth Foundation will have all its money raised before a shovel hits the ground.
The project will also not go out to bid until the agreement has been revised, according to building committee Chairman Chris Huntress.
To date, the Andover Youth Foundation has raised $2.7 million, Huntress said. With the town’s latest contribution, the project now has $5.4 million to proceed.