Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


April 3, 2014

Debate lingers over laptop payment

Town and school officials appear to have reached a settlement on who’s going to pay nearly $200,000 for an extra 160 computers purchased last summer by the School Department without approval from any boards or commissions.

The only problem is, nobody seems to understand the details of the deal. And those who do, don’t agree with it.

“I didn’t understand it,” said former Selectman Mary Lyman, who sat in on a joint meeting of selectmen, School and Finance committee members on March 20, during which a deal brokered by her colleague, Brian Major, was presented. “I found it to be another frustrating meeting.”

Finance Committee member Greg Serrao agreed.

“To be honest, I’m not sure I do understand it,” he said, adding that his main concern is that whoever purchased the computers should have to pay for them. “The schools decided to do this, so the schools should pay for this.”

The four-year lease of 160 computers by the School Department was first revealed last fall when Finance Committee Chairman Jon Stumpf was reviewing the 2015 Capital Improvements Plan proposed by Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski.

Stumpf noticed an additional 160 computers were proposed to be leased, in addition to the 400 computers that had already been approved by Town Meeting.

The lease of the 400 MacBook Pro 13s was part of $2.5 million in spending authorized by Town Meeting to upgrade the IT systems in school and town offices. They were paid for out of the Cable TV fund, which is made up of payments from Verizon and Comcast. The lease of the additional 160 computers was not approved by Town Meeting, or any other board for that matter.

The lease deal, requested by Superintendent of Schools Marinel McGrath and approved by the town’s Chief Information Officer Paul Puzzanghera and other town officials, was for $177,760. The first payment, made by the School Department at the end of last fiscal year, was for $46,456.

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