Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 23, 2014

Town manager: Break in major projects will keep debt down

By Bill Kirk
bkirk@andovertownsman.com

---- — Andover is cutting back on borrowing for major projects to control debt and reduce the impact on taxpayers, Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski told members of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce last week.

In his remarks to 300 people gathered at Andover Country Club for the annual mayors and town managers breakfast, Stapczynski said the town has made use of a new analysis tool that looks at all its long-term debt to determine the impact of tax overrides and borrowing on tax-paying homeowners and businesses.

The result was that in this year’s Capital Improvement Program, Stapczynski decided to pull back on major projects to reduce the impact on taxes.

As it stands, the Bancroft School project is expected to add significantly to the annual tax burden starting next year, as are other projects going forward, he said.

Stapczynski was just one of a half-dozen or more civic leaders who spoke at the annual breakfast, which was moderated by Sal Lupoli, chairman of the chamber who is also owner of Sal’s pizza chain and a real estate entrepreneur.

Stapczynski also spoke about several of the projects he was most proud of, including the soon-to-be built Andover Youth Center, which should start construction in the spring after years of delays.

Like other leaders, North Andover Town Manager Andy Maylor highlighted how health insurance costs were croaking the town budget, but that with a switch to a new, state-sponsored plan, the town will save $3 million while also seeing a reduction in retirees’ health care costs.

He noted that the town will also save $1 million over the next 20 years because it purchased all its streetlights from National Grid, taking over maintenance of them and making them more energy-efficient.

The newly elected mayor of Lawrence, meanwhile, told the crowd that people who want to do business in the Immigrant City no longer have to worry about being strong-armed by corrupt officials.

“You’ll be happy to know if you come to City Hall, you won’t have to worry about someone shaking you down,” said Dan Rivera, who was in the third week of his four-year term as mayor. “We are cleaning house.”

Rivera, who received enthusiastic applause after being introduced by Lupoli, was frank in his comments to the movers and shakers of the region.

“Thank you for sticking with the city,” he said. “We appreciate that you kept your business in Lawrence. We know it wasn’t easy.”

In the fall election, Rivera narrowly defeated incumbent mayor William Lantigua, who was popular, but whose administration was saddled with accounts of corruption.

Rivera stressed that Lawrence is “open for business again” and he was ready to start working closely with neighboring communities to improve the economy of the region.

“It’s important for people in other communities to know that we are part of the family,” he said in a brief interview with The Andover Townsman. He said his comment regarding “shakedowns” was meant to show that he has an “above-board organization that plays by the rules.”

He said his biggest push since being sworn in Jan. 2 is on law enforcement, and he spends two to three hours every day with the police chief.

“We are working to control crime,” he said, “so when you come down to dinner, you’ll have a pleasant experience.”

Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini, meanwhile, touted his city’s success at rezoning the downtown to attract housing and more restaurants.

“We have $150 million in investment in downtown, including 550 new housing units and 850 new residents, including my son,” he said, adding that the 22 restaurants downtown have created a thriving business climate.

“It’s the best dining north of the North End,” he said, pointing out that the state recently awarded $5 million for a new boardwalk, which will link with a new rail trail to create what Fiorentini hoped would become “our own Emerald Necklace.”

Methuen Mayor Steve Zanni, also recently off a big election win, touted the Century Box multi-million-dollar expansion that will keep jobs and create new ones in the city, among other initiatives.