Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 9, 2013

Selectmen back, others balk at new youth center plan

By Dustin Luca
Staff Writer

---- — Special Town Meeting voters will be asked to support a plan increasing the youth center's footprint, while reordering how it will be built.

In the warrant articles for the Feb. 11 meeting, voters will be asked to amend the vote from 2011 Special Town Meeting so that it no longer references how big the building is. The new proposal is to create a one-story building with a footprint that is 4,000 square feet larger.

The center will cost more than expected in 2011.

The first $2.2 million spent on the project must come from money raised privately by the Andover Youth Foundation. Only then can the $2 million approved by 2011 Town Meeting voters be used. The rest of the money needed to finish the job would also be raised privately by the foundation, according to Nancy Jeton, chairwoman of the Andover Youth Center Building Committee.

"We found out that the building was going to be more expensive than we had anticipated," she said.

To help reduce costs, the committee decided to eliminate plans for a future second floor. Doing so removed stairs and an elevator from the project as well as additional, costly support structures for a second floor, Jeton said. However, the new design has a larger footprint by 4,000 square feet.

With rising construction costs, the cost of the project itself has risen sharply.

"With construction costs, plus a 10 percent contingency, plus the building fees, plus the design fees, instead of being a $4.2 million project, it has become a $5 million project," Jeton said. "What we'd like to propose is breaking the project into two phases. We would go forward with the original funding option that had been approved by Town Meeting voters to build everything but the gym."

In the original vote, residents agreed to give $2 million to the project after the youth foundation paid for the rest of the project first — $2.2 million at the time.

Now, the committee hopes to build 15,000 square feet with $2.2 million from the foundation and the town's $2 million, with the plans to build the gym wrapping up soon after with private money.

The first phase of construction, including most of the building and the foundation for the gym, will cost $3.8 million, according to Jeton. The gym to be built on the foundation will cost as much as $1.2 million, of which around $400,000 in the contributed town money will be used. The foundation would provide the remaining money, expected to be as much as $800,000.

When presented at a Board of Selectmen meeting Monday, the proposal met with some opposition.

"The warrant article that we voted on in December, 2011 is unambiguous: that the town doesn't put up one dollar until the town gets $2.2 million, at least, in the bank," Town Counsel Tom Urbelis said.

To illustrate his point, Urbelis said, with the building costing "$5.5 million, minus the two ... they (the foundation) have to put up the $3.5 million."

In response, Andover Youth Foundation Chairman Diane Costagliola said the agreement between the town and the foundation was that the foundation would provide $2.2 million, and then the town would pay $2 million. The originally proposed second-floor space, now slated to move to the first floor, was to have been built later with foundation money.

The articles also came before the Council on Aging Tuesday night, and discussion there focused on parking and how often the facility would be available for Andover seniors.

Conflicting numbers on how much parking would be added around Doherty Middle School this year put the increase in available parking anywhere from 4 spaces to 41. But for council Chairman Don Robb, it isn't how much parking that matters — it's how convenient it is for Andover seniors.

"We have many seniors who say they can't come to activities during January, February because they can't walk from the end of that parking lot, all the way through the school, through ice and snow," Robb said. "We're talking people in their 70s and 80s. That's an unfair and dangerous situation."

The plan also drew discussion on how much it would be used by seniors. During the meeting, Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski said the facility would be available extensively during daytime hours throughout the school year. He characterized availability during the summertime, when school is out, as "a little tricky."

"Our programs run year round. We don't take summer break," Robb said. "Therefore, the idea that you can use it while school is in session doesn't work for our schedule because we can't schedule around something like that."

SPECIAL TOWN MEETING, IN A NUTSHELL

The two articles coming to Special Town Meeting — including one to move the building by 35 feet to avoid a wetlands restriction — will both be publicly sponsored by the town after a unanimous vote from the Board of Selectmen Monday.

They also voted unanimously in support of the other article removing size references from the 2011 vote. Both votes came with four votes in the affirmative, with Selectman Mary Lyman absent from the meeting.

Special Town Meeting also will address a funding shortfall facing the Bancroft Elementary School Project. Previous estimates put the project around $5 million out of budget, but some construction bids could come in higher than originally projected. The warrant for the meeting closes tomorrow, Friday. To place a private article on it, 100 signatures must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. to the town clerk's office.