Did you check out of Andover (physically or mentally) for parts or all of the summer? Here's a quick synopsis of some of the big developments since school ended in June.

New fire station on horizon?

The town will form a fire station building committee to explore the replacement of either the Ballardvale or West substations.

Fire Chief Michael Mansfield is hoping to replace one of the substations within five years. The five-member building committee will look for sites to build a new substation and determine alternate uses for existing substations.

Longer school day possible at Wood Hill Middle

Last October, six schools began to consider the idea of a longer school day, after the state gave Andover an $11,000 grant to study Expanded Learning Time.

Now, as students head back to school, Wood Hill Middle School is the only Andover school still pursuing state money to extend the school day as early as fall 2009.

The state's controversial ELT initiative would add 300 hours to the school year. Schools apply for and receive one-year grants. If Wood Hill Middle were to retain the 180-day school year, which includes a summer vacation, ELT would add an extra one hour, 40 minutes to every school day.

This fall, Bucco said he hopes to host several parent forums to increase communication and further explain Wood Hill's ELT plan. Information will be posted on the Wood Hill Web site during early fall, he said.

The actual ELT grant application is due on Dec. 1. Any final application submitted in December would have to be approved by the Andover School Committee.

The Andover teachers' union would have to approve the contract changes.


Andover: Hollywood East

Suddenly, Andover is the place to film movies. Three films have been filmed here this year, the latest a movie called "Don McKay" starring Thomas Haden Church (Wings, Sideways) and Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, Adventures in Babysitting), which filmed a scene at Letourneau's Pharmacy off North Main Street.


Man hit by cruiser sues

North Street resident Christopher "Gerry" Lohan filed a lawsuit against the town this summer, after his leg was broken in three places Dec. 16 when a police cruiser driven by Officer Daniel Devine hit him in his driveway.

Lohan, 39, who works for a biotechnology company, had been shovelling snow at the time of the accident.He is married with two young children. Lohan and his family are seeking $400,000 in damages.

Andover police have declined comment on the suit.

Lohan continues to take pain medication, and has difficulty walking long distances and up and down stairs, and he still has a titanium rod and screws in his leg, his lawyer Shawn O'Rourke said.


State pitches in on youth center

The effort to build a youth center in Andover got a potential boost in mid-August, as the state guaranteed $500,000 for infrastructure improvements at the site of the proposed center.

The money would help cover pedestrian safety, the installation of utility lines, vehicle access and parking costs for the proposed Andover Youth Center, slated to be built behind Doherty Middle School, off Bartlet Street.

But the private Andover Youth Foundation still needs to raise money to build the center itself. So far, the AYF says it has raised $3 million, less than half the amount needed.


Addison Gallery closed

The $30 million renovation and expansion of Addison Gallery on the Phillips Academy campus is underway, after the museum closed to the public on July 13.

By the late winter of 2010, the entire project will be complete, adding the learning center, an expanded library and new office space.

The dean of law school plans war crimes trial

Andover's Massachusetts School of Law has planned a two-day conference to begin planning the case against President George W. Bush and others in his administration for war crimes. The conference was originally planned to be held at the school in September, but has since reportedly been moved to another location.

The decision to plan such an event upset some law school graduates.


$10 million for I-93 in Andover

The state approved $10 million in August to add sound barriers along Interstate 93 to help reduce the noise of the highway to Andover neighbors, who hear more noise now that the breakdown lane can be used during peak hours.

Proposed Billerica plant's emissions would float here

A natural-gas-fired power plant proposed to be built on the Billerica/Tewksbury town line would produce emissions from its 80-foot smoke stacks that would waft over Tewksbury, into parts of Andover.

But the Andover health director says he is not bothered by the level of pollutants.

"Residents should know about it, but the people who get paid (to study the effects), and this is their profession, seem to indicate that it's not a problem," Andover Health Director Tom Carbone said. "I'm not too concerned about it at the moment, based on what I've seen."

The Billerica Energy Center, the proposed power plant, is in the planning stages to be built at 134 Billerica Ave. in North Billerica, not far from Route 495. It would operate only during peak times of energy use and would burn diesel fuel as a backup.

Andover residents would not be able to see, smell or hear the power plant, once operational, a scientist said.

It is unclear how soon the power plant would be built.


School leadership turnover

As Andover heads back to school today, Thursday, Sept. 4, new students might not be the only ones with first-day jitters.

Five out of Andover's 10 public schools will have a new leaders. Bancroft, South and West elementary schools, and Doherty and West middle schools all have principals starting their first full year in the role.

Theresa McGuinness-Darby, Doherty Middle School principal, and Liz Roos, West Elementary principal, were both promoted from assistant principal positions in their schools.

West Middle School Principal Steve Murray has served one semester as principal; he was promoted from assistant principal in January 2008, after Denise Holmes retired.

Francine Goldstein, previously an early childhood reading specialist in Newton, has been appointed by Bach as a one-year interim principal at Bancroft.

Lastly, Colleen McBride, a former Beverly principal, will start her first year at South Elementary, hired after Principal Eileen Woods retired.

Woods will stay on in the district as a consultant, said Bach, heading up a mentoring program. She will pair each rookie principal with a veteran within the district, and meet with them all regularly to give guidance and answer questions.

Also new this fall, Bach has hired a new Special Education department head, athletic director, health director, business administrator, and assistant principals at West Elementary and Doherty and West middle schools. There are also more than 50 new teachers starting throughout the district this fall, said Bach.


Ground beef recall

Customers of Whole Foods Supermarkets | including the location at 40 Railroad St., Andover | were advised to throw out any ground beef products purchased at the store between June 2 and Aug. 6.

On Aug. 8, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced a seventh confirmed case of E. coli contamination has been linked to ground beef from Whole Foods, supplied by Colorado-based Coleman Natural Beef.

Such beef is no longer being sold.

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