Sometimes Andover can feel like a ghost town during the summer. Not so much this year. While the dirt sidewalks on Main Street had the look of an Old West town at times, the whir and grind of construction equipment has told a wildly different story: Andover is actively moving ahead.

This Main Street project was approved in the 1990s, and is just now beginning. It should be complete before October 2009, according to the town. The new lights, curbs and sidewalks on the south end of Main Street, near Punchard Avenue and Ultimate Perk, give residents a taste of what the final product will look like. Trees will be added next spring. The changes will create a different feel downtown, enhanced by decisions to add experiences such as more outdoor dining to the area.

But the downtown redesign is just the beginning of the summertime work.

The Fire Department is looking to replace one of its two older stations. The Ballardvale station was built before the modern era of fire equipment and today's fire trucks are too large for its single bay.

Andover is continuing to pursue moving its town yard out of the downtown to allow for its business district to expand. The town yard land is prime land near the MBTA commuter rail station and could be developed in a number of ways. There are other, larger places the town can store its vehicles, equipment, road sand and salt.

Wood Hill Middle School is considering using state money to expand its school day. This would mean adding 300 hours to the school year, or about 100 minutes per school day on a 180-day schedule.

Economic times are difficult, and Andover must be careful to prioritize how it spends its money. Not all new ideas are good ideas. But it's clear some of Andover's leaders aren't going to sit around without considering the possibilities. Such creative and forward thinking, combined with careful decision making, will keep Andover the enviable place to live it is now.

Service to country takes different forms

Andover owes deep gratitude to its residents who have signed up to serve our country in the military. Bradley Buitenhuys, a January 2007 graduate of Andover High School, shows there are other ways that people can provide service to this land.

Buitenhuys recently completed a stint in the AmeriCorps program, a kind of national Peace Corps that sends volunteers to help struggling parts of America with their housing, education, food and other needs.

Taking time off between high school and college, Buitenhuys has helped in the aftermath of wild fires in California, he had taught children in Mississippi and he has built homes in New Orleans. Now that his AmeriCorps tour is over, he plans to stay in New Orleans building homes for those who lost them in Hurricane Katrina three years ago.

Andover has been fortunate to have people who give of themselves. The boards of charitable groups throughout the Merrimack Valley are filled with people from our town. Add Buitenhuys to the admirable list of those people who serve their fellow Americans with greater need.

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