Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

February 6, 2014

Time to get serious on town spending

(Continued)

The Ballardvale Fire Station may be a perfect example. After five years of work, a building study committee charged with finding a site for a new station has recently delivered its recommendation. While opposition to the proposed site exists, the real issue may be whether a brand new station — at an estimated construction cost of $6 million — is thoroughly needed.

Sure, a new station would be wonderful if money was no object. But residents have put forth three articles for this spring’s Town Meeting that seek to renovate and potentially expand the existing station — at considerably less cost.

One resident supporting a request for $500,000 to renovate the existing station pointed to the rising tax rate as a reason to repair over building new.

“To be honest with you, I don’t feel it’s necessary to have a brand new station,” Deborah Lucci said. “We can use what we have.”

That sentiment is one that should be considered more in town. Officials must continue to look at the way the town currently does business and consider areas where savings can be made and costs can be kept from spiraling.

It’s unrealistic to think needs will go away. Eventually, work will have to happen, projects will have to get done. But creativity and alternative funding mechanisms are not only prudent today, but necessary.

As for the town’s older residents, another Town Meeting article seeks to increase the number of hours they can volunteer to the town in exchange for earning a break on their property taxes. The request, submitted by the Council on Aging board and the town’s director of elder services, would allow eligible seniors to volunteer up to 125 hours in a given tax year for a maximum abatement of $1,000. Currently, the program is capped at 100 hours for a maximum abatement of $675.

Unlike the property tax freeze, the expansion of the senior tax work-off program would be a valuable benefit for the town to extend to its seniors. The older residents of Andover deserve a fighting chance to remain a part of the community. They should not have to feel they are being driven from town because they can no longer afford to live here.

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