Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 24, 2013

Letter: It may be time to send a message on town spending

The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Townsman:

Last December, town leaders told us that we were flush enough to make $2 million available to put toward the construction of an Andover youth center, and that this funding would not require an override. One year later, town leaders are calling an emergency Special Town Meeting because we need an additional $5.7 million to complete the Bancroft Elementary School, and this funding almost certainly will require an override. And if Andover residents refuse to acquiesce to this demand by the end of February, the price goes up to $7 million.

All of this makes me wonder if we are not being led down the garden path. Construction is already underway at Bancroft Elementary School. The foundation has been poured, steel beams are up, and our children are going to school at a construction site. Obviously, we have little choice but to provide the funding necessary to complete the project.

But after first announcing that “changes” to the plan for the youth center would be voted on at the upcoming emergency Town Meeting, town leaders have now removed that item from the warrant. The first $2.2 million of that project was to be funded with private money, much of which has not yet been raised, with the town providing $2 million only after that full amount was expended. Should I mark my calendar now for the “emergency” Town Meeting next fall -- after the foundation has been poured, steel beams are up, and private funds dry up far short of the mark -- to decide whether the town should nevertheless release $2 million to fund the completion of the youth center?

Unfortunately, a “no” vote on the Bancroft Elementary School project in February may be the only way to make it clear that we expect honesty and transparency from our leaders. Perhaps the shortfall can instead be funded out of the same magical pot of money being tapped to fund an Andover youth center.

Brandon Bigelow

21 Pine St.