Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 10, 2013

Editorial: Thumbs up and down

The Andover Townsman

---- — Thumbs up to recent news that Andover and North Andover will share some public works services as a cost-savings measure.

As we argued for many years about items such as sewer pumper trucks that only need to be used a few times a year, not every community in the country needs to operate independently in all matters. Andover and North Andover make natural partners.

North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor told his board of selectmen on Monday that North Andover and Andover will share street sweeping, catch basin cleaning, pothole repairing, brush cutting and tree maintenance services. It makes a lot of sense, and should be a relatively smooth transition if done correctly.

With Andover also looking to combine its own public works and plant-and-facilities departments into one department we can at least hope for a more streamlined local government, and more effective use of taxpayers’ money.

Thumbs down to the strength of this flu season.

Four Massachusetts residents and 13 New Hampshire residents have died from flu-related illnesses. The CDC reports that flu season has arrived early and is widespread.

The best protection against getting this illness is through vaccination and cough and hand hygiene.

Fortunately for those who live in town, the Andover Health Department continues to offer vaccinations to protect residents against the seasonal flu. Individual appointments can be scheduled with the public health nurse for flu shots. People wishing to be vaccinated should call the Andover Health Department at 978-623-8295.

We might feel differently by the time mid-February rolls around, but thumbs up, so far, to the appearance of some chilly days and a handful of snowy nights.

Last year was a record-breaker in terms of unseasonably warm weather and scant snow. Winter hardly visited us. With the mild temperatures, it was more like a typical winter in Virginia or North Carolina.

Perhaps as a result, oddball nature stories started rolling out. In some areas, fruit trees bloomed too early and then got socked by a light frost. Mosquitoes emerged weeks earlier than normal, making for an unusually long mosquito season — and the worst year for mosquito-borne West Nile virus.

Bugs of all types that normally don’t overwinter very well, survived the winter of 2011-12 quite well, and so there was an unusually fierce infestation of certain types of insects. Some veterinarians in the area reported that 2012 was a banner year for fleas. Given the growth of Lyme disease, the impact the mild winter had on the tick population was also unwelcome.

It was a strange year, one that didn’t feel quite right for our region of the country. The mild winter last year was one of the leading causes.

So there is something good, healthy, and maybe even purifying about having a long, cold New England winter. Well, not too long or too frigid — but a reasonable number of cold, snow-filled days in December and January feels about right.