The three candidates for selectmen want a new Ballardvale fire station, playing fields on Blanchard Street and a redevelopment of the town yard area in the downtown. But with money short for the immediate future, each has a different take on which project they would push to receive construction money first.
Challenger Will English looks to unseat one of two incumbents running for reelection, Brian Major or Ted Teichert, during the March 24 election.
What follows are the candidates' responses to this issue:
This spring, Town Meeting voters will be asked for money to design three major projects: a new fire station in Ballardvale ($200,000 for design), new ball fields on Blanchard Street ($425,000 for design) and a plan to redevelop the town yard area ($30,000 for master plan). Do you support all of these projects? What do you see as the timing to pay for their construction? What is your priority?
I support all three projects because of their importance to Andover's future. The more than 100-year-old Ballardvale Station lacks structural integrity and size for modern fire apparatus. Size also prevents the introduction of EMS in Ballardvale. I strongly recommend Andover investigate a regional station with Wilmington that includes the sharing of construction and operating expenses.
The Deyermond Fields are expected to close by 2011 for landfill capping. To prevent elimination, the treeless, flat, publicly owned, 12-acre Blanchard Street property is perfect for the Deyermond relocation. I support a private/public partnership to pay for construction. The $425,000 will pay for design, engineering, soil remediation and site preparation.
The town yard facilities are in poor condition and require significant reinvestment. A master plan will ensure effective reconstruction of dilapidated facilities. I expect construction funding approval of the fire station and fields in 2010 and the town yard in 2011.
Long-term, it's apparent all three projects must be completed. But we need to look at which would give us the most bang for the buck now. At $30,000 for the master plan, the town yard should be the priority. The development of this prime area will nearly double our retail space. It will not detract from Main Street, but enhance it. More stores will broaden the tax base, reverse the trend of rent increases on Main Street that's squeezing out tenants, and provide significant additional parking. It would also help us remain competitive with the neighboring towns developing our borders.
The Ballardvale Fire Station, which protects residential and commercial property over a large area, must be improved.
I grew up playing sports, and I know about scarce field space, especially with Deyermond closing. Still, it's painful but prudent to table both these important projects for this budget cycle.
The ball fields and town yard should be priorities for the town.
We need the ball fields because we are mandated by the state to close the Deyermond fields. Possible financial help from the leagues could lessen the cost to the taxpayer. The town yard has outgrown its space and the conditions there are deplorable. Redevelopment of the current location could be an asset to the downtown. The Town Yard Task Force is exploring alternative locations and seeking the best financial deal for the town.
The fire station is a long-term project. Perhaps we can reduce the appropriation for planning money or even delay the project until the economy improves. These projects will be paid through borrowing, possibly with a debt exclusion.
Even in these tough times, doing the essential planning for these future projects is necessary so we will be prepared to move forward when the economy improves.