Did you think communication with residents and businesses during the gas crisis was good or bad? If bad, what would you do to improve it? If good, give an example.
KOH: I think the daily communication via the website and e-mail was very important. I would work in collaboration with the town to ensure we are using as many methods as possible to reach our residents.
VISPOLI: The communication from Columbia Gas to residents, businesses and the town was poor, especially during the first 30 days. CG was unable to provide accurate information for the impacted area; they lacked knowledge of their own system. Additionally, CG consistently missed scheduled visits, frustrating residents and businesses. After initially using the town’s Code Red system to reach 16,534 Andover phone numbers, the town provided daily updates with all available information via Facebook, Twitter and email. Communication could have been improved by assigning CG neighborhood zone supervisors from the start; this was utilized and things improved, but it took over a month to implement. CG could have conducted daily live conference calls open to all impacted residents and businesses for real-time direct input.
KIM: I think the situation was very complex and warrants a more nuanced answer than “good” or “bad." Communication improved as the situation evolved. The town issued bulletins regularly. Unfortunately the information in the bulletins was often inaccurate because Columbia Gas did not fully appreciate the scope of work required to make repairs within the affected homes and businesses. Consequently, the time estimated for assessment and response was misleading. One way to improve the efficiency of the operation would have been to concentrate the restoration effort in a particular area before moving on. In addition, the use of mobile technology rather than paper-on-clipboards would have improved the process.
BROMBERG: My family went over 65 days without heat, and more than 30 days displaced. I feel that the robo-call system the schools use to tell you if it’s a snow day could have been used to get information out to families during the crisis, but all the information we got, we had to fight for. People tell me they know nothing about the ongoing Columbia negotiations (negotiations which have no deadline and hold no leverage if we are not properly compensated). I’ve spoken to Senator Barry Finegold, and asked him to propose an emergency measure to offer property-tax abatements to those whose homes were unlivable during the crisis. Any lost tax revenue should be reimbursed by Columbia Gas.
If the school committee decides to seek a debt exclusion override (property tax increase) to pay for the high school renovations, would you support it? If so, why, if not, why not?
KOH: Making sure we have facilities that allow students in Andover to thrive is a top priority. A debt exclusion should not be the default in every case; however, if through conversations with residents it is clear that it is necessary and desired, I would be supportive.
VISPOLI: The High School task force has decided to wait and re-apply this fall to the state for possible reimbursement. Their answer of applicability will be known in December 2019. If we are accepted into the program, the state would qualify for up to a 40 percent reimbursement rate. The taxpayers will be asked this year or next to vote on a debt exclusion override for the construction of the new West Elementary School, which has been accepted into the MSBA program, for partial reimbursement. The taxpayers have just started to pay via a debt exclusion override for Bancroft School, which I supported. My support would depend on the projected cost of the renovation and the state's contribution.
KIM: If the School Committee decided to raise property taxes to renovate the high school, I would give them my full support if the renovation was considered in context with the timing of other major projects in the town. I believe that education is a top priority in Andover and providing a quality learning environment is imperative. But staying grounded is important, and I think that balancing implementation and the scope of the project with the impact on taxes would need to be evaluated at the time of consideration. The community should decide how their money is spent.
BROMBERG: We just raised property taxes and already have some of the highest taxes in the state. Despite our ever-increasing taxes, things that are offered in surrounding communities (like free, full-day kindergarten) are not provided for Andover residents. The hardworking people of Andover are not an ATM machine and should not have to keep footing the bill for things other communities can achieve for less. Yes, we need to update our school infrastructure (our schools are one of our most important assets) but we need to be creative and work with local business and the community to come up with solid plans to increase revenue. It’s going to be hard work, but it is important and necessary.