More than 1,200 people enjoyed the annual Fourth of July pancake breakfast this weekend, and town leaders say they will ensure the tradition continues next year, despite there being no money for the event in this year's budget. That's the clear and correct decision.
The morning of July 4, with its Horribles Parade in the downtown and pancake breakfast, music and games in the Park, is one of those moments that helps keep Andover more than a bedroom community. There are only a few such events each year. Thousands gather to have a good time, talk with fellow residents and celebrate our country's declaration of independence. But this year, with the Department of Community Services saying it didn't have the money for breakfast entertainment, the town considered canceling its July 4 events, including the parade that dates back to the 1800s.
Given some of the benefits the town chooses to spend money on, it seems Andover ought to be able to find $3,000, without calling on residents to raise money and begin planning this event themselves. The event is open to all and is a patriotic, all-ages Andover staple.
Time to take out some take-homes
Selectmen Mary Lyman and Alex Vispoli deserve credit for tackling the issue of take-home cars and other vehicular perks for some town employees such as free gas, insurance and maintenance. They began studying these taxpayer-funded benefits before the economy collapsed and the public cry for change made this approach easier. But the outcome has followed a familiar road in Andover: there's been years of study leading to relatively minor changes.
Eight of the 14 employees still given take home vehicles made more than $100,000 in pay last year, so they clearly can afford to buy their own cars. The town study into the issue showed that Andover is more generous with vehicle perks than comparable towns. But the way it stands now, the only way the town will stop buying new vehicles every five to eight years for these 14 employees is if they retire or leave for another job. Even at the state level, legislators included current employees in some changes, realizing that if they only change the rules for new employees they will not right the teetering financial ship of government.
Given the nature of their jobs, some employees, such as public safety leaders, may deserve special vehicles. In the more than $130 million budget, the amount spent on vehicles isn't much, of course. Then again, it only costs about $3,000 to put on the Fourth of July pancake breakfast event, and, with that money missing from its annual budget, the Department of Community Services is looking for citizens to help raise cash to keep that popular community event going. A few less cars will pay for a lot more pancakes.