Why are we residents of Andover who have lived here for more than a handful of years not surprised to learn that the $1 million ladder truck is too big to fit under a bridge needed to drive under to get to around half the homes in town?
Here’s why: Just about every major project in town during the past 25 years has been mismanaged, with residents ending up picking up the tab for major cost overruns and poor project management. There were the extensive renovations to our high school in the mid 1990s that ran millions of dollars over budget; leaking roofs at High Plain Elementary and Wood Hill Middle schools that had to be fully replaced when the buildings were less than two years old, costing taxpayers, not the shoddy builder, $2 million because of a poorly written contract; cost overruns during the construction of the police and fire station; a $5 million overrun in the recent replacement of Bancroft Elementary School; and a $1 million-plus overrun in building the youth center.
Now, we have a $1 million ladder truck that is a half-foot too high to fit under a bridge it needs to get through in order to reach a very large population of homeowners and commercial buildings in town.
Each time major foul-ups in costly projects occur, it’s town taxpayers who get socked with picking up the tab. No town employees ever get held accountable for their poor project management, and the consequences for town employees having mismanaged these projects is "Kumbaya" lip service from members of the Select Board along the lines of (and I kid you not, new residents of town, with what members of the board have said in the past): “We should treat this as a learning moment.” As if these major, multi-million-dollar foul-ups were kids’ elementary school projects that didn’t work out.
The solution here is actually simple -- refuse acceptance of the ladder truck and send it back to the manufacturer, as the Fire Department already has, and say, “No final payment until you deliver a truck that meets the specs we gave you, or refund all payments already made if you cannot get the truck to meet the maximum height that was in the contract spec.”
If Chief Mansfield cannot do that, this just lengthens the list of poorly written town contracts and poor project management by town employees. Which will then likely add to the list of projects for which the Select Board just sticks its hands in everyone’s pockets to have us pick up the tab for poorly managed projects that it had an obligation to do a much better job overseeing.
Tune in for the next chorus of "Kumbaya" from the Select Board?