Following local town government can be a time-consuming process. That's why, every once and a while, the League of Women Voters and various town leaders like to boil it all down for you.
A handful of individuals spent their night at Memorial Hall Library meeting room to receive the latest news on major town project proposals, as well plans affecting the future of the town and schools. Many department heads, town officials, town employees and citizens recently discussed the issues during Andover's seventh annual Mid-Year Review.
The event, sponsored by the Andover League of Women's Voters, featured some quick, educational talks about the town charter, Town Meeting and the League's main functions.
Presentations about the replacement of the Bancroft School, Andover Public Schools' strategic plan, the construction of the Blanchard Street ball fields and updates to the Town's Master Plan were the highlights of the evening.
At the end of the meeting, several town officials spoke about the idea of holding these review sessions and how this year's session went.
"This has to be the best one yet," said Andover Town Manager Reginald "Buzz" Stapczynski.
Bancroft School Replacement
School Committee member Annie Gilbert discussed the need for a new Bancroft Elementary School and the fact that Town Meeting voters will be asked to support a $26 million cost for the replacement on Dec. 6. Residents also gave feedback on certain aspects of the project that some claim are being ignored by the School Committee.
Glibert said that the school has been structurally deficient for decades and is in need of a serious renovation or replacement.
"It had structural issues almost since the day it opened," said Gilbert about the school that was built in 1969.
She said that the town has spent roughly $2 million on school repairs in the past five years that were over and above regular maintenance. But Gilbert also said that regular maintenance requires a comparatively large portion of the budget, more than four times the cost per square foot than new schools like Woodhill Middle and High Plain Elementary.
The total cost of the project is roughly $44.6 million with a 44 percent reimbursement from Massachusetts School Building Authority.
After a question from Whittier Street resident John Pasquale about abutter opposition, West Knoll Road resident Tom Garesche said that the School Committee has not been discussing the certain traffic and safety issues that may come up while the town uses West Knoll Road for two years during construction.
Glibert said that the School Building Committee has been analyzing many different scenarios and had picked most appropriate plans. She also said that public safety officials suggested that the town await finalizing certain traffic mitigation details until after the school is constructed.
Blanchard Street athletic field proposal
Project consultant for the town Chris Huntress discussed the roughly $2 million project to construct three Little League baseball fields and a multipurpose field on 14 acres of town-owned land at 15 Blanchard St. During the Dec. 6 Town Meeting, voters will be asked for $350,000 to purchase a lot at 3 Blanchard St., to extend the multipurpose field to allow another U-12 soccer field and add 20 parking spaces.
Project consultants are currently before the Conservation Commission to obtain permits for minimal work inside the 100-foot buffer to a wetland.
Town Master Plan
Town Planner Lisa Schwarz discussed the updates to the Town's Master Plan, a document that addresses issues, such as land use, housing, economic development and natural resources and assists the town officials and staff toward implementing Andover's overall vision.
Without a major overhaul since 1992, Schwarz said that Master Plan updates will focus on work produced by various committees over the past six years and will include new areas on public health and fiscal sustainability.
School Strategic Plan
New Superintendent of Schools Marinel McGrath discussed how Andover Public School's five-year strategic plan that, similar to the master plan, will guide the overall vision of the schools.
McGrath said that, one year into the process, school administrators and officials are in the middle of identifying themes that they will help them develop goals and objectives for Andover Public Schools. McGrath then said they will be developing an action plan to carry out those goals and objections.
Outreach for the five-year plan includes input from teachers, administrators, parents, citizens and others, and totaled more than 300 people throughout many different focus groups and surveys.
She said that, overall, the school wants students become critical thinkers, problem solvers, innovative, reflective, resilient and have the ability to communicate and collaborate.