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UPDATED: Large Special Town Meeting Approves Youth Center

Town Meeting approved a $2 million contribution to the construction of a youth center.

The children of Andover will be receiving a new, 20,000 square foot youth center that will sit behind after voters at Special Town Meeting approved a $2 million expense for the design and construction of the new facility.

Over 1,500 people jammed into for the meeting, with a large majority having to sit on stage at the Collins Center or in the cafeteria, voting from an audio feed.

Andover voters spoke passionately for and against the project, which is receiving a $2.2 million private contribution through fundraising by Andover Youth Services. In the end, voters approved the expense and allowed the construction of the $4.2 million facility.

The $2 million would be borrowed over a period of 20 years and would not increase the 2012 tax rate. It would represent between $11 and $14 dollars of the total that each household spends on property taxes in 2012.

Debating the Youth Center

The youth center will replace the current facility on Pearson Street.

Those that spoke up against the youth center brought up many different reasons why the youth center would not be an appropriate purchase right now.

Some said that it was in not right to pay for a capital expense, such as a building, through the operating budget and not available cash or an override.

Others said that it was not fiscally responsible to take on debt during a time when Andover is shutting off street lamps.

One woman said that the town already provides enough funding for Andover Youth Services events.

"We are very thoughtful of them [the youth] with our tax dollars," said Mary Carbone.

But there were many that spoke in favor and explained why the town needed a new youth center and deserved it. For one thing, one town officials said that, with a bigger and better building, they will be able to reach more kids that might otherwise go astray.

“A new youth center will allow AYS to expand its programming and reach more kids,” said School Committee chairman Annie Gilbert said.

Town Meetng also passed several other articles that allowed selectmen to take easements for the construction of the Bancroft School, transfer town land, and accept town land for athletic fields. The last two articles were withdrawn.

The Collins Center was packed Monday night. So much so, that they had to set up extra seating for hundreds of other voters on the stage at the Collins Center, in the hallways, and in the cafeteria.

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