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March 20, 2014

Andover selectmen nix high school expansion study

ANDOVER — Selectmen are putting the brakes on several spending proposals and questioning others as part of an ongoing review of the budget in advance of May Town Meeting.

On Monday night, the board voted 5-0 to remove a request from the School Department for $350,000 to pay for a design study for renovations at the high school and held off making recommendations on several other measures that potentially will cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

“We are being very cautious,” said Selectman Paul Salafia. “The mood of taxpayers, and I agree with it, is that we want to hold as much back as possible. We don’t want to add to the tax burden. We are going to watch every dollar.”

Selectman Dan Kowalski agreed.

“You are seeing more questioning on spending,” he said. “The board understands that people are struggling, and the board doesn’t want to spend money when we don’t have to.”

In addition to rejecting the high school design money, Selectmen also decided to hold off voting on a proposal to spend $250,000 to pave the parking lot of the new Deyermond Fields baseball complex off Blanchard Street. They also held off voting on new boilers for the library, which carries a $150,000 pricetag. A decision on a warrant article spending $85,000 for new water and sewer department trucks was delayed, as was a proposal to spend $319,000 for a design study for a $3 million renovation project at West Elementary School.

Selectman Mary Lyman said the problem is that there are too many “pressing expenses” facing the town.

“It’s about priorities,” she said.

The high school renovation project, which could cost anywhere from $12 million to $25 million, was dropped completely from the priority list.

Selectmen said it wasn’t prudent to spend $350,000 to study a project the town couldn’t afford in the first place.

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