EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 7, 2014

Finance Committee supports new fire station, other capital projects

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The plan to construct a central fire station at Prescott Street and Chickering Road has cleared an important hurdle.

The Finance Committee unanimously voted to support a total of $8.9 million in capital spending Tuesday night. This includes $6.4 million for the new station.

Town Meeting approved design money for the project last year. The town’s Facilities Management Plan calls for remodeling the current central fire station adjacent to the Town Hall into offices for the Community Development Department.

Those offices currently occupy leased space at 1600 Osgood St.

The capital improvement plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 also includes $840,000 for roadway improvements, $650,000 for light and roadway improvements on Water and High streets, $160,000 for a 6-wheel dump truck for the Division of Public Works, $152,000 for paving at the schools and $150,000 for an addition at the Scholfield Mill at 170 Sutton St., which houses the North Andover Thrift Shop.

Voters at the annual Town Meeting on May 20 will have the final say on these projects.

The Finance Committee also approved the recommendation of Town Manager Andrew Maylor to set up a fund for other post-employment benefits, also known as OPEB. This includes the town’s share of health insurance premiums for retired employees.

Maylor recommended that this fund equal roughly $1 million, 1 percent of the total liability for other post-employment benefits. Two years ago, the Finance Committee opposed a plan to set aside $25,000 for this category.

Finance Committee Chairman Alan LeBovidge said he and other members were persuaded to support the fund this year because of the provision that permits the town to withdraw money from it in case of an emergency.

Maylor is expected to present his proposed operating budget for the next fiscal year to the Finance Committee on Feb. 25. The proposed spending plan exceeds the budget approved last year by 4 percent.

The Finance Committee is an advisory panel that makes recommendations for the Town Meeting. While it does not have the power to kill a spending proposal, the committee nevertheless carries a great deal of weight.

Two years ago, Maylor, the selectmen and the School Committee supported a plan to spend $4.3 million on energy conservation measures in town-owned buildings. The Finance Committee opposed the plan and the 2012 annual Town Meeting voted against it.

Last May, however, the Finance Committee backed slightly more than $4 million in energy conservation projects. This time Town Meeting gave its assent.