By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — Residents will come together for a Special Town Meeting in February, but they won’t be talking about a youth center.
Two proposed articles for the upcoming Special Town Meeting seeking changes to the Cormier Youth Center project were pulled from consideration for the meeting’s warrant yesterday.
After hearing an update from Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski explaining the reason he did not believe the project should be on the warrant, the Board of Selectmen signed a one-article warrant. The lone article at Special Town Meeting will ask residents to approve $5.7 million to cover a budget deficit facing the Bancroft Elementary School construction project.
After the youth-center project came before four different town committees last week, Stapczynski said it was clear more discussion was needed on it.
In recent weeks, Andover Youth Center Building Committee members have been discussing plans for two articles: one to change the project’s 2011 Special Town Meeting vote so construction can be broken into phases, and one to move the building on the site due to a wetlands concern.
Over four straight nights, the two articles were presented to the Board of Selectmen, Council on Aging, Finance Committee and School Committee. All four focused on parking concerns to some degree, while individual meetings also focused on other issues, such as fundraising and the proposed re-phasing.
The two articles were slated for Special Town Meeting because of timing concerns facing the project if the votes were delayed until April’s Annual Town Meeting.
But because of the amount of concern surrounding the changes, “we basically made the decision to withdraw those articles and just present one basic article for the Bancroft Elementary School,” Stapczynski said.
After hearing the explanation, Board of Selectmen Chairman Paul Salafia said he understood “the more you delay, the higher construction costs might be.”
“The upside is we do get the time to talk about it, which I think will build consensus,” he said. “I think building consensus is more important.”
How the move changes the construction timeline isn’t yet known. While ground was slated to be broken in June with article passage in February, the decision to go to Annual Town Meeting could put the construction start date into August, according to Stapczynski.
Nancy Jeton, building committee chairwoman, said ground could be broken as early as July if planning is given urgency. Either way, the change “is a positive thing for the youth center.”
“It got a lot of visibility last week. I was impressed by the questions that people on the volunteer boards asked,” she said. “They were very thoughtful, insightful questions that we would have gotten to eventually. But to see them all converge in one week, I think, was very useful for people.”
“I’m very confident that we’ll continue moving this process along and get a terrific building that everyone’s proud of,” Jeton said.
With the decision, the two youth center articles will now likely appear alongside dozens of others at Annual Town Meeting.
Residents who seek to put a private article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant have until Jan. 18 to act. They must put together the language for their article and gather 10 signatures from registered Andover voters on their petition, and submit the papers for certification to the town clerk’s office at 36 Bartlet St. by 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
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