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Merrimack Valley

May 5, 2013

Spending check

Trio of Andover residents aims to reign in costs

ANDOVER — Three finance-driven residents are expected to make their voices heard when Andover’s Annual Town Meeting convenes Monday.

The trio has launched TownofAndover.com, a non-sanctioned website ruffling some feathers as it aims to mobilize taxpayers against what its founders argue is out-of-control spending.

The proponents are calling for complete transparency, and have* published 43 pages of town employee salary information to start the process.

“What we’re trying to do is, one, bring complete transparency to everything that goes on in town, in all committee meetings; two, to begin to get elected officials in town government to focus on essential spending first and non-essential spending second; and third, to begin to recognize all of the liabilities that the town incurs when they incur them,” website co-founder and past Finance Committee member Greg Rigby said.

The town budget tops the list of items coming before residents tonight. Town Meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Andover High School field house on Shawsheen Road. The warrant has 61 articles on the agenda, some slated for withdrawal, and some officials have forecast it will take three nights to get through all scheduled business.

According to TownofAndover.com, 54 percent of the town’s $157 million budget this year funds salaries, with 9 percent going to health insurance and another 4 percent going to pensions. Capital projects such as the proposed Town Yard replacement pile on top of that.

Website co-founder Bob Pokress suggested that town officials are prioritizing non-essential projects and initiatives, including efforts to buy conservation land, over much-higher needs.

“We’re already drowning in conservation projects,” he said. “I believe in conservation, but nobody is making the case that we’re running out of conservation land.”

And Bob Landry argued this is no way to run a business.

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