By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER – Town Manager Andrew Maylor told the selectmen last night the town and its employees will save $3.5 million over the next several years by changing health insurance plans.
Maylor said the town also will be able to reduce costs by entering into an agreement with Andover on the shared use of equipment services. Maylor said he and Town Manager Reginald "Buzz" Stapczynski recently worked out the agreement, which covers public works services.
Maylor said his aim is to "get the most out of our assets."
As for health insurance, all of the unions representing town employees, as well as the retired workers, agreed to obtain their coverage from the state Group Insurance Commission, Maylor said.
"The discussions were cordial," Maylor said of his negotiations with the unions. By receiving coverage from the Group Insurance Commission, town employees will have "quality health insurance as a lower cost," the manager said.
Last year, the selectmen voted to accept a state law that permits towns and cities to have their employees covered by the Group Insurance Commission provided their unions agree with the move.
"We won't see 10-percent increases in health insurance costs," Maylor said.
"This is a step in the right direction," selectmen Chairman William Gordon said. Less expensive health insurance will enable North Andover to have "sustainable government," he added.
Selectman Tracy Watson said she is "grateful" for the change in employee health insurance.
Maylor said North Andover and Andover will share street sweeping, catch basin cleaning, pothole repairing, brush cutting and tree maintenance services.
Watson called the shared services agreement a "brilliant idea." Watson, who manages the Woodridge affordable housing apartments off Waverly Road, said executives in the private sector "are always looking for ways to save the company money."
She said she is pleased to see that same thinking being applied to town government.