EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 9, 2013

Andover's Council on Aging weighs in on Youth Center

By Dustin Luca
dluca@eagletribune.com

---- — ANDOVER — Parking and scheduling concerns dominated discussion at an at-times heated Cormier Youth Center presentation before the Council on Aging last night.

The articles facing the town were brought yesterday to what could be considered the planned Cormier Youth Center’s greatest neighbor in the town once it is built: senior citizens and the Center at Punchard, previously known as the Senior Center.

At the meeting, Nancy Jeton, Andover Youth Center Building Committee chairman, said the building is designed to serve not just as a place for Andover youth, but also as a community space for all residents to use.

“When (Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski) first asked me to chair this committee, one of the things he talked to me about was the fact that this is a town facility,” she said. “Although primarily a youth center, it was to be a town-controlled building and available for use by many different entities.”

During the presentation, the committee fielded questions about the building’s use — specifically how available it would be to Andover seniors — and how the plans address parking at the Center at Punchard.

“What doesn’t work in the building we have now is parking,” Don Robb, council chairman, said. “We have many seniors who say they can’t come to activities during January, February because they can’t walk from the end of that parking lot, all the way through the school through ice and snow. We’re talking people in their 70s and 80s. That’s an unfair and dangerous situation.”

Beyond the youth center project, a $3.2 million plan is coming before the town at Annual Town Meeting to redesign the parking and asphalt areas around Doherty Middle School. As part of that project, parking would be adjusted to accommodate the construction and later occupancy of the youth center.

How much parking would be created under the project wasn’t clear, as conflicting numbers were referenced at the meeting.

Maria Maggio, acting director of Plant and Facilities, said that the plans will create an additional 41 parking spaces on the site. A separate count by council member Edward Medeiros, referencing a site plan of the paving project, showed only four being created.

In either case, many of the spaces are away from both the Center at Punchard and Cormier Youth Center, which Robb said is unacceptable.

“The major concern that we have as a council is to protect the health and safety of people that use our building,” he said. “These parking spaces are abominable now, and if they get worse, you’re going to have lawsuits on your hands because somebody’s going to get hurt.”

The fundraising efforts of the Andover Youth Foundation also came up at the meeting. In the past year, the foundation — charged with raising a total of $2.2 million before the town provides a dime of its committed $2 million — raised only $100,000 with another $300,000 in pledges waiting in the wings.

Diane Costagliola, chairman of the foundation, said the foundation would hits its goal.

“We have an absolute commitment from everybody that made pledges,” she said. “We will have that money by the time we need to.”

The project will need up to $5 million to be built. Two articles coming to Special Town Meeting on Feb. 11 seek to break the project into phases and move the footprint by around 35 feet due to a wetlands issue.