ANDOVER — With just one vote in opposition, Town Manager Andrew Flanagan's recommended plan on how to spend the $20.8 million from the settlement with Columbia Gas overwhelmingly passed at Wednesday night's Special Town Meeting.
Fewer than 150 residents filled the Doherty Middle School Auditorium for a meeting that would be just short of 40 minutes long.
The plan, which was presented to the Select Board in May, was created by an emergency management working group with three objectives: To restore the impacted area and improve public spaces used in the recovery of the gas disasters, offset expenses of the recovery, and prepare for any future emergencies in town.
Flanagan said the vote for Article 1 on the warrant is a requirement of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, because the funds need to be taken and appropriated in order to be accordingly spent.
"We had a good idea heading into negotiations with Columbia Gas what the town's loss was," he said.
The four capital accounts in the plan are restoration and investment in roads; sidewalks and infrastructure; emergency preparedness; deficit reconciliation; and a gas disaster mitigation reserve account.
The approved plan will fully fund the restoration of the 18.6 miles of impacted roads and sidewalks from the Sept. 13 gas disasters. Paving will begin this season, which runs from now until mid-fall.
It will also appropriate $500,000 toward the Senior Center renovation, which will fund the expansion of bathrooms in the center and the addition of showers and other priorities such as freezer and refrigeration space.
About 55 parking spaces at the Senior Center will be added with the money from the approved plan, as well as sidewalk improvements from the Senior Center to downtown, allowing easier access in case of an emergency.
During the gas disaster recovery, Flanagan said Andover spent $400,000 on portable showers at Pomps Pond. Voters approved that amount to go toward implemented showers there in case of another emergency.
Flanagan said the plan will make it so the town buildings can be easily transformed into a HUB for emergency responses if ever necessary.
Another major item funded through the plan is the remainder of the design for the reconstruction of the intersection at Route 133 and Route 28 through to the intersection at Beacon Street and Route 133. About $500,000 will go toward the design.
Calvin Perry was the one voter to question Flanagan's plan, asking why the town needed $400,000 worth of showers at Pomps Pond.
"Every recommendation provides public good outside of emergency plans. ... This allows us to check two boxes: Improve our position from an emergency preparedness perspective and provide a resource to the community that can be used for recreational purposes," said Flanagan.
Article 2 sought the approval of $2 million for water main replacement projects. It also overwhelmingly passed, with just one vote in opposition.
Water main replacement work will be done simultaneous to road restorations. Flanagan said under the 18.6 miles of road affected by the gas disasters is 11.9 miles of unlined cast-iron water main that needs to be replaced.
"The thought process is if we're going to go ahead and proceed with pulling back the roads, we are going to do all the water work that needs to be done," said Flanagan.
This money is in addition to the $4 million approved by voters at Town Meeting in April. The water rate set by the Select Board funded an additional $2 million per year for water main replacements. The warrant for Town Meeting, however, was already closed with a request for $4 million and could not be increased.
"This will allow us to replace more water mains at a lower cost," Select Board Member Annie Gilbert said on behalf of the board.
No voters spoke for or against Article 2.