JEERS to not getting what you paid for. The customer in this case was the town of Andover, which spent some $1 million on a brand-new ladder truck to house at the Central Fire Station on Main Street. The new truck fell short in that it was not short enough to clear the Horn Bridge at the busy intersection of Central and Andover streets.

The train crossing drops to 11 feet, 6 inches above the street below it. The new truck was 11 feet, 11 inches. No combination of letting air out of the tires, tinkering with the truck and greasing it down, it seemed, would make up for that five extra inches. So back to Pierce Manufacturing it went.

Luckily the Appleton, Wisconsin, company that builds fire apparatus to specification acknowledged the flaw — the truck as delivered did not meet the original requirements — and it’s working to make it right. The town expects its new truck in early September, according to reporter Jessica Valerian’s most recent account.

If there’s an upside to this story, it’s that Andover’s first responders took one look at the new truck and realized something was wrong. “It looked higher,” Fire Chief Mike Mansfield told Valeriani. “So, as a proactive move, we went down there, blocked off traffic on either side of the Horn Bridge with our mechanic, and discovered that it was a bit too high.”

“We didn’t take any chances with it,” he added.

Good thing too. The ladder truck at the Central Station is an important piece of equipment, and the Horn Bridge is a key passage to a large portion of town. Avoiding that intersection would have meant driving far out of the way, or navigating streets not meant to handle large ladder trucks, in an emergency.

Until a new ladder truck arrives at the right height, Andover will continue to use its old Ladder 1, which clears the Horn Bridge by two inches.


CHEERS to special people dressed up for their special days.

Brides Across America, based in Shawsheen Village in Andover, recently held the 11th installment of Operating Wedding Gown in which it matches up members of the military or first responders, or their betrothed, with wedding dresses free of charge.

It’s sort of like the old Filene’s Basement “Running of the Brides,” except that Brides Across America works by appointment, the discount doesn’t get any better, and there’s not so much running.

“It’s a way of saying thank-you,” Terry Brumley, a member of the non-profit group’s board of directors, told reporter Jessica Valeriani. “It really is rewarding just to see their smiles, and everyone that participates in the event feels that way.”

The organization started by Heidi Janson in 2008 doesn’t just hold events in Andover. In 11 years it has dressed more than 24,000 brides across the United States and hosted 22 weddings, with another currently in the works, according to Janson.

Many brides served by the group are working around their military commitments, planning weddings before or after a deployment. For its part, said Brumley, the organization tries to make their experiences special, “because they deserve it.”

Indeed they do. What better way to say thank you for their service than to help make them look beautiful too.


CHEERS to offering medical attention to those who are homeless or otherwise living on extremely modest means.

The Greater Lawrence Family Health Center is now operating a mobile unit at GAR Park in Haverhill on Wednesdays and Fridays. Its appearance partly coincides with a meal distribution by the Merrimack Valley Hope Mission, as reporter Mike LaBella recently explained. The mission sets up at the park every Friday to distribute 150 to 200 bagged lunches, which come from churches, scouting groups, families and others.

The mobile health center plans to be at the park from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, and about 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Fridays. Joseph D’Amore, founder of the Merrimack Valley Hope Mission, told LaBella that in the past three years his group has handed out lunches, he’s met people with a range of health issues, from untreated broken bones to high blood pressure left unchecked. Some need immunizations. Some have no health insurance.

Now, at least, they’ll at least have weekly access to medical care. D’Amore noted that several funding sources are supporting the effort, including federal grants and the state Department of Public Health.

It’s good news for some of our community’s most vulnerable people.