The Select Board was instructed by 2019 town vote to hire a full-time Road Agent by Town Meeting 2020. It was also requested that the Select Board create a 5-year timeline/plan for the growth of the Highway Department by Town Meeting 2020.
A great deal of time and research has been done to satisfy the above mentioned directive. The efforts put forth were productive and will prove positive as Andover moves towards a more complete Highway /DPW Department.
In May, we met with a number of experienced residents for input on equipment and facilities needed. Each person gave honest thoughts and suggestions to the Board. I would like to make an important point here – each participant set aside personal preferences and addressed the town needs and, of course, budget restrictions. For that honesty and integrity, we would like to thank each member of the group.
As time went on, the Board received a great deal of input from all factions here in town and we went out to other towns, dealers, and construction firms for their thoughts. As with any important decision, there was quite a bit of disagreement on what should be a priority and what could be done further down the road. It should also be noted here that the Board was made aware of a potential reversal of the 2019 vote for hiring a Road Agent during the 2020 Town meeting. In good conscience, the Board will not hire a person when the position is in question and could be overturned.
“The cart is ahead of the horse”, which became evident when the public hearings were held and during conversations with current Road Agents, ours and others. At this time, Andover has little to offer a potential Road Agent be it compensation or the tools to actually do the job. The job market is tight, basically more jobs than candidates for one, and the compensation norms are much higher than what was thought to be competitive. So the Board stepped back and has decided to pursue what has become known as Plan B. Basically, we need to take another approach to what Andover needs and we need the time to do it.
At Town meeting 2020 we will present the following:
-An appointed Road Agent will be in place for two years. Similar to the current elected position, but reporting to the Select Board. Your services will not be affected and projects will be done. Compensation will come out of current budget.
-A Warrant Article for a Bond for a town garage will be presented – we need to have a facility for vehicles, equipment, personnel, and storage. This facility has been consistently pointed out as a necessary need not a wish. The bond will cover the estimated $350,000 for a basic facility that can be “added to” if needed down the road.
-A request for a 3-year lease for a 1 Ton truck, plow, wing & sander, total of $60,000. A similar lease was used for the current 1 ton. Again, this is a necessity not a wish and designed for the “town tool box.”
-Finally a request for a Backhoe / 5-year lease – $180,000.
Let me note here that this piece of equipment has been the most controversial and contentious item we faced, but it was the most universal item discussed and identified.
The Board wanted to satisfy the directive given in 2019, however, all the discussions, research, and input was not wasted and clearly pointed out what is needed. We need to get the horse back in front of the cart and we all should be thankful that costly errors were avoided because we did not jump too quickly.
As far as a specific contractor, equipment make, etc, that will be determined by the appointed Road Agent, Board, and consult with others. It still must be determined where the garage will be situated. There is a split between the Transfer Station and White Oak, which both offer advantages and disadvantages that must be addressed.
This common sense approach is the most appropriate, and offers Andover the time to properly begin and accomplish the town’s ultimate goal.
The Andover Select Board