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Andover’s Nov. 20 special town meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will consider seven warrant articles. The meeting will be held at the Collins Center on the Andover High School campus.
This cheat sheet has everything you need to know about Special Town Meeting 2023, including background information, explainers on key warrant articles, how town meeting works, details on how to participate, useful links, and information on registration, parking and child care.
Scroll down to learn more about what’s on the warrant, how Andover Annual Town Meeting works, how to participate, and a list of useful links.
Town Meeting Info Sessions:
- Monday, 12 p.m. on Zoom
- Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. at the Robb Center
- Wednesday, 7 p.m. on Zoom
- Thursday, 7 p.m. on Zoom
- Friday, 8:30 a.m. at the Robb Center
- Friday, 12 p.m. at the Robb Center
This article will be updated through the start of special town meeting as more information becomes available.
More coverage of the 2023 Special Town Meeting on Andover News.
Be sure to read the finance committee report on the special town meeting warrant for a detailed explanation of each article.
Article 1: Open Town Meeting Ballot Question
If approved, a non-binding ballot question would be placed on the ballot for the March 2024 local election asking if the Town should do away with its open town meeting form of government. The result of the vote would be advisory only.
- Town officials say the question was studied extensively by the Town Governance Study Committee, which concluded open town meeting still works for Andover.
- Opponents say Andover has grown too large to support an open town meeting form of government and the Town should explore other forms, including representative town meeting.
- The select board unanimously voted to recommend special town meeting disapprove article 1.
Article 2: Property Tax Cap For Seniors
This article seeks to cap the annual property tax increases for homeowners over the age of 65. Essentially, the Town could not increase seniors’ taxes more than 2.5 percent per year
- Mike Myers, the petitioner, is a vocal opponent of the $450.5 million proposal for a new Andover High School and says the article will protect seniors from massive tax hikes.
- Town Counsel Doug Heim said in a memo to petitioners and Town officials the bylaw change proposed in the article “is not feasible under Massachusetts state law.”
- The select board and finance committee unanimously voted to recommend special town meeting disapprove article 2.
Article 3: Retiree Health Care Premiums
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated what the article would do if passed. Andover News regrets the error.
If passed, the Town would split the premium contribution for retirees and make it the same as active employees. The change would only impact retirees who remain on the Town’s insurance and retire before 65, when they not eligible for Medicare.
- Heim said if passed, article 3 could be taken into consideration when the select board and town manager set tax rates each year.
- Myers and others are the petitioners on the article.
- The select board, school committee, and finance committee all unanimously voted to recommend special town meeting disapprove article 3.
- “This article would undo the retiree health insurance reform enacted in 2016 and have a very significant negative impact on the town’s unfunded liabilities – an area that we have made a lot of progress on in order to mitigate taxpayer impacts well into the future,” Andover CEO Patrick Lawlor said.
Article 4: Town Meeting Time Limits For Speakers
Myers proposed article 4 to give equal time to town meeting petitoners and town officials.
- Heim said state law would prevent enacting the rules, as Massachusetts gives “broad authority” to town moderators to conduct town meeting.
- The select board and school committee unanimously voted to recommend special town meeting disapprove article 4.
Article 5: Reduce Speed Limits On Several Andover Streets
If passed, the Town would lower the speed limit to 25 MPH on Chandler Road, Dascomb Road, Harold Parker Road, Jenkins Road, Lovejoy Road, Main Street between the Shawsheen River and South Street, North Street, and River Road.
- Heim said the speed limit changes would need to be approved by the select board.
- George Thorlin, who is running for select board in March, and others proposed articles 5 and 6. The articles come after a five-year-old girl was hit and killed by a truck in Elm Square on May 9.
- The select board unanimously voted to recommend special town meeting disapprove article 5.
Article 6: Form A Traffic Safety Advisory Committee
If passed, this article would create a committee to monitor traffic safety and how the Town enforces traffic rules.
- Heim said Town bylaws do not allow special town meeting cannot commission studies or committees, or make recommendations.
- The committee could, however, be formed to make advisory recommendations.
- The select board unanimously voted to recommend special town meeting disapprove article 6.
Article 7A: New AHS Schematic Design
Article 7A asks special town meeting to approve money for a schematic design of the proposed, new Andover High School and was submitted by the Andover High School Building Committee.
A divided select board and a unanimous school committee have recommended passing article 7A, while the finance committee voted to recommend special town meeting reject the article because of the potential impact to the Town’s bond rating and financial position.
The six members of the finance committee that recommended disapproval were Yican Cao, William Haskell, Paul MacKay, Brian Major, Andrew McBrien and Vice-Chair Kim Perry. Finance committee members Aaron Buzay and Chair Paula Colby-Clements recommended to approve 7A.
|What happens if this article passes?||The Town would use $1.3 million in previously approved funding to complete a detailed, schematic design of the building committee’s proposal for a new, $451.5 million Andover High School. The design would give the most accurate cost estimate to date.|
|What happens if this article fails?||The project would likely be shelved or scrapped, sending the Town back to the drawing board to address problems at the existing school.|
|How will passage affect my taxes?||Passing 7A will have no impact on residential property tax rates, as the money has already been allocated in the Town budget.|
Article 7B: AHS Interim Planning
Article 7B asks special town meeting to approve $500,000 for a study that would look at upgrades for the existing school that would not impact the Town’s bond rating and extend the life of the school until Andover is in a better position to finance a new school. The study, which would be overseen by the Town Permanent Building Committee, is also being framed as a “Plan B” in case the new school project does not move forward.
The select board and building, school, and finance committees all unanimously recommended special town meeting approve the article.
|What happens if this article passes?||The Town would commission a study to look at potential upgrades to the current AHS to extend its life.|
|What happens if this article fails?||Nothing. If the Town also rejects article 7A, the Town would likely need to reconsider interim solutions at a future special town meeting.|
|How will passage affect my taxes?||Passing 7B will have no impact on residential property tax rates, as the money has already been allocated in the Town budget.|
Town Meeting is Andover’s legislative body, and open to any Andover resident over 18 who registered to vote by Nov. 10. Non-residents and nonvoters can attend and will be seated in a special section.
Depending on the issue, motions may need a simple majority, two-thirds, or super majority vote to pass. Andover does not have specific policies or rules for when each type of vote is used, but instead relies on advice from legal counsel on Town Meeting vote thresholds.
Voters who want to use visual displays or slides must make arrangements with the Town Clerk’s Office before the meeting. Call 978-623-8230 for more information.
According to the Andover’s Town Meeting FAQs, articles are considered in the order they appear on the warrant. Articles must be moved by a registered Andover voter on the floor of Town Meeting to open discussion on the article.
The special town meeting will be the first time Andover could use electronic voting passed by annual town meeting in May. The Town is encouraging voters to arrive early for a brief training session on using the devices.
If you want to speak on an article: A voter can be recognized by standing and saying “Madam Moderator.”
- Speakers must give their name and address before speaking.
- A motion can be made at the opening of Town Meeting to limit the time for presentations and speakers. Such motions usually apply to all warrant articles.
- Speakers can only be interrupted for a point of order, questions on the legality of the motion, or a question for clarification.
- The Moderator may use of Pro/Con Microphones to help organize the debate on controversial articles.
What is town meeting?
Andover is the biggest Massachusetts town by population to have an open town meeting, one of two most common forms of town government used in the state. In the other form of town meeting, voters elect representatives by ward or precinct.
“The purest form of democratic governing is practiced in a Town Meeting. In use for over 300 years and still today, it has proven to be a valuable means for many Massachusetts taxpayers to voice their opinions and directly effect change in their communities,” according to the Secretary of State’s Citizen’s Guide to Town Meeting. “Here in this ancient American assembly, you can make your voice heard as you and your neighbors decide the course of the government closest to you.”
If you want to amend an article:
- Present your amendment in writing to the Moderator.
- The Moderator will open discussion on the amendment.
- The Moderator will call for a vote on the amendment only.
- If passed, the amended article will be voted on. Otherwise, discussion will resume on the original article.
- Amendments to amendments “are usually ruled out of order.”
Types of Motions:
- Voters can and are encouraged to ask budget questions and can address the Moderator on any line item in the Finance Committee’s report.
- The Moderator can determine the outcome of each article by voice vote, but a standing vote can be called if the decision is questioned.
- Reconsideration is rarely used to correct an oversight or an illegality.
- A meeting may adjourn to a later time and a different place, but when a meeting is dissolved it is finished. A meeting may not be dissolved until every article in the Warrant has been acted upon.
To participate in Special Town Meeting, you needed to register to vote no later than Nov. 10. Non-voters can attend and will be seated in a special section. The town urges voters and nonvoters to arrive early to sign in at the Town Clerk’s Table.
Childcare: The Town offers babysitting for kids in grades K-5 whose parents want to attend Special Town Meeting. Call Andover Recreation at 978-623-8340 for more information.
Transportation: Andover Elder Services will be offering transportation and parking lot shuttle. Call 978-623-8320 for more info.
Parking: Attendees should park in the Collins Center Lot, the main lot at the high school, the West Middle school lot, the lot beside the field house or on Red Spring Road.
- Town Meeting info on Town of Andover Website
- 2023 Special Town Meeting Warrant
- Information on Andover Moderator Sheila M. Doherty
- Town Meeting FAQs
- Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Citizen’s Guide to Town Meetings
- Finance Committee Report