The following letter to the editor was originally submitted by Andover resident Steve Walther (photo, above). The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andover News. You can learn more about our policy on opinion and commentary on our Mission and Policies page.
Andover Town Management is having great difficulty with priorities and accountability. On Sunday June 11th, Town Management shut down Main St. entirely for a classic car show. That’s a good thing and makes that area inviting for pedestrians to spend time downtown. Unfortunately that stands in contrast to the Elm St. forum, held just three days prior to discuss pedestrian safety after the tragic death of a child in an Elm Sq. crosswalk.
Town Management has claimed its hands are tied by the state Department of Transportation (MassDoT) and that traffic turning left and right through the crosswalks during the ‘WALK’ signal is necessary to keep traffic flowing quickly. Wait – you can’t adjust the crosswalk signal but you can shut the entire street down? Nobody at the forum was accountable or took responsibility for traffic safety in Andover. Town Management did promise to hire more consultants for another traffic study, while the Town continues to prioritize traffic flow. Finger pointing at MassDoT, deferring action on safety to wait for another study, our taxes aren’t paying for accountability and clear priorities.
Town Management recently started to fix the broken brick crosswalks downtown – with more brick. Ask any paving company, brick is the least durable and most expensive option (but pretty!), terrible durability is obvious when you look at all the lumpy asphalt patches (pretty?) and missing bricks in these crosswalks that impair mobility for the most vulnerable pedestrians. What is the priority here, a safe durable crosswalk or a pretty one? The Town says it was a committee (circa 2009) with public input that chose brick, so we are doomed to repeat that mistake as nobody will ‘own’ or be accountable for choosing bricks again. Accountability – I guess we need a committee or consultants for that.
In December, Town Management received notice from the bond rating agency that taking on substantially more debt could reduce Andover’s bond rating, costing taxpayers more money. Somehow this wasn’t highlighted at April’s Town Meeting and only now in June is Town Management openly discussing the bond rating problem. When planning a potentially half billion dollar project, prompt, clear, and complete information saves time and money, so that would be a critical priority, right? Apparently not for Andover Town Management. Why and who is accountable for that?
Clearly the answer is more management, as Andover has added significantly to senior Town Management staff and proposes further additions, while keeping about the same number of ‘worker bees’. The ever more vertical pyramid of management hasn’t provided any accountability, as nobody takes responsibility for the weird priorities of safety and finance. It’s not a single issue, it’s a pattern of behavior over years, and it’s getting worse. Real management takes responsibility and is held accountable. We don’t have real management in Andover.
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