An Interview with Town Manager Andrew Maylor – Part II

North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor
North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor


LAST MONTH: An Interview with Town Manager Andrew Maylor – Part 1

The Valley Patriot sat down with North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor in March of this year to give residents a chance to get to know the man running their town, and his plans for their future. – Transcribed by Ben Flagg

VP: So you’ve got 4 years left on a 5 year contract, what are your goals at the end of the 5 years? What do you want us to be able to say after these 4 years are up?

MAYLOR: To me, the primary focus for the last 4 years has been sustainability. Sustainability has a lot of different facets to it.

VP: Explain what that means to the average reader who might not get the political.

MAYLOR: I’m not sure it’s a political term, but sustainability from my perspective is making sure that we are maintaining our assets, maintaining our service levels, and not going back to the trough by building those kinds of expenses to a point that we’re asking the taxpayers for more than they already give. So it’s a balance. It’s a balance to say that generationally we have to continue to maintain our assets; I think we’re trying to do that now by catching up on what is a significant amount of deferred maintenance. So there’s a stewardship component to sustainability, so the person who sits in this seat next…five years, ten years, fifteen years from now, isn’t left with $10M worth of deferred maintenance to buildings because we chose that we were going to pay for other costs instead.

Also, to build reserves to make sure that the infamous “new normal” (It isn’t today like it was ten years ago, and I don’t expect that things are going to be like they were in the 1990’s again, I think the world has changed) so we need to build reserves to make sure we’re protected against those downsides.

And we need to make sure that our services reflect what we can afford and what we’re willing to pay for them. So that’s sustainability, that includes again making sure that our inactive part of the budget has preventive maintenance and deferred maintenance investment, rather than forgetting about it because we want to pay for one more employee.

It means finding creative ways to create strategic partnerships with neighboring communities, with state agencies, whoever makes sense for us to partner with to provide for lower costs for what we do. We could be better at strategic partnerships. If we could invest in our infrastructure on a regular basis and not forget about that because, the challenge is; it’s between that choice, or a person, or a position, we’d be better served in the long term.

If we can set aside reserves as a part of the normal course of what we do, then we’ll avoid the fluctuation of difficult times. Sustainability is a broad base that’s about stewardship and it’s about making sure that when the unusual happens, you don’t have to stop everything and say ‘oh my G-d how do I handle this?’

You prepare for the unusual.

VP: How do we get people to come back downtown? It seems like everything funnels now to route 114. It’s very impersonal, a lot of malls. So how do you think we bring people back to downtown North Andover?

MAYLOR: That’s a great question, and one that’s asked often, probably almost every day since I’ve been here.

I think it’s a number of different steps. Let me start with the limitations, then I’ll go into how to change those limitations.

We do suffer from what I would call an eclectic infrastructure. We’re post-depression buildings here mostly, so there’s not really that continuity, that, look … I think part of it is charm, you want to create an image where, as folks turn the corner passing Mike’s, they’re coming into an environment that is something they can say is pretty cool to be in, is cool to be a part of. We don’t have that today.

I think there needs to be a continuity of infrastructure, look at the work of the two buildings not owned by the same owner, the Heav’nly Donuts and the appliance place. That kind of sort of continuity of storefront, I don’t mean cookie cutter, but it creates a little bit of an image down there. It’s nice to look at. Wouldn’t it be great if we could continue that kind of storefront appeal up and down Main Street?

Not that every building looks the same, but sort of a common theme, a common look. You look at communities that thrive in that regard, like Newburyport. Those buildings were all made in the 1600’s. They don’t need to create the image, the image exists. Salem creates the image, right? We don’t have an image like that; we don’t have a natural appeal. It’s not a disrespectful comment, it’s just that there doesn’t look like there was a grand plan or anything when Main Street was being built. We need to find out how to create that.

VP: There’s millions of dollars out there available for CDBG grants for community development, I know Lawrence is always aggressively doing that, saying to store owners in certain areas that we want you to apply for this because we want to use some of these money for that area. Why doesn’t North Andover do that?

MAYLOR: Great question, let’s talk about that. If you do research on CDBGs, you’ll see they’re almost always through cities. Cities in Massachusetts are entitlement communities, and therefore they get $800,000 annually just for filling out a piece of paper.

Communities like North Andover are not eligible for those, but they’re eligible every 3 years. Typically, if I were to apply for this contract and for the next 4 contracts, I’m not going to get one. So, I completely support just that, a way to start a facility improvement program locally.

So, we would provide the vision, meaning a design or an architectural look, we would meet with the local businesses and say ‘here’s what your storefront could look like and here’s how we’re willing to partner with you.’

The struggle with that is, how do you that? How do you fund that sort of revolving fund or that sinking fund to make that kind of investment and we’ve talked about a few different ways to do it. But, if it happened to be that project or another project on Brad Street, and they were willing to pay something, I’d be wondering if we could use those dollars to do exactly that, that we use investment that we’re being provided as a way to go to those businesses and say ‘here’s 4 or 5 or 6 different ways your business could look.’

We want to work with you to do that. The cost is $30,000. If you pay 15, we’ll pay 15.’ I very much support the fact that I think that is a way to get what Main Street looks like, improved to a degree that we can start changing the image.