With 482 people in attendance at a Special Town Meeting Tuesday night at a packed Auditorium, voters approved putting the warrant article on the April 3 Town Ballot.
Article 1, which asks voters to approve funding the estimated $40 million Middle School project proposed to be built as an addition to the existing to house 775 students in grades 5-8, was approved by a two-thirds majority vote. It appeared a dozen or so people voted in opposition to the project.
Prior to the voting, longtime resident Paul Means spoke favorably about the project.
"Can we afford not to build this school?" asked Means. "The answer to that question is no. We need this school for financial and educational reasons."
Means commended School Building Committee chairperson Jeanne Craigie and her fellow committee members for coming up with a plan that is "financially sound and educationally creative."
After reading the Article 1 into the record, Craigie said the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) touted the building as the best of five plans they had reviewed in January. And, on Jan. 25, the MSBA approved reimbursing the Middle School project 57.5 percent of the construction costs, she added.
Craigie has previously stated that the town would be reimbursed about $22 million, while the remaining $18 million would likely be bonded over 20 years. Based on average valuations, taxpayers would pay about $176 per year over the life of the bond.
Moving forward, an elementary school may be closed and students redistributed to the remaining three elementary schools as part of a redistricting plan. However, a definitive redistricting plan has yet to be determined as the project is only in Phase One, according to Craigie.
Craigie said she couldn't comment on whether the construction work would be handled by local firms or unions.
Following the vote, about half of the crowd left the meeting and three warrant articles remained. Here's a look at how the votes turned out:
- Article 2 was indefinitely postponed. The article had asked for a zoning by-law change to allow residential use along Main Street excluding the Central Business District. Homes with no more than five units would have been allowed under this by-law adjustment, if approved.
- Article 3 passed. Voters approved transferring $40,000 from the Personnel Budget to the Veterans Operating Budget in fiscal 2012.
- Article 4 passed. Voters approved using up to $40,000 from the Cemetery Perpetual Care-Income Trust Fund to cover the cost of developing a Preservation Master Plan for the 1726 Old Burying Ground on Pleasant Street. If the project moves forward as planned and is completed by June 30, the town will be reimbursed up to $20,000 thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund. The reimbursed funds would be returned to the Cemetery Perpetual Care-Income Trust Fund, which currently has $145,000.