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Selectmen Vote YES to Support School Article
Clearing the last major hurdle before the Special Town Meeting vote, the Fruit Street Elementary School project won approval from the Board of Selectmen at their March 8th meeting.
Following a lengthy budget discussion on Tuesday night's meeting, the Board voted 4-1 to endorse and support the article on the Special Town Meeting warrant that would fund the building of a new elementary school on Fruit Street.
The motion was introduced for a vote by Selectmen Todd Cestari. Although he didn’t offer strong support one way or the other, Cestari said both sides, those in favor of the new school and those opposed to it, have their benefits. But when it came time for a decision the Selectman distilled the issue down to one question.
“I tried to boil this down to the issue that it is, and that is, do we need a new school right now?” said Cestari, “and I think that anybody that takes a walk through Center School at any point and they actually see the state of the school, I think it's difficult to vote to say we don't need a new School.”
Selectman Michelle Gates, the only dissenting vote, took a more fiscally conservative approach to the vote. While acknowledging something has to be done, Gates said the board has to consider the economic impact.
“We have to make this palatable for the tax payer and not over extend ourselves,” said Gates.
Rejecting school districting, Gates said “I'm not in favor of a segregated school system. Unfortunately the districting is tied to this new building and therefore I have to say no.”
Selectman Ben Palleiko, like the other members of the board, reiterated the tough decision, but thought the districting plan would be a clear benefit.
“Districting offers the opportunity to make our schools better,” said Palleiko. “I see no better alternative that could be better for our town and our children.”
Like his fellow board members, Selectman John Mosher said he could see both sides.
“I've wrestled with this, I truly see both perspectives,” said Mosher. “There's not another viable option on the table and I do see the delays of time and productivity will likely cost us more in the end.”
Selectman Chair RJ Dourney also framed his decision from the pro-school position and from the fiscally conservative side of the issue, saying that he has a commitment to education, but the board also has an obligation to minimize the impact on the taxpayer.
Passing on a 4 to 1 vote, the article moves to a Special Town Meeting vote in less than two weeks.