By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — The several hundred residents at the school deliberative session had few questions or comments last night.
They saw photo after photo of falling tiles, cracked walls and deteriorating pipes at Salem High School.
They then voted unanimously to approve placement of a $74.7 million school renovation proposal on the March ballot.
Those who did speak during the 90-minute deliberative session asked fellow voters to support the $63.9 million in bonds for a project that they and school officials said is sorely needed.
And it needs to be done now, they said.
“The cost of waiting is staggering,” said Sherry Kilgus-Kramer, a Surrey Lane resident and president of Strengthen Our Schools. “Now is the time to fix our high school.”
She was the first of three speakers to push for the renovation, which includes construction of a new Career and Technical Education Center through a $10.7 million state grant.
They were preceded by a presentation given by Superintendent Michael Delahanty and a project architect. If approved, the owner of a $300,000 house would pay an additional $25 in the first year and a maximum of $351 a year over 10 years, Delahanty said.
“The product we are going to get is necessary for the town,” he said. “I implore you to help us to get this project passed in March.”
He didn’t need to convince Kilgus-Kramer or the other speakers among the crowd in the school auditorium.
Kilgus-Kramer said after visiting other New Hampshire high schools, it became obvious to her the 48-year-old Salem High needed some major work.
“It doesn’t take very long to truly realize the difference between a modern high school and our high school in Salem,” she said. “It’s astounding.”
Emery Road resident Daniel Fischer, a band parent, agreed.
Fischer said the aging building’s deficiencies are so apparent, it’s embarrassing when students from other schools visit. The facility fails to match the top-quality education offered at the school, he said.
“The building is awfully hard to be proud of,” Fischer said. “It’s embarrassing, it really is.”
Brady Avenue resident Doug Seed recalled when the school opened Jan. 3, 1966, and how the building hasn’t seen major improvements since then.
“It needs to be fixed, it needs to be replaced,” he said. “It needs to be more than patched.”
Residents also voted to include the proposed $62.5 million operating on the budget on the warrant. The default budget is $63.5 million.
They also endorsed for the warrant five school employee contracts, four of which call for raises of between 1.25 and 1.5 percent. The fifth contract, for 345 teachers and school nurses, does not call for a pay scale increase for 2014-2015.
But the main issue continued to be the renovation project. School Board Chairman Bernard Campbell encouraged voters to tour the building to see why a major upgrade is needed.
“A picture is worth a 1,000 words and a tour is worth a 1,000 pictures,” he said. “We seriously, seriously need to deal with this project. The next step at this point is March 11, when you vote.”