EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 12, 2014

Salem voters OK high school project

Proposal receives overwhelming support at the polls

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — Salem High School will receive a $74.7 million makeover after voters approved major renovations to the aging building yesterday.

The project, which required a three-fifths vote for approval, received support from 71 percent of voters at the polls. The vote was 4,109-1,557.

There were 5,793 ballots cast in the election. Salem has 19,406 registered voters, including more than 400 who registered since the deliberative session Feb. 1.

The renovations will be funded through three bonds totaling $63.9 million. The project includes construction of a new Career and Technical Education Center through a $10.7 million state grant.

The school was built in the mid-1960s.

Voters also overwhelmingly supported 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.

Residents also approved a $62.5 million operating budget, 4,262-1,197. The default budget was $63.5 million.

School Board member Bernard Campbell was re-elected to a three-year term and Lucille Ramsey was elected to a two-year term as treasurer. Both ran uncontested.

Many residents at the polls said the main reason they came to vote was to support the school project — Article 2.

None of the 10 residents interviewed opposed the project. Some held black-and-yelllow signs, saying “Vote Yes on 2.”

“The high school is in dire need of renovations,” said Curtis Killon, 52.

Killon stood outside Rockingham Park, the District 1 polling place, holding sign asking voters to back the school articles.

The former racetrack was used for voting because of extensive renovations at Fisk School, the usual location. Voters also cast ballots at the Ingram Senior Center, Lancaster School and North Salem School.

Some voters with young children were looking toward the future, including Jean Spence, 45. She has a 6-year-old son,

“My son is going to go there someday,” Spence said. “We really need it for the town.”

Alan Renny, 62, said he supported the project because of his 8-year-old daughter, Amanda.

“She deserves a much better facility,” Renny said.

Tim Rummler, 62, said he visited the school and was surprised to find the building, especially the gym, was not in better condition.

“I was in there a few years ago and it looked terrible,” he said. “We need it for the kids.”

Kevin Gagnon, 41, the father of two young children, said it’s important that the building be renovated.

“It’s a source of pride for the town,” he said. “It’s used by the whole town.”

Even though they weren’t old enough to vote, some Salem High students turned out at the polls to back the project. They included junior Taylor Bramhill, 16.

“We got the elementary schools renovated, so now it’s time for the high school,” she said.

Superintendent Michael Delahanty and School Board members have pushed for the project after residents chose to renovate all six elementary schools. Woodbury School is the next major project the district intends to tackle.

At the school deliberative session in February, voters were shown numerous photos of falling tiles, cracked walls and deteriorating pipes at the school.

Campbell, the School Board chairman, encouraged residents at the deliberative session to tour the building to see why the major upgrade was 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 owner of a $300,000 house will pay an additional $25 in the first year and a maximum of $351 a year over 10 years, according to Delahanty.