EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

March 13, 2013

Salem voters OK $16.2M for school renovations

Town, schools budgets pass easily

SALEM — Only a year after rejecting a plan to renovate Fisk, Soule and Haigh elementary schools, residents voted to spend $16.2 million yesterday to upgrade those same schools, 3,287-1,914.

But they narrowly rejected a plan to spend an additional $805,237 to improve Haigh, 3,016-2,174.

Both votes required 60 percent approval for passage.

Salem saw 5,704 of its 18,960 registered voters — 30 percent — cast ballots at the town’s four polling locations.

Yesterday’s election also saw several contested races, with Budget Committee Chairman Russell Frydryck losing his seat to newcomer Steven Plante.

Selectmen’s Chairman Patrick Hargreaves won re-election, 2,689-1,952, but not by as wide a margin as expected. That’s because opponent Stephen Kelly said early in the race he was no longer interested in the position.

Although there were 22 articles on the ballot, the two most popular issues were the school renovations and a nonbinding article to gauge support for a casino at Rockingham Park.

More than a dozen residents interviewed at the polls said they came primarily to back the school renovations and the casino proposal.

Ryan Hennesbury, a 36-year-old father of four, stopped off at Fisk to cast ballot in favor of the renovations.

“I think the school is pretty small and needs a lot of work,” he said.

Aidan Fischer, 18, was voting for the first time. He said it was important to support the renovations.

“I definitely support the schools and think we should invest in them,” he said.

Last year, residents voted down a $21.5 million plan to improve the three schools. Only two years ago, residents approved roughly the same amount to renovate Barron, Lancaster and North Salem elementary schools.

School Board members and Superintendent Michael Delahanty have been lobbying for the renovations, saying they are critical if the school district is going to move forward.

The School Board has considered closing Haigh in the wake of declining student enrollment. The board decided to hold off on a full $5.5 million renovation of that school.

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