EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 13, 2013

Salem voters OK $16.2M for school renovations

Town, schools budgets pass easily

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — 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.

Residents voted down a citizens petition article requesting $679,000 for a multipurpose room at Soule. The article was defeated 2,762-2,450.

Voters also approved a $37.5 million town operating budget, 2,833-2,108. Residents voted for $5.6 million in roadwork and $1.1 million to replace the Bluff Street and Providence Hill Road bridges.

Residents also voted 2,905-2,185 to spend $354,708 for three trucks. They decided, 3,810-1,275, to spend $250,000 for snow removal; 3,537-1,621 to spend $250,000 for an ambulance, and 4,730-581 to sell the former Mary Foss School.

Residents voted, 3,799-1,422, to spend $58,153 to support several social service agencies. Residents voted 2,679-2,355 against spending $175,000 to reconstruct Field and Lyndale avenues.

On the school district ballot, voters approved, 3,530-1,640, an operating budget of $62.2 million, a 1.4 percent increase. The proposed default budget was $62.4 million.

Residents voted 3,266-1,993 to spend $72,232 to fund a one-year, 1.25 percent pay raise for the 188 members of the Salem Educational Support Personnel Association. The union represents school aides.

In contested races, Martha Spalding and Paul Welch were elected to three-year Budget Committee seats. The results were: Spalding, 2,325 votes; Welch, 1,848; Eugene Morgan, 1,076; Stephen Coufos, 939; Josef Brown, 669.

For the one-year Budget Committee seat, Plante received 2,175 votes to 1,857 for Frydryck. Linda Harvey, 2,826 votes, and Edward Declercq, 1,983 votes, were elected to three-year Planning Board seats over Albert MacDonald, who received 1,757 votes. There were 220 write-in votes after

Arthur Nobrega defeated John Manning for a three-year Zoning Board of Adjustment seat, 2,173-1,938. Thomas Linehan beat incumbent Harley Featherston in the race for a three-year trustee of trust funds position, 2,558-1,441. Martha Breen was re-elected library trustee over Genevieve Lord, 3,026-1,185.

In the race for two three-year School Board seats, incumbents Patricia Corbett and Peter Morgan defeated John Manning. The results were: Corbett, 3,612; Morgan, 2,480; and Manning, 1,673.

In uncontested school races, clerk Kelly Bryant, moderator Mark Pearson and treasurer Linda Cornwell were all elected to three-year positions.