EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 13, 2013

Windham rejects middle school

By John Toole

---- — WINDHAM — Voters overwhelmingly rejected a $31 million middle school and turned from office the project’s leading proponent, School Board Chairman Bruce Anderson, at Town Meeting yesterday.

In place of Anderson, they elected a former selectman, Dennis Senibaldi, who had opposed the middle school in favor of expanding the existing one.

The middle school, requiring three-fifths voter approval, failed on a 2,503-1,217 vote.

Senibaldi defeated Anderson, 1,904-1,359.

“This was a statement from the residents,” Senibaldi said. “Hopefully, the rest of the board takes a deep breath and reflects. Everything got voted down, including the teachers’ contract.”

The teacher deal fell, 2,024-1,650. Voters also rejected the $45.5 million proposed school budget, 1,959-1,653.

A former School Board member found success.

Al Letizio Jr. won a selectman’s race with former selectman, Alan Carpenter, 1,939-1,494.

“I didn’t know how this was going to turn out the whole day,” Letizio said, praising his opponent as a “great guy, gentleman and friend I admire.”

Letizio said he thought his positive economic development message carried the day in the contest with Carpenter.

“I think that was the main difference between my opponent’s campaign and my own,” Letizio said.

He read into the voters’ decisions unrest over a doubling of tax bills the past decade.

“They were saying to all of us that is not acceptable,” Letizio said.

Money items fared better on the town ballot.

The $12 million town budget passed, 2,120-1,172. Voters also agreed to upgrade computers, purchase police radios and buy breathing gear for firefighters.

But even on the town side, voters were reluctant to approve $100,000 in renovations to the Searles Building, rejecting that proposal, 1,808-1,757.

Down the ballot in a contested race, voters re-elected library trustee incumbent Patricia Barstow (1,712) and former trustee Anne-Marie O’Neil (1,710), along with Cathy Robertson-Souter (1,551).

Mimi Kolodziej came up short (1,282).

All 18 zoning questions met with approval from voters, including one that envisions future development for the Village Center District.

Town Clerk Nicole Merrill said voter turnout, around 30 percent, was about average for Town Meeting.

There were no lines at dinner hour for arriving voters.

Paul and Beverly LaBarre were among those voting for the middle school project, convinced to do so by their granddaughter, Malori, a former student now at the high school.

“She said the cafeteria is really small, the school is hot and it’s not a very good place,” Paul LaBarre said.

But retirees Bob and Barbara Thistle cast votes against the school because of the expense.

“Enough is enough,” Barbara Thistle said.