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Wenham Special Town Meeting approves school building projects

After receiving strong support at the Saturday Special Town Meeting in Wenham, two Proposition 2½ debt exclusions totaling about $2 million for the repair of facilities in the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District will go before voters in the general election Tuesday.

At Buker Elementary School in Wenham, the start of the meeting was delayed for about 15 minutes until the required 56-person quorum was reached, according to Town Clerk Trudy Reid. Once it began, it took 61 residents about the same length of time to dispatch five articles, including the two for the debt exclusions, which both passed overwhelmingly.

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“It took longer to get the quorum than it did to conduct the Town Meeting,” said Molly Martins, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

A sixth article, to lower the budget for the regional school district, was passed over after representations from the state Department of Revenue and town attorneys deemed it unnecessary.

The first debt exclusion — a temporary property tax increase for the length of time it takes to pay off the loan — is for a $575,000 repair of the Cutler Elementary School roof, a project that could be eligible for a 43.42 percent reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The second debt exclusion was for $1.5 million in additional repairs, including replacement of the Winthrop Elementary School roof; installation of insulation and a fire suppression system at the Buker Elementary School; and other projects.

Both exclusions passed at the Special Town Meeting in Hamilton Oct. 14.

“I was very encouraged by the results of the Special Town Meeting,” Martins said. “I think the swiftness of the vote had to do with people’s understanding of the issues, and I think it shows an increase in cooperation, collaboration, and support within the school district, something we’ve been working on for several years.”

Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District Superintendent Mike Harvey said that the need for repair and renovation was apparent to him during a July tour of the facilities.

“I think there’s definitely a group of people who’ve kept up to speed on that, and they turned out for the Hamilton and Wenham town meetings,” he said. “These votes indicate that there’s a justification of both proposals.”

According to information provided by the school district, if bonding for the full $2,075,000 is approved, at 4 percent interest over 20 years, the yearly added cost to the average homeowner would be $31.54 in Hamilton and $32.62 in Wenham.

In Hamilton, the average property value for fiscal 2012 — which ended June 30 — was $461,200, with a tax bill of $7,988. In Wenham, the average property value was $536,100 with a tax bill of $9,591.

The general election is scheduled for Tuesday. In Wenham, the polling place has been moved to the Town Hall, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. In Hamilton, voting takes place at the Winthrop School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

David Rattigan may be reached at DRattigan.Globe@gmail.com.
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