The proposed Concord Carlisle Regional High School building project passed at the Special Town Meeting last night by a nearly 80-percent majority.
The $92.5 million project will go before Special Town Meeting voters in Carlisle tonight, and pending approval at that meeting, will be brought to a ballot vote in both towns on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
Last night’s three-article Special Town Meeting was one of the largest convened in Concord, according to Town Moderator Eric Van Loon, who said there were approximately 1,000 voters checked into the meeting at 7:30 p.m. By 8:30 p.m., the auditorium, cafeteria, and upper gymnasium at CCHS were filled with 1,629 people.
Article 1, which sought approval for the school district to borrow $88.5 million for design and construction of a new high school, and $4 million for design and construction of an alternative physical education center to be located on the new high school’s site but is not eligible for state reimbursement, was called and passed after more than an hour of presentations and discussion.
Despite comfortable passage of the article, there was opposition to the building proposal. One resident’s suggestion was to scrap the current proposal and develop a smaller $20-$30 million high school that focused on addressing the district’s greatest needs at the time, then add on in five year increments as curriculum and enrollment needs change.
In the end, the clear majority of voters opted for the proposal that was before them, with an assured $28 million contribution from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Over the course of the discussion, other concerns were raised, including what presumptions an affirmative vote on the project would mean for the district’s Transportation Department, which is currently located on land that would be part of the proposed high school’s footprint.
Concord Carlisle School Committee member and CCHS Building Committee Co-Chairman Jerry Wedge said the traffic consultant procured to assess the options of relocating the department, outsourcing services, or a hybrid of both, has only just begun that research, and will not return a recommendation to the district until January or February, at which time, Wedge said, there will be a public forum to discuss the findings.
“I can’t tell you that we have an answer now,” Wedge said. “They’re working on it as we speak.”
With the district already owning its fleet of buses, Wedge said whatever decision is made will at least be "cost neutral."
Article 2, which also passed by a comfortable margin, begins to address another concern felt among both proponents and opponents of the CCHS project — the tax impact.
According to Finance Director Anthony Logalbo, during the peak years of the debt that would be associated with the project, a Concord home valued at $657,750 would see an increase of about $393, which would then begin to decrease over the life of the debt.
Last night’s vote approved establishing a stabilization account to initially be funded with $2 million from the town’s free cash balance, that will help reduce the project’s tax impact during peak years.
Article 3, a citizen petitioned article, which requested the Finance Committee compile five-year projections of property tax burdens on residents to be issued with their annual report, also passed last night.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the petitioner of Article 3, Phebe Ham, was recognized for presenting 25 petitioned articles at town meetings over the years. Including last night’s vote, 19 of them have passed.
The town of Carlisle will hold a Special Town Meeting tonight, 7 p.m., at the Corey Building, 150 Church Street, to vote on the CCHS building project proposal.