CONWAY — The windows will be replaced at Kennett High School, and it will be done with federal money.
Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly supported Article 2 on the school warrant, which sought $1,186,345 to replace the windows at 14-year-old high school school.
The article, designed originally as a bond request, required 60 percent support for passage. It passed 1,084- 374, or by 74.35 percent.
“It’s a good vote of confidence,” said Superintendent Kevin Richard, who was at the polls when the results were read off by Town Moderator Deborah Fauver. Fauver worked her final election after serving for four years.
“We passed the warrant article we wanted to, and it passed by a mile,” Joe Lentini, chair of the Conway School Board, said by phone.
Every article on the school warrant passed, and by wide margins.
“This shows that the community supports what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Lentini said.
In total, 1,544 ballots were counted, including a little over 120 absentee ballots. For last May’s school/town voting, 1,457 ballots were cast at the town garage, including a record 921 people voting absentee.
Over the past two weeks, Richard learned that the school district would be able to use part of the $1,979,541 in funds from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund for the windows.
He earmarked $650,000 for the project but had to submit a grant request to the state Department of Education outlining intent for the money. On April 6, the DOE signed off on using $650,000 for the window project.
At an emergency meeting of the Conway School Board last Wednesday, the seven members voted unanimously to authorize the use of ESSER 2 funds for the window project, provided Article 2 passed on Tuesday, which it did.
Board members Joe Lentini, Bill Aughton, Randy Davison and Joe Mosca took turns throughout the 11 hours the polls were open to stand outside the entrance to the Peter Ames Gymnasium encouraging people to vote for the article.
“People seemed really supportive to me,” Lentini said before the polls closed. “Joe Mosca said he was a little concerned by what he was seeing in the afternoon. He said a few people had marked Article 2-A on their cheat sheets.
He added: “The hard part was explaining to people, it says this, but we’re going to do this. What it all came down to was, if you vote for Article 2, then we have federal money to pay for the windows. If you don’t, then the project will be locally taxpayer-funded. I think because all of this unfolded so quickly, it was a little confusing for some.”
Article 2-A on the warrant stated: “Should Article 2 fail to approve the issuance of $1,186,345 of bonds, to see if the District will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $636,345 to be added to the Expendable Trust Fund (new Kennett High School Facilities Maintenance Fund) established for that purpose in 2007, for the purpose of replacing the windows and related improvements at Kennett High School. In the following year’s tuition calculation, approximately $418,906 will offset this amount from the sending towns.”
Article 2-A also received voter support, passing 936-470, but the passage of Article 2 supersedes it.
“That was very interesting,” Richard said. “I think the message people sent was vote (the window project) in.”
Richard said passage of 2-A but not 2 would have meant no ESSER 2 funds could be used for this project.
There’s also a good chance the board may not have to seek a bond, and that additional ESSER III funding — Conway would in line to receive an additional $3 million which should be announced this summer, with a portion of those funds going to pay off the $1,186,345 tab for the project.
“There’s good confidence with this funding that we may not have to bond the windows at all,” Richard said last week.
In other voting on the school warrant on Tuesday, incumbents Randy Davison and Courtney Burke were unopposed in their runs for fifth and second three-year terms on the school board. Ryan Wallace was unopposed for a one-year seat on the board.
Incumbents Doug Burnell, moderator; Mary-Anne Lane, treasurer; and Michael King, clerk, were all unopposed for two-year terms. Burnell has been the school moderator since first being elected in March of 1986, 12 years before the town adopted the SB2 form of government switching from the traditional town/school meeting style.
No. 3 sought $54,443 to the Kennett High School facilities maintenance fund with $35,840 offset by the sending towns through the tuition agreement. Passed 1,047-377.
No. 4 sought $17,086 to the Kennett Middle School facilities maintenance fund. Approximately $1,476 would be offset by sending towns through the current tuition agreement. Passed 1,056-359.
No. 5 sought $9,900 to the elementary school facilities maintenance fund. Approximately $1,4125 would be offset by sending towns through the current tuition agreement. Passed 970-390.
No. 6 was a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In year 2021-22, the estimated increase is $66,648; for 2022-23, it is $66,785; and for 2023-24, it is $42,248. Passed 1,073-369.
No. 7 was the proposed operating budget for 2021-22 of $38,653,496. Passed 971-456.
No. 8 sought $74,000 for funding of Project SUCCEED programs at the three elementary schools. Passed 1,063-391.
No. 9 sought $250,000 to be placed in an equipment/school bus capital reserve fund. Passed 996-424.
No. 10 sought $110,000 to resurface the track and tennis courts at Kennett High School. Passed 889-561.