CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town and school officials are preparing for the next round of voting on the $19 million school proposal.
School officials are hoping to get their reasoning for the renovation/addition out to the voters again. Town officials have set three information sessions leading up to vote focusing on the town's financial picture.
The School Building Committee wants to make clear the school requires major investment because of its condition and the consequences of another failed vote.
"There has not been investment in this building for years and years and years," Principal Tara Barnes said. "You cannot expect a facility to run if you don't take care of it."
Superintendent Jonathan Lev said the town really had three choices: approve the school project; come up with a Plan B to fix the several million in immediate repairs; close the school.
"People are saying the school won't close but it absolutely will," he said.
The borrowing authorization failed in September by one vote with a record turnout of more than 400, the largest number of voters to ever attend a town meeting. The revote of the project on Saturday, Nov. 18, is expected to draw crowd as large, if not larger. The town has more than 1,100 registered voters.
Lev gave the School Building Committee the rundown on Thursday of the logistics being worked out by Town Clerk Carol Jammalo and Moderator Bryan Tanner and what the school's role will be.
First, the school is hiring Dufour buses to shuttle voters to the school; there will be no general parking on the school grounds.
Using a hand-drawn illustration, Lev described how voters at the special town meeting on Nov. 18 would enter the building, where they sit and how the voting would go. The gym/cafeteria will be full and school officials anticipate opening four our more classrooms upstairs for the overflow.
"There will be streaming but no communication other than walkie talkies and asistant moderators," he said. "They will be able to see what's happening and hear what's happening."
But any questions would have to be relayed through the walkie-talkies or the individuals would have to come downstairs to the gym.
Northern Berkshire Community Televison is aiding in the livestream process with a camera set up in the cafetorium to feed televisions placed upstairs.
NBCTV Director David Fabiano and Northern Berkshire School Union's IT technician Shawn Tierney were using the meeting, held downstairs, to test the broadcast feeds in the rooms.
The plan as it stands now is to have senior citizens and residents with accessibility issues would have reserved seating in the gym. Voting would occur one room at a time to prevent the somewhat chaotic conditions of the last vote.
A space will be cordoned off with cones for the voting line, and police and election workers would maintain the order as voters step up to one of the six positions based on street they live on, register, receive their ballot, and vote.
Barnes said the meetings with town officials brought up the need for a trash receptacle for the discarded part of the perforated yes/no ballot.
"We talked a lot about a trash can that has a lid with slit on it," she said. "Apparently some people were refusing to throw the other half of their vote in the trash can, and they took it with them, because they thought someone was going to take it out of trash or something."
The discarded ballots can act as a check if needed, Barnes said. So the receptacle has to be secure so people feel confident putting their discarded ballot in but not similar to the ballot box itself so there's no confusion.
Other members said they'd heard from people who weren't sure they put the right part of the ballot in the box. Member Edward Denault asked if the ballots could be different colors for yes or no, but was told that was up to the town clerk. Also, since the ballot is supposed to be secret, different colors would immediately indicate the voter's preference to everyone standing around him or her.
Barnes said she'd work on a "stop sign" or visual cue to remind voters to look at their votes before dropping them in the box.
Denault also questioned the order of voting, thinking having those upstairs come down to vote first would be better. Otherwise, the voters in the gym who'd already cast their ballots might be wandering around or talking in disruptive way.
Lev said the expectation is that many people would vote and leave but he would bring it up at the next logistics meeting.
That discussion led into who would be allowed in to vote because the written draft plan noted that people could stay outside and then come in to vote. They would not be allowed to vote on motions or participate in discussion, if there was any.
"How are we going to be fair?" Barnes asked. "Can people come in and vote if there's still a line? Should we check in to have a time to be here?"
Normally at town meetings, voters register as they come in to get their pink cards; that stops once the town meeting begins.
"This isn't an election," Denault said. "If you walk in and the vote's not done, you can still vote?"
Lev also put that question, too, on the list to be discussed.
The information sessions being held by the town will all begin at 6 p.m. and take place in the elementary school gym on Monday, Nov. 6; Tuesday, Nov. 7; and Wednesday, Nov. 15.
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