|Wahconah Building Project Passes by Narrow Margin|
|Staff Reports, iBerkshires Staff|
07:02PM / Saturday, April 06, 2019
|Proponents and opponents of the building project campaign in front of the Dalton CRA on Saturday.|
DALTON, Mass. — With just more than 51 percent of the vote, the Wahconah Regional High School building project was approved by the voters of the Central Regional Berkshire School District on Saturday.
Superintendent Laurie Casna reported Saturday evening that 1,785 of the 3,483 voters districtwide (51.2 percent) voted in favor of the $72 million project.
"We are very pleased to share that the vote for a new Wahconah Regional High School anticipated to open in the fall of 2021 passed today," Casna wrote in an email to the media.
The turnout of 3,483 voters in district's seven towns was just fewer than twice the number (1,761) who turned out for an April 2017
vote to approve the $850,000 feasibility study that laid the groundwork for the new Wahconah.
On Saturday, 1,748 voters turned out in Dalton alone.
The district's largest town voted in favor of the project by a margin of 1,011-737 — 57.8 percent in favor.
The question passed in just three of the district's seven communities, though.
It was swamped in Cummington, which voted no by a margin of 194-45 (18.8 percent in favor).
The question also failed in Hinsdale, the district's second largest town, by a margin of 334-246 (42.3 percent positive). Peru (162-102, 38.6 percent positive) and Windsor (139-93, 40.1 percent positive) also voted against the project.
In addition to Dalton, the towns of Becket and Washington voted in favor of the project by sizable margins. In Becket, 176 of 253 voters (69.6 percent) voted yes. In Washington, the margin was 112-54 (67.5 percent yes).
Saturday's vote means that CBRSD will move forward with a process proscribed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which is participating in the cost of the new high school.
The district's School Building Committee has estimated that the state authority will contribute about $31 million toward the project.
While Saturday's vote on the building project saw a turnout significantly higher than the last school-only related election in April, 2017, turnout still lagged rates seen in the federal election cycle last November.
In November 2018, 2,936 Dalton voters turned out versus the 1,748 on Saturday. Districtwide, the seven towns saw 6,336 voters turn out last fall, 81 percent more than Saturday's ballots cast.