NORTH READING — The Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School District in Wakefield has called for a Special Election for all 12 of its member communities, which includes North Reading, on Tuesday, January 25. Polls will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. All North Reading voters will vote at the parish hall at St. Theresa’s Church, 63 Winter St.
This Special Election seeks voter approval to authorize an appropriation to fund a new vocational high school at the same location as the current school on Hemlock Road in Wakefield. An aggregate majority vote among all 12 of the district member communities will determine the result. Each community would pay a portion of the project’s cost based on the number of students enrolled at the school divided over a 30-year period. The school was built in 1968 and has not had significant renovations since its completion.
Voters at North Reading’s October Town Meeting approved the $317,422,620 project last fall, which is slated to receive the largest school building assistance grant in state history – $140.9 million.
According to Judy Dyment, the town’s representative on the Regional School District School Committee, the town’s share of the project without the state grant is $8,424,962. However, once the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) grant is factored into the cost, the remaining share to be split among the 12-member communities is $176,570,701, which will significantly reduce the cost.
Under state law, all 12 member communities had to approve the project for it to proceed without the need for a Special Election. Since both the Chelsea City Council and the Saugus Town Meeting rejected the plan, the regional school district has been given the option to call for this district-wide Special Election to override that rejection.
All voters in town who were registered to vote by Wednesday, January 5 are eligible to participate in this election.
The following details about the Special Election process have been provided by Town Clerk Barbara Stats:
Under the state law which governs this type of election, the Regional Vocational District School Committee sets the date and hours, which must be observed in all 12 member communities. They have voted to call the special election for Tuesday, January 25, 2022 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
As we continue to operate under COVID conditions, similar protocols and precautions will be observed as have been for the past several elections – which includes masking, distancing and sanitation to the extent possible. Please remember:
• If you are ill or have a fever – please stay home.
• If you have unexplained chills, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, shortness of breath or new loss of taste or smell – please stay home.
• A mask that covers your nose and mouth should be worn before entering the polls and not removed until exiting the polls; a face shield is not a sufficient substitute for a mask.
• Observe appropriate distancing at all times in all areas.
Persons who do not follow these protocols are placing others at risk, who may in turn unknowingly expose their own family members or other persons. These safety measures have been shown to be effective in curbing the spread of this virus, and we will be expecting all persons to adhere to them for the greater safety of all.
In-person election-day voting:
Street directories will be posted on the Parish Hall foyer walls if you do not remember your Precinct.
To find your Precinct in advance of the election, go to: www.WhereDoIVoteMA.com or call the Town Clerk’s office at 978-357-5218.
Election staff tables will have Plexi-glas shields for safety.
Electronic Poll-Pad and paper voting lists will both be used at the check-in tables
• A driver’s license placed on the Poll Pad tray will provide a faster check-in but is not required – the license is not used for identification purposes but merely to expedite the process.
• Alternatively the voter may state their name and voting address at the check-in station.
Each Precinct polling area will be configured to maximize distancing between voters with limited booths to accommodate a limited number of voters at one time.
In order to prevent cross-contamination, a disposable pencil will be provided to each voter at the check-in table together with their ballot.
• No ballot marking pens will be in the booths;
• Alternatively a voter may bring their own black or blue pen to mark their own ballot;
• The tabulators will read black, blue or hard lead pencil markings, but no other colors;
• Red pens are limited for use by election staff for the purpose of marking the voting lists.
After marking their ballot, voters will go directly to the check-out table and state their address and name once again; only a paper list is used at the check-out table.
After depositing their ballot into the tabulator, the voter should promptly exit the polling area through the rear exit doors (voters with accessibility issues will still be escorted to the door closest to their parked vehicle); no lingering or socializing will be permitted.
In order to avoid cross-contamination, there will be no “I Voted” stickers at the check-out area.
A trash receptacle will be located by the rear exit door to dispose of the pencil and any PPE that the voter wishes to discard.
“These precautions are necessary to provide a safe voting environment and for the protection of all voters and the election staff to the greatest extent possible,” states Town Clerk Barbara Stats.
“Please recognize that all of the election staff have once again volunteered to assist at this election – they are willing to be at the polls to provide voters with the opportunity to vote in-person. Please respect all of these necessary precautions for their safety as much as your own, and please be sure to thank them for their willingness to serve you – the voter – under these continuing challenging circumstances,” Stats added.
Apply for absentee ballots by Jan. 19
Under state law, absentee voting is available for specific reasons to qualified voters at this time; the provisions for unrestricted vote-by-mail expired in mid-December. A signed application or request for a mailed absentee ballot must be received in the Town Clerk’s Office by Wednesday, January 19.
Requests for absentee ballots must be signed (no electronic signatures are permitted) and may then be mailed, emailed, faxed or placed in the Ballot Drop Box at the front entrance of Town Hall (the red, white and blue striped box).
Mailed ballots must be received back to the Town Clerk’s Office by 6 p.m. at the close of the polls on Election Day – Tuesday, January 25. Returned ballots may be mailed or placed in the Ballot Drop Box at the front entrance of the Town Hall. The Ballot Drop Box will be locked immediately after the 6 p.m. deadline on election evening.
An absentee ballot application may be downloaded from the Town Clerk’s website at: www.northreadingma.gov/town-clerk, where a sample election ballot can also be viewed.
“Thank you for your understanding and anticipated compliance with these procedures in order that we may all experience a safe voting environment. If you will be voting in person on January 25, we will look forward to assisting you at the polls,” Stats said.
Information is also posted on the Town Clerk’s website at: www.northreadingma.gov/town-clerk. Contact the Town Clerk’s Office for any questions on the election process: 978-357-5218.
Contact James Picone, Finance Director at the Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School for any questions on the new school building project: 781-246-0810 ext. 1628 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The complete ballot question:
“Do you approve of the vote of the Regional District School Committee of the Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School District adopted on December 9, 2021, to authorize the borrowing of $317,422,620 to pay costs of designing, constructing, originally equipping and furnishing a new Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School and related athletic facilities, located at 100 Hemlock Road in Wakefield, Massachusetts, including the payment of all costs incidental and related thereto, which vote provides, in relevant part, as follows:
VOTED: That the Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School District (the “District”) hereby appropriates the amount of $317,422,620 for the purpose of paying costs of designing, constructing, originally equipping and furnishing a new Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School and related athletic facilities, located at 100 Hemlock Road in Wakefield, Massachusetts 01880, including the payment of all costs incidental and related thereto (the “Project”), which school facility shall have an anticipated useful life as an educational facility for the instruction of school children of at least 50 years, and for which the District may be eligible for a school construction grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (“MSBA”), said amount to be expended at the direction of the School Building Committee.
To meet this appropriation the District is authorized to borrow said amount, under and pursuant to Chapter 703 of the Acts of 1962, as amended, G.L. c. 71, §16(n) as authorized by G.L. c. 71, §14D, and the District Agreement, as amended, or pursuant to any other enabling authority.
The District acknowledges that the MSBA’s grant program is a non-entitlement, discretionary program based on need as determined by the MSBA, and any Project costs the District incurs in excess of any grant approved by and received from the MSBA shall be the sole responsibility of the District; provided further that any grant that the District may receive from the MSBA shall not exceed the lesser of (1) seventy-six and eighty-four one hundredths percent (76.84%) of eligible, approved Project costs, as determined by the MSBA, and (2) the total maximum grant amount determined by the MSBA, and that the amount of borrowing authorized pursuant to this vote shall be reduced by any grant amount set forth in the Project Funding Agreement that may be executed between the District and the MSBA.
Any premium received upon the sale of any bonds or notes approved by this vote, less any such premium applied to the payment of the costs of issuance of such bonds or notes, may be applied to the payment of costs approved by this vote in accordance with G.L. c. 44, §20, thereby reducing the amount authorized to be borrowed to pay such costs by a like amount.”