HAMPSTEAD — Supporters are once again expressing disappointment after a proposed expansion and renovation project for Hampstead Central School was defeated for the fifth time.
The $7,994,500 plan was rejected Tuesday by a vote of 1,114 yes, 1,158 no. The defeat followed a $7.4 million proposal that was turned down last year and three others that failed in recent years.
The latest proposal would have made several improvements with a new cafeteria and community room, library, music room, two classrooms, administration area, and main entry. Additional restrooms, structural repairs and the installation of fire sprinklers were also part of the plan.
“It’s disappointing that once again, Article 2 did not garner enough votes to meet the required 60 percent threshold for passage,” said Karen Yasenka, chairman of the Hampstead School Board.
It’s not clear what direction the board will take after the latest defeat as members have not met since the vote.
“Personally, I remain steadfast in my position that as a board we have a responsibility to continue to work toward providing a safe and healthy environment for students and staff that is conducive to learning,” Yasenka said.
While he said he appreciated the community’s support for the the proposed $27.8 million school operating budget, which passed 1,750 yes to 496 no, Superintendent Earl Metzler plans to work with the board in the coming weeks to figure out the next step.
“This is long-term planning and something that Hampstead needs now and will desperately need in the near future. The question that remains unanswered is what will help with the voters’ appetite to support this need? We will continue to work diligently to find that answer,” Metzler said.
According to Yasenka, the board had voted unanimously to scrap the previous designs, which originated in 2005, and start fresh with what she described as a new and more comprehensive design this year.
She said a team of construction experts assessed the school for educational adequacy, building utilization, code compliance, accessibility, and safety and security needs.
“Working closely with our owner’s project manager, architect, and builder we proposed the current design plan that captures the needs of a 21st century elementary school, including the latest safety and security features, appropriate educational space based on program requirements, and energy-efficient renovations,” she said, adding that the plan was chosen because it was the most cost effective, satisfied all identified needs, and would have been a long-term solution to meet the needs for the next 30 to 40 years.
In other election results, voters also OK’d the $6.9 million town budget (1,828 yes, 402 no) and a plan to hire a new full-time firefighter/EMT (1,592 yes, 653 no).
A petitioned article directing selectmen to investigate funding to preserve and protect groundwater passed overwhelmingly (2,023 yes, 253 no). For the second year in a row, voters rejected a petitioned article to freeze the school portion of property taxes for people over the age of 65 (993 yes, 1,262 no).