The signs posted along Middleton's main roads seemed evenly split between "yes" and "no," and the vote at the ballot box wasn't much different.
On Monday, Middleton supported a $16 million Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion override to build a new elementary school. Combined with matching funds from the state, the project cost will be $31.5 million.
With nearly half the voters in town turning out, the override passed by 132 votes. The vote ran 1,311 in favor and 1,179 opposed, with eight blanks. The 2,498 total votes represented 48 percent of Middleton's 5,171 registered voters.
Sarah George, Middleton town clerk for 20 years, said the turnout was the largest she could recall for a town election.
It was the third version of an elementary school building project placed before voters since 2002.
"As chair of the [Elementary] School Committee, I'm very happy the town came out and supported this, because we do have a need," said Teresa Buono, who was also a member of the Middleton School Building Committee. "This process has been going on for nine years. Both of our elementary schools are 60 percent over capacity, so it will be nice to be able to provide students with the educational space they need."
Borrowing at a 4.5 percent interest rate over 20 years (the model used for estimates), town officials said that the typical Middleton homeowner -- with a home valued at $450,000 -- will pay an average of $128 annually, beginning in 2011. That number will fluctuate over the course of the 20 years.
The new building will replace the Howe-Manning Elementary School, and be built on the same site. After the new building goes up, the old one will be torn down. Plans call for construction to begin in 2010, with the building to be occupied in time for the 2011-2012 academic year.
While the issue sailed through Town Meeting on May 12, there was sharp division in town. Public debate remained civil, but there was some gamesmanship. Vandals painted the word "Yes" on the "Vote No" signs, and others removed "Vote yes" signs from yards.
Parent Doreen Deletetsky, who stopped into the polling place after the close of voting to find out the result, was thrilled. "This is the 21st century, and we need a 21st century school."
Retired Middleton Fire Chief George Nash also stopped in to check on the results. He wouldn't say which way he'd voted, but also noted, "It's a good deal. [With the state matching funds]they cut the cost by approximately half."
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