NORTH ADAMS -- A city resident plans to gather enough signatures to put the $29.7 million bond for renovations at the Silvio O. Conte Middle School on a special ballot in an attempt to overturn the City Council's approval of the funding.
Final approval of the bond was granted during a special City Council meeting Tuesday. The bond was approved 7 to 2, with councilors John Barrett III and Marie Harpin casting the dissenting votes. Although the city is borrowing the full $29.7 million for the project, its share of the project's cost is $6.5 million. The state School Building Authority (MSBA) has agreed to pay 80 percent of the project's reimbursable costs, some $25 million.
The project still needs to be approved by the North Adams School Committee.
"The way you voted tonight is not going to prove a thing, because I think the voters of this city are going to have the last word," Robert Cardimino, of East Quincy Street, said. "If we can gather enough signatures, you're going to find out that your phone calls, that were 2-to-1 in favor of this school, are wrong. You were wrong about [Proposition] 21 2 and you're going to be wrong on this school. If I have to go from 8 a.m. to 5 in the afternoon, knocking on doors, we're going to get enough signatures to overturn this decision."
According to City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau, in order to put the bond funding on a special ballot, three registered voters of the city must submit a petition to her office. Once the petition is certified, signatures from 12 percent of the city's registered voters would need to be secured and then certified by the city's Board of Registrars.
She said anyone who wants to submit a petition and collect signatures has 20 days to do so. Should the signatures be secured and certified, the city would have to call a special election for the vote. Gomeau estimated a special election would cost about $6,000.
Prior to the vote, School Building Committee member Ronald Superneau told the council that while not all of the committee's members voted in favor of the renovations to Conte, the members put forward the best project they could.
"If it were perfect, it would be a new Sullivan and a new Greylock," he said, noting that the MSBA turned down a two-building proposal. "This wasn't just a slap-down, go-ahead decision. We looked at the money. We looked at the taxes. We looked at what was best for the kids. This $25 million the state is offering is tax money we've already spent. It's money we've already given to the state. If we don't take it, somebody else will."
While Superneau asserted that the School Building Committee members met numerous times with architects and consultants over the last 31 2 years, for 3 to 4 hours at a time, Barrett said he thought the project "had been rushed through." He also said he felt that if the School Building Committee had been given the 2008 study by the New England School Development Council, the outcome would have been different.
"I'm not against a new school project in the city, I'm against this one," he said. "This is not going to solve the problem of the school building needs. There are serious deficiencies at Greylock [Elementary School] that are going to need to be addressed. This is just kicking them down the road. What's going to happen to Sullivan? We haven't heard about that yet."