NORTH ADAMS -- A $29.7 million borrowing order for the Conte School Renovation Project passed by a narrow margin of 137 votes Tuesday.
The special ballot question passed with 1,387 votes in favor of the funding and 1,250 votes against.
"This is a huge win for the city of North Adams," Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Tuesday during a small gathering of supporters at Desperado's. "The next step is to let the Massachusetts State Building Authority [MSBA] know the funding was approved. From there, the project will move into the final design phase and we'll move forward from there."
A total of 2,637 votes, representing 30 percent of the city's 8,747 registered voters, were cast in Tuesday's election, which was held in conjunction with the special U.S. Senate primary. Funding for the project only failed to pass in Ward 4, which encompasses the majority of the city's West End.
Tuesday's special election was prompted by a citizens' petition filed after the City Council approved the funding in February. The funding order, which is for the entire project cost of $29.7 million, became the subject of a rigorous debate over the last few weeks.
The MSBA approved the project in June and has agreed pay $23.2 million or 80 percent of the project's cost, with the city's share being $6.5 million. The project, which will replace Sullivan Elementary School, will convert the former middle school into a K-7 elementary school.
"I'd like to thank all of the voters who turned out today and moved this project forward and the Friends of the North Adams Schools, who really took the lead on the ‘pro' side and got the word out in a positive way," the mayor said. "I'd also like to thank the opposition, who took the initiative to put this out in front of the voters and push this issue as far as our charter allows. This allowed the voters to have the final word."
Friends of the North Adams Schools Chairwoman Lynette Ritland Bond said she was thrilled with Tuesday's outcome.
"I was outside [the polls at] St. Elizabeth's Parish Center all morning and was nervous" she said. "I was afraid we were going to lose. But by 4:30, things turned around, as I began to see more families come to the polls. ... This has restored my faith in the North Adams educational system."
Former City Councilor Robert Moulton Jr., one of three co-sponsors of the citizens petition, said he won't challenge Tuesday's results.
"We've accomplished what we wanted. We wanted to put this to a vote and let the community decide what they wanted," he said. "The people voted for the school and I can live with that."
City Councilor John Barrett III, who with Councilor Marie Harpin opposed the funding in February's 7-2 city council vote, also said he saw no reason to challenge the results.
"I'm not going to contest this -- the people had their say," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "I knew it was going to be close either way. This is democracy in action, so be it. This was the choice of the people. I really hope it works out, for it will forever change the face of neighborhood schools in the city."