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A night-after celebration?

Selectmen hope to be talking about the town getting a new school project when they meet again – one day after the June 20 Special Election

The four selectmen at Wednesday night’s meeting took their turns calling on residents at home to support the town’s campaign for a new Middle-High School when they go to the polls in less than two weeks.

“We don’t meet til the day after … Hopefully, we’ll be celebrating,” Selectman Jeff Jeffrey Cicolini said, referring to the next time the board convenes in public session – 7:30 p.m. on June 21.

Cicolini and three of his colleagues – Board of Selectmen Chair Debra Panetta and Selectmen Scott Brazis and Jennifer D’Eon – all said they are looking forward to the victorious vote in the June 20 Special Election which Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree said “will make history” for the town’s education system.

The two questions to be considered:

• Whether to support the new Middle-High School Building which includes a multipurpose athletic field and outdoor track. For this project, the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), as the Town’s financial partner, will reimburse the Town at a minimum rate of 53.32% (expected to increase) of eligible approved project costs. The price tag on this project is $160.7 million.

• Consideration of the District-Wide Master Plan Solution, which is comprised of the renovations and improvements at the Belmonte Middle School (which will be grades 3-5) and Veterans Memorial Elementary School (Pre-K through grade 2). Saugus Public Schools administrative offices will vacate the historic Roby Building on Main Street and move into the Belmonte Middle School building under the plan. These changes will cost $25.4 million, which would not be reimbursable.

A 30-year bond issue

The town share would be an estimated $118.9 million of the total $186 million for the new construction and rehabbing, which would be bonded over a 30-year period. Registered voters would need to pass both questions in order for the school project to proceed.

Two articles similar to the ballot questions received overwhelming approval by members at a Special Town Meeting last week. Only two members opposed the measure.

But town officials and citizens on both sides of the ballot questions have said they expect a much closer vote than the last week’s landslide decisions at the Special Town Meeting – 44-2 for the new school building and 43-2 on the article to rehab and make the Saugus Veterans Memorial Elementary School and the Belmonte Middle School suitable for new roles.

“Get out and vote June 20. Get out and vote for your community,” Selectman Brazis declared, making a pitch during the meeting and ending the members’ comment period for voters watching selectmen at home on Saugus Community Cable TV.

Panetta was upbeat in her remarks about the school project and related education plan. “It’s a very exciting time right now. A lot of kudos to you,” she told the town manager.

Crabtree was late getting to the board’s meeting, because he was addressing the Saugus Lions Club, answering members’ questions about the school project.

The Town Manager told selectmen that he and Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr. have been meeting various citizen groups and service organizations in recent weeks, providing details and answering questions about the project. “We’ve been out promoting and providing information about the project,” Crabtree said

He called the new school “the cornerstone to this community’s” education plan. “This is an investment for everybody. This will have major impact for the next 60 years,” Crabtree said.

Cranking up the campaign

Crabtree also narrated two educational programs in recent weeks on cable television, titled “Town Manager’s Desk,” in which he has guests who are involved with the school project. Recently, School Committee Chair Jeannie Meredith did a 22-minute segment that can be accessed on Saugus Cable Television Station on Vimeo.

Selectman D’Eon said she’s been out campaigning hard with other supporters of an improved education plan. “This is a great project and something we need very badly for our children … It’s something the whole community needs,” D’Eon said.

Selectman Mark Mitchell was absent from Wednesday night’s meeting, but shares similar enthusiasm about the project.

Crabtree told selectmen one of the best financial reasons for the town financing the new school and related projects is because of an estimated $7 million he predicts the town will be saving in finance costs. “Our bond rating is at the highest it’s ever been,” Crabtree said.

Added Panetta, “There is never going to be a less expensive time to build a new High School,” urging voters to support the two articles.

In a related development, a Political Action Committee (PAC) was formed, called “Saugus Parents for a New High/Middle School,” according to Town Clerk Ellen Schena, who accepted the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) Form on June 2. “It was a group that started on Facebook and was contacted by OCPF – that they need to fill out paperwork with me. They did and I spoke with OCPF and everything is all set,” Schena told The Saugus Advocate.

There were reports of improper signs that didn’t comply with OCPF regulations being used without qualifying who was paying for the advertising. “With regards to the signs question …. I do not know anything about that issue,” Schena said.

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