Byline: Debbie LaPlaca
CHARLTON - Voters in a 10-town special election yesterday approved the $73.8 million project to renovate Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School, with 5,304 in favor and 3,837 opposed.
Of the 77,088 registered voters in the school district's 10-member towns, 9,147 cast ballots representing an 11.8 percent turnout.
Only three towns - North Brookfield, Paxton and Oxford - voted against the project.
At the polls in Southbridge, Paula Richards said she supported the project because her son, a Bay Path junior focusing on electrical services, "loves the school."
Her son's MCAS scores have earned him a tuition scholarship to any state college.
"Even if he doesn't use that trade he will always have it as a backup," Ms. Richards said.
The project, on the drawing board since 2002, is to renovate and expand the 40-year-old school on Old Muggett Hill Road in Charlton to meet today's educational standards, correct deficiencies and bring the structure up to building codes.
Bay Path Superintendent-Director John A. Lafleche said last night, "The Bay Path community is grateful to all residents of the 10-town district who came out and voted in today's special election. We are excited that a majority of those who voted supported our addition/renovation project."
Project supporters, including the "Vote Yes for Bay Path" committee, said the plan is the most cost effective solution for a long list of capital deficiencies and inadequate educational space.
Retired teacher Paul A. Welcome of Auburn said he voted yes. "I'm for it. We need it for the kids who want a trade. We have to support all our kids."
Opponents, such as the "Vote No to $73.8 Million" committee, said the school should pursue isolated repairs without raising taxes by seeking aid through one of the state's repair programs.
Dave O'Malley cast a no vote in Rutland.
"It's not the time or the place with the economy the way it is to go out spending money that we don't need to," he said. "It's a good school but times are tough right now."
Of the $73.8 million, up to $47 million, or about 65 percent, will be paid by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Auburn, Charlton, Dudley, North Brookfield, Oxford, Paxton, Rutland, Southbridge, Spencer and Webster are to proportionally pay the remaining...