Lyme voters approve school modernization plan

Lyme residents line up to vote at the School Meeting for a $2.6 million dollar construction bond on Thursday, March 8, 2024, in Lyme, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lyme residents line up to vote at the School Meeting for a $2.6 million dollar construction bond on Thursday, March 8, 2024, in Lyme, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

Lyme School teachers Amanda Burns, left, Emily Cushman, Shannon O'Leary, Tori Thayer, Tyler Rooke and school counselor Rachel Stanton, in foreground, pass the time during voting at Lyme’s school meeting on Thursday, March 8, 2024, in Lyme, N.H. Floor discussions had stopped for voters to cast their ballots. The group posed a question to one another: “If you were a potato, what kind of potato would you be?

Lyme School teachers Amanda Burns, left, Emily Cushman, Shannon O'Leary, Tori Thayer, Tyler Rooke and school counselor Rachel Stanton, in foreground, pass the time during voting at Lyme’s school meeting on Thursday, March 8, 2024, in Lyme, N.H. Floor discussions had stopped for voters to cast their ballots. The group posed a question to one another: “If you were a potato, what kind of potato would you be?" The bond vote passed. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Kevin Peterson, left, Margaret

Kevin Peterson, left, Margaret "Mugs" Johnston, and Phil Kinsler count ballots for a $2.6 million dollar construction bond for the Lyme School during the Lyme’s school meeting on Thursday, March 8, 2024, in Lyme, N.H. Peterson is the Town Moderator, Johnston and Kinsler are both ballot counters. The bond passed. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Lyme voters Erik Kobylarz, left, Tracey Saunders, Adrienne Flower, and Ryan Halter listen to the discussion about the proposed $2.6 million construction bond on Thursday, March 8, 2024, in Lyme, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lyme voters Erik Kobylarz, left, Tracey Saunders, Adrienne Flower, and Ryan Halter listen to the discussion about the proposed $2.6 million construction bond on Thursday, March 8, 2024, in Lyme, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

By FRANCES MIZE

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-08-2024 5:04 PM

LYME — By an almost 3 to 1 margin, voters approved taking out a $2.6 million bond to finance renovations at the K-8 Lyme School.

The omnibus measure, named the “Hazardous Materials Abatement Project” on the warrant, passed 140-49 in paper balloting. Under state law, it needed 60% of votes to pass.

The bond will be used to pay for asbestos and lead remediation, as well as upgrading the school’s heating and air conditioning systems, and improving security with the installation of remote door locking technology and occupancy sensors on lighting.

“I’m worried about safety and security,” said Brigette Cameron, whose husband has worked at the school as a basketball coach, and who has three kids enrolled there and another incoming kindergartner.

Cameron recounted basketball games over the weekend where “anyone could just walk in.”

“It just was time,” said Jackie Richter-Menge, who voted for the bond.

The Budget Committee, by a 7-3 vote, didn’t recommend the article. Committee member Dick Jones characterized the project as lacking “supporting documentation” and “alternative options with cost estimates.”

“$2.6 million is a lot of money to spend on a 70-year-old building,” Jones said at the meeting.

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However, after a 30-minute presentation from the School Board at Thursday’s meeting, Jones conceded that they presented more information than they previously had, and that he couldn’t “project what the vote (from the Budget Committee) would have been” if the committee had been presented with the more robust information given at the town-wide meeting.

Supporters were conciliatory.

“It’s my fault for not bringing (the committee) more” at the time of the initial presentation, board member Jim Komarmi said.

Tim Olson of Banwell Architects, a Lebanon-based firm that’s been consulting on the project, said, “it’s our professional judgment that though it’s a 70-year-old building, it can last another 70 years.”

To anyone balking at cost of the project, resident Duncan Mackintosh said, “We have people moving in here with garages that cost that much. So let’s get with it people.”

The first debt repayment on the bond, of $64,983, is due next February. The board hopes much of the work, scheduled to go out to bid for contractors this fall, can be done during the 2025 summer recess.

Voters also said yes to staggered salary raise for staff through 2027 — negotiated between the board and the Lyme Education Association — as well as a total operating budget of $8.8 million, up from around $8.4 million last year. The budget does not include the first debt repayment on the bond, or the $223,351 which was approved by floor vote to be appropriated for the first year of staff raises.

Lyme’s approval of the bond comes as several Upper Valley communities consider large capital projects at their schools. In April, voters in Hartford will be asked to approve a proposed $21 million bond to repair aging facilities and prepare for a growing student body. On Saturday, March 16, Haverhill voters will be asked to OK a $2.29 million bond for renovations at Woodsville Elementary School and a $700,000 bond for an expansion at French Pond School.

On Town Meeting Day last Tuesday, voters in the Woodstock-area Mountain Views School District rejected a $99 million school bond, 1,910-1,570.

Frances Mize is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at fmize@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.