Several voters in the Monadnock Regional School District are requesting a recount on a warrant article that would fund the replacement of unit air ventilators at two schools, which failed by a four-vote margin at the polls Tuesday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, School District Clerk Lillian Sutton said she had received seven recount requests for the warrant article to raise $840,000 to replace ventilators in about 25 rooms total between Gilsum STEAM Academy and Monadnock Regional Middle/High School in Swanzey Center. If at least three more voters submit recount requests before a special school board meeting Friday evening, which Sutton said is likely, the recount process will move forward.
By state law, the hand recount, conducted by a group of up to 10 voters in the district — which covers Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury, Swanzey and Troy — would need to meet sometime between next Tuesday and Saturday, School Board Chairman Scott Peters of Troy said. He added that the recount, which would be overseen by Sutton and District Moderator Bill Hutwelker, is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in a yet-to-be-determined location.
The article in question failed Tuesday 1,108-1,104, with 96 ballots that left that article blank, according to unofficial results from the district. The school board recommended passage of the article — the only one on the warrant to be shot down this year — while the budget committee did not.
The district had hoped to complete the ventilation project in the summer of 2022, Business Administrator Janel Morin told The Sentinel in January. The ventilators slated to be replaced were installed in the 1980s and work fine for now, but “they’re getting towards the end of their working life,” Morin said. The district wants to replace them before they break down, she explained, potentially leading to an emergency situation, when the district doesn’t have the funds to do so.
Replacement of the ventilators at Gilsum STEAM Academy began last year, after school district voters approved a warrant article with funds to start the project there and complete a similar project at Cutler Elementary School in West Swanzey, Morin said.
These renovations were scheduled before the coronavirus pandemic, as part of the district’s capital improvement plan, and therefore Superintendent Witte has said they do not count as COVID-related expenses eligible for federal relief funding.
School districts are still waiting for final state guidance on when and how they can spend the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief funds, in which Monadnock is expected to receive $1.8 million. But, Peters noted, even if the ventilation project qualified for those funds, the district interprets New Hampshire state law to say that any warrant article defeated by voters cannot be completed in the coming year, even if funds become available from some other source.
The school board meeting to discuss the recount process will begin Friday at 7 p.m. and will be held via Zoom. To view an agenda and get the link to join the meeting, visit mrsd.org/domain/59.