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Mascoma To Recount School Vote

Enfield — The school district will undertake a recount in the Mascoma Valley Regional High School renovation proposal after it failed by a mere 22 votes, drawing out the conclusive results for the project’s critics and supporters.

The recount comes after the board was petitioned by former school board member Claudette Peck, according to District Clerk Stella Butterfield.

Peck, who did not seek re-election to the board last week, has been a longtime advocate for renovating the aging high school, where teachers use closets as offices and wheel their supplies between classrooms on carts.

Butterfield will begin the recount, which is open to the public, at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Enfield Village School.

Peck did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Following the defeat of the $21.8 million bond last week, Butterfield said she received three inquiries about how to submit a recount request, but Peck was the only resident who submitted the required 10 signatures and $10 fee.

Enfield resident Bob Cusick didn’t sign the petition, but said he favors recounting the votes.

“The election was very close and I thought it was a good idea to have a look at things and make sure everything was at the up and up,” Cusick said.

Butterfield is authorized to select individuals to help her recount the votes by hand, and she said she’d like to have at least two representatives from each of the district’s five towns to go through the 3,115 ballots. Butterfield noted she would prefer to have people with experience at counting ballots, such as the supervisors of the checklist.

During the recount, the seven-member School Board must be present to serve as the Board of Recount, which makes calls on ballots if the counters can’t determine how an individual intended to vote. Butterfield said she expects the recount to last until noon.

Not everyone is pleased to hear about a recount, however.

Deborah Johnson, of Canaan, voted against the bond because she thinks the School Board is asking for things it doesn’t need.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Johnson said. “If they don’t get what they want, they keep coming back. I sure hope they don’t find those 22 votes because it seems to me that the communities have spoken again and again.”

Last week’s vote lost 1,807-1,241 making it the third time that residents have turned down a request from the School Board to borrow money in order to either rebuild or renovate the high school.

In 2008, residents rejected a $39.5 million bond to build a new high school. After that defeat, the School Board came back before voters in 2012 with a $23.8 million renovation proposal, but won only a 56.4 percent majority while requiring a 60 percent majority in order to pass.

At last week’s Town Meeting, an identical renovation proposal received 59.3 percent, falling short of the threshold by a mere 0.7.

Mascoma High was built in 1963 and school officials say the building has long outlived its useful life. The gym floor is 50 years old and the roof, which was replaced in the 1980s, now leaks. The renovation would have increased the number of classrooms from 27 to 39, freeing up space for crammed teachers, staff and students.

Cusick, the Enfield resident who voted for the renovation, said he doesn’t expect the recount to change the outcome of last week’s vote, but thinks it nonetheless should be done for the sake of affirming its accuracy.

Some people have suggested that the outcome may have been influenced by what they heard was a large number of same-day registrations, especially in Grafton, one of the town’s that has consistently voted down the proposal.

But George Curran, a supervisor of the checklist in Grafton and a former Selectboard member, said there were only 21 same-day registrations in Grafton last week, which he didn’t consider unusual.

Enfield also experienced a bumpy election day when its voting machine broke and the town ran out of ballots. When the voting machine broke, it was quickly fixed and ballots were once again pushed through the machine. The town also used up all 1,000 of its pre-made ballots and had to make 150 copies, which could not be sent through the voting machine and instead had to be counted by hand.

Moderator David Beaufait reassured residents last week on the listserv that despite those setbacks there was “no compromise to the integrity” in the voting process.

Following the vote, chatter on the town’s listserv began to suggest that the bumps in Enfield might be cause for a recount, but Selectman John Kluge posted on the listserv that he was confident that Enfield’s process was accurate.

“It was an inconvenience, but it did not erode the integrity of the voting process,” Kluge wrote on the listserv.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.