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Voters OK $1.8 Million Bond for Woodsville High Expansion Project

  • Peter Tice, of Haverhill Corner, N.H., passes his vote to Moderator Jay Holden during a school bond vote of $1.8 million for additional improvements to the high school in North Haverhill, N.H., on Dec. 15, 2018. The bond passed, 201-52. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Elizabeth Henson, of North Haverhill, N.H., listens with her children Charles Page, 8, and Abigail Page, 6, during a discussion for a $1.8 million school bond vote in North Haverhill on Dec. 15, 2018. On the right Matt Taylor of Pike, N.H. listens with his daughter Courtney Taylor, who is in eight-grade. The bond passed 201-52. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Donald Kimball, of North Haverhill, N.H., questions how money already has been spent on renovations at Woodsville High School on Dec. 15, 2018, in North Haverhill. Residents met and voted on a $1.8 million bond that would be in addition to the $3.7 million school and parking lot renovation project that was approved in March. The bond ultimately was approved. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/15/2018 11:35:48 PM
Modified: 12/15/2018 11:36:36 PM

North Haverhill — Haverhill residents voted overwhelmingly, 201-52, in favor of a $1.8 million bond to construct an approximately 9,200-square-foot building connecting Woodsville High School with the John A. Bagonzi Community Center.

Approved during a special school district meeting on Saturday at Haverhill Cooperative Middle School, the funding will augment a $3.7 million project approved at Town Meeting in March to bring the campus up to fire and safety codes and comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The additional funding will allow for a building to house a new main entrance with improved security, as well as music, technology and alternative learning programs.

The current buildings that house the latter two programs, King Street School and the Bennett building, will be demolished to improve traffic flow at the school, officials said.

“It’s the right choice,” school board Chairman John Rutherford said after the final votes were tallied. “I think taxpayers could sense that this is a wise investment for the school and the community.”

SAU 23 Superintendent Laurie Melanson, School Board Vice Chairman Richard Guy, state representative Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, and others spoke in support of the measure in front of more than 250 attendees.

The new project will amount to a tax rate increase of 38 cents per $1,000, or $76 on a home valued at $200,000, in addition to a $150 increase for the $3.7 million project. The project is eligible to be covered up to 60 percent by the New Hampshire Department of Education’s building aid program, which recently came back online following a 10-year moratorium.

After visits to Woodsville from state Civil Engineer Amy Clark and New Hampshire School Building Authority Chairman Greg Hill, the Woodsville High project now is the top candidate for state building aid in 2019, Melanson said.

Ladd, who’s been a state representative for 10 years, urged residents to take advantage.

“The stars are aligned in Concord,” Ladd told attendees. “We can’t let this slip through our fingers.”

The new main entrance would provide enhanced security, supporters said, with an entry way where visitors would need to be buzzed in. All other doors to the building would be locked from the outside.

“Since Sandy Hook in 2012, there have been more than 300 shootings in public schools in the U.S., and we are not immune,” Ladd said. “We need to deal with the security issues at the school.”

A new traffic pattern also would increase safety by separating bus traffic from other vehicles and eliminating the need for students to walk across the parking lot to access other buildings on campus, officials said.

During the public comment period, Corey Thompson, of Haverhill Corner, voiced concern that moving the tech programs into the main building potentially could cause noise issues.

“I was wondering if all of the saws in the shop classes could have an impact on the learning environment for the classes directly above them,” Thompson said. “Right now, they’re in a separate building and can make all the noise they want.”

Adam Lornitzo, representative with Lebanon-based Banwell Architects, which designed the newer project, said concrete flooring and spray-applied insulation will help mitigate noise.

“To say there will be no noise would be an overstatement, but there is precedent,” Lornitzo said. “In another school project we worked on in Newmarket (N.H.), the English department is right over tech ed.”

About $600,000 already has been spent from the bond approved at Town Meeting for floor work in both the main building and Bagonzi center, as well as locker room remodeling in the latter.

North Haverhill resident Donald Kimball voiced displeasure at the spending and said the state of the Bagonzi center remains unacceptable.

“The floor still has waves in it, and it has scratches already,” Kimball said. “That money was wasted.”

David Robinson, of Haverhill’s Mountain Lakes neighborhood, said the connector building will help preserve the floor — as well as all of Woodsville High’s flooring surfaces.

“Right now, the new gym floor is exposed to salt, sand and dirt every day because kids are walking across the parking lot to get to it,” Robinson said. “The wear and tear on all of the floors and carpets is a significant issue right now because of that.”

Preston Hatch, of North Haverhill, said the plan appears more to be of a legitimate long-term solution than past Woodsville High construction projects that required public funding.

“Usually they want money for Band-Aid projects that don’t solve the problems,” he said. “With this, hopefully it won’t just be another three or five years before we have to invest in another major project.”

Guy, the vice chairman, and others said the newer addition will help attract more tuition students to the school, which currently serves out-of-town tuition students from neighboring Bath, Benton, Piermont and Warren. Other supporters suggested an improved high school environment also will help Haverhill’s economy by attracting more residents and bringing more activity to town.

“This town needs a boost, and everything starts with the schools,” said Joe Mitchell, who graduated from Woodsville High in 2017. “If you take care of the school, it leads to a better business climate and better jobs.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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