Hudson – A 22-article warrant is what will be awaiting town residents when they attend the Annual Town Meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday May 4 at Hudson High School.
The article that received the most discussion by the selectmen at their board meeting Feb. 23 was the last one on the warrant, a feasibility study for the John F. Kennedy (JFK) School.
The article asks the town to appropriate $391,726 for a feasibility study to look into the repair or replacement of the JFK School.
Because it is a capital exclusion, the selectmen, while reviewing the article, also had to vote about whether or not they wanted to have the question on the Monday May 11 town ballot.
The selectmen also voted, as they did with all the other articles on the warrant, on whether or not the article would be presented at Town Meeting as having the Board of Selectmen’s support.
Selectman Antonio Loura opposed having the article on the warrant, putting it on the ballot and, as a selectman, supporting it.
“People of this town are losing their jobs left and right,” Loura said. “Every day I hear about someone who after years of working for a company has been laid off. Now we’re going to ask them for another $391,000 to see if there’s a need to build a new school, which is then going to cost them another $40 or $50 million.
“People are having trouble paying their bills now and we’re going to tax the taxpayers again? I don’t think it’s right. Now is not the time.”
Selectman Joseph Durant, who is a member of the JFK Building Committee, which is supporting the article, as is the Hudson School Committee, said he understood Loura’s position, but stressed this is money to study the need for a new school.
“The JFK School is a disgrace,” Durant said. “It is utterly falling apart. The concrete is cracking, old locker rooms have been turned into classrooms. It’s illogical to send our kids to Farley and to the High School, but in between have to send them into that pit for two years.
“I realize we’re in a recession, but maybe this is the time to look this project,” Durant said. “Maybe we’ll get better bid prices because of the economy and the competition for work. One thing is certain, whatever it costs now, it’s going to cost more in four or five years.”
Durant also pointed out that the old Hudson High School, which was destroyed when the new one was completed, was built after the JFK School.
Santino Parente, the chair of the Board of Selectmen, thought a big-picture view of the project was important and focused on the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) grant program’s funding formula, which right now picks up 60 percent of the cost for approved projects.
“It’s 60/40, but if we hold back now who’s to say by the time we’re ready to build this school that it’s not 50/50 or 60/40 the other way,” Parente said. “Hesitating could cost us more down the road the road than it will cost us today.
“We’re the Board of Selectmen. We need to step up to the plate and make the tough decisions. We need to put this on the ballot and give voters a chance to vote on this.”
The board voted unanimously to have the question on the May 11 town ballot and the board voted, 3-2, to be listed in the warrant as supporting the article.