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Date set for school override special election: Sept. 5

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TOWNSEND — The financial struggle between the town and the schools continues.

Although the results of the Special Town Meeting, scheduled for next Monday at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall, are not yet known, the Board of Selectmen wanted to set a date for the special election to decide the override issue.

Selectman David Chenelle said a request had been sent from the school’s superintendent office to hold the special election on the same day as Ashby — Wednesday, Sept. 5.

“I have no objection to having the same day,” said Chenelle. “It takes away the control factor that we had last time. Last time we knew that if we denied the override, they (the School Committee) would have to recertify.”

Since North Middlesex is a three-town district, the budget requires the approval of two out of the three towns. Pepperell has already approved the school budget, leaving Ashby and Townsend to decide.

Chenelle said he wanted to do things sooner rather than later, so that if the school override were rejected there would be the time for another try. The School Committee could recertify yet another new budget, then town meetings and ballot votes could be held in both towns, before the state intervenes in December to make a final decision.

Chenelle made the motion to hold the special election on Sept. 5.

Selectman Maureen Denig seconded Chenelle’s motion, but said she didn’t support it.

“I understand what you’re saying about being able to expedite it, but I do like the ability to give people more of a choice here,” said Denig.

“If Ashby accepts it, in my opinion people would feel forced to accept the override to prevent cuts,” said Denig. “If we let them (Ashby) vote and we see how they’re doing it, then we’ve got the leverage to say yes or no, and I think that gives us more options. Otherwise if we do it on the same day, I don’t see the control and I don’t see the options.”

Selectman Robert Plamondon agreed with Denig.

“We would lose whatever quote ‘advantage’ we have,” said Plamondon. He suggested that Townsend’s ballot vote should happen a week after Ashby’s decision.

Town administrator Gregory Barnes said Townsend Times reporter Nathan Malone had information that could affect the board’s decision.

(This reporter) told the board that, last Thursday, the School Committee discussed delaying the start of school until after the override results were known. Delaying the special election could therefore delay the start of school.

“The longer they’re into the school year, one way or another, dramatically impacts their staffing plans,” said Chenelle.

Denig suggested that they hold the override vote on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Chenelle reminded his colleagues that the motion to hold the election on Tuesday, Sept. 4 was still on the table. Chenelle voted in favor of the Tuesday ballot. Plamondon and Denig opposed it.

Plamondon made the motion to hold the election on Wednesday, Sept. 5. Denig seconded the motion and both Plamondon and Denig voted in favor with Chenelle opposed.

“I think you’re setting this up to be ‘us versus them’ and I think that’s a disgrace, quite frankly,” said Chenelle.