AYER — The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has a policy that may help the Ayer-Shirley Regional School Committee decide what to do next.
In a Special Election held on Saturday, Feb. 5, in Ayer and Shirley, the RSC asked voters for authorization to borrow up to $750,000 for a feasibility study for a planned building project at the current Ayer High School.
The vote failed.
The outcome was based on the total, two-town tally, with a simple majority required to pass the measure. Voter turnout was remarkably low in both towns.
The building project, estimated at $36 to $39 million, would include a top-to-bottom renovation of the 50-year-old Ayer High School building, accounting for 80 percent of the project, which might also include a new science wing addition.
MSBA promised reimbursement funding for the study, which could be rolled into the building project for a higher reimbursement rate if the RSC made its next move in a set time frame. That would be to ask Town Meeting voters in the respective member towns for debt exclusion overrides to fund the building project. The window to schedule the meetings would be 120 days after the study report was done.
At the Feb. 9 Ayer School Committee meeting, interim Superintendent George Frost said there was hope that the downed proposal might be resurrected. In conversations with MSBA since the vote was defeated, he learned there’s a where-to-go-from-here option. “MSBA has a failed vote policy,” he said, promising to follow up with a detailed memo.
“Do we have another shot?” asked Dan Gleason.
The answer was yes, but there are conditions.
Frost said he would present a plan, that must also pass muster with MSBA, to consider another election that would allow for the same reimbursement if the vote passes on the second try. But a convincing case must be made. “We have to explain why we think the election was not successful and why there’s a strong possibility that a second election might produce a different result,” Frost said. He said he would take input and present the plan at the Regional School Committee meeting the following week.