By a 25-vote margin, Sandwich voters yesterday approved a ballot question to spend nearly $1 million to repair and reopen the Sandwich High School pool.
The vote was 1,151 to 1,126.
Voters also approved spending $650,000 to repair and renovate the “A” wing at the high school by a far wider 420-vote margin. That vote was 1,345 to 925.
“That’s good news,” Sandwich schools superintendent C. Richard Canfield said last night when told of the ballot votes.
“It was pretty tight on the pool,” he observed.
Of the 2,277 people who cast ballots on the pool question, 50.55 percent voted yes and 49.45 percent voted no.
A total of 2,270 votes were cast on the “A” wing work, with nearly 60 percent of the voters casting yes votes.
The “A” wing ballot question passed in all six of the town’s precincts.
In contrast, the pool ballot question lost in three precincts: 1, 2 and 5. Precinct 3 gave the strongest percentage support to the pool question, 62.73 to 37.27 percent.
A North Shore Boulevard resident who has expressed concern about the residential property tax burden in Sandwich, Robert J. Dean, was disappointed by the ballot vote on the pool.
“I thought people would come out of the woodwork and vote it down,” Mr. Dean said last night.
The ballot votes followed decisions by voters at Monday’s Special Town Meeting to approve the pool and “A” wing projects.
The votes at the meeting were 409-103 in favor of fixing the pool, and 424-134 in favor of the “A” wing work.
Dr. Canfield said the school district would begin taking steps today to prepare for the pool and “A” wing projects.
He said he hoped to launch the “A” wing repairs, specifically addressing the wing’s faulty windowsills, by this spring. The superintendent said he hoped that the pool repairs would be completed by the end of this coming summer.
In their decisions at Town Meeting and again in yesterday’s special election, Sandwich voters approved funding the pool and “A” wing repairs through one-year capital outlays.
Town manager George H. Dunham said residents would be assessed the tax for the pool repairs as a one-time shot in the second half of the current fiscal year.
Mr. Dunham calculated the tax impact of the pool repairs on an average house in Sandwich at $92.
The town manager calculated the tax impact of the “A” wing work as a one-time shot of $61 on an average house in the town.
At Monday’s Special Town Meeting, Dr. Canfield – who just before town meeting held an open house at the empty pool – opened the discussion on the repair proposal.
The pool has been out of operation since a severe leak was discovered back in February.
But Dr. Canfield said the pool, aside from the leak, faces a far more costly need to overhaul its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
Next September, the superintendent said, the 7th and 8th grade students in the school system will be attending a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or STEM) Academy at the high school building. They will swell the building’s student population to 1,300.
To that end, he said, the building should offer two physical education stations: the gym and the pool.
He further said the pool could serve as a place to teach STEM students about submersible robotics. And he said an operating pool could draw out-of-district students to Sandwich and retain existing students – the latter a key concern in a district now paying out $4.2 million to fund the tuition of students choosing to attend other public schools.
Converting the pool into a different athletic space, he said, would be even more costly than the pool proposal, requiring installation of a fire suppression system while not avoiding the need to address the HVAC system.
The pool proposal drew a variety of responses Monday night. A number of Town Meeting voters emphasized the need to return the pool to operation.
They included Patricia A. Cundiff of Castle Lane, chairman of the Save Sandwich Pool effort. Ms. Cundiff said the pool allowed people to learn lifesaving skills and also could generate income.
Paul D. Gannett of Magnuson Court called on his fellow voters to save the pool.
“It’s important for the kids and the community,” Mr. Gannett said. “It would be tragic to lose that.”
But Keith M. Fernald of Windsor Road, while supporting the pool, also was not buying the line that the pool would help Sandwich retain its students.
“Good education keeps kids here,” Mr. Fernald said.
Part of the discussion on the article revealed concern by a number of voters that community use of the pool, which dates to its construction four decades ago, no longer would be a priority.
“This pool has been the community’s pool,” Carl A. Johansen of Oxford Road. “It’s not just the school’s pool. It’s not just the town’s pool.”
But after a number of voters raised the issue of who owned or controlled the facility, Mr. Dunham said the pool was under the custody of the school and always had been, given its location inside the high school.
Addressing the community use issue, Dr. Canfield said the pool would be available to the community during weekends, weekday evenings and in the summer.
As for the “A” wing, Dr. Canfield told voters at Monday’s Town Meeting that $500,000 of the $650,000 in work proposed for the “A” wing was needed to provide safety repairs to the windowsills in the wing.
Last year, he said, a 200-pound windowsill fell out of the building and crashed on the sidewalk, prompting erection of safety fencing around the wing and inspection of the sills.
The superintendent said school officials learned that all 132 windowsills in the wing would have to be replaced.
The officials subsequently found that no insurance coverage was available to fund the work. The state School Building Authority declined to pay for the work. That landed the expenditure back in the lap of local taxpayers.
Dr. Canfield said the remaining $150,000 in the proposal was slated to go toward renovating the wing for the STEM Academy. In particular, the money was to be used to provide dedicated space for science laboratories, art and engineering, and a nurse’s office.
Putting the window repairs and the wing renovations in the same spending proposal raised a least a few eyebrows in the auditorium.
In response, town counsel John W. Giorgio said it was legal to combine the two projects in one Town Meeting article.
Jane Logan of Main Street said that structural problems have popped up over time in town buildings again and again. Ms. Logan questioned what official or officials had fallen down on the job.
But Mr. Giorgio said that the town had no legal redress against any involved individuals more than six years after the completion of a building. With the high school completed in the 1970s, the question of a lawsuit to recoup repair costs was moot.
When votes were finally taken Monday night, Town Moderator Garry N. Blank asked for a hand count of yeas and nays.