HUDSON — Legislators this week officially expressed their support for the school district’s bond issue request on the Nov. 7 ballot.
City Council on Sept. 19 voted in favor of a resolution endorsing Issue 30, a 30-year, $81.5 million bond measure requested by the Hudson City School District.
Six of seven councilors backed the resolution. Council member Dennis Hanink (Ward 1) abstained. Hanink, along with Council member Alex Kelemen (Ward 3), said they had concerns about telling residents how to vote on a ballot issue. Kelemen, however, still voted in favor of the measure.
If approved later in the fall, Issue 30 would pay for "constructing, furnishing and equipping a new middle school," and for "constructing, renovating, remodeling, rehabilitating, adding to, furnishing, equipping and otherwise improving buildings and facilities, and preparing, equipping and otherwise improving real estate, for School District purposes," according to the resolution OK’d by Council.
The bond issue would pay to: renovate McDowell for preschool and kindergarten, adding air conditioning; renovate East Woods for grades three through five; construct an addition at Ellsworth Hill to accommodate grades one and two; renovate the high school media center and replace the HVAC system; renovate the Ada Cooper Miller Natatorium for school and community use; improve the Central Campus by changing the traffic patterns; and re-purpose and downsize Evamere for district office use and Hudson Community Education and Recreation (HCER) daytime community programming, according to a Hudson City School District official.
A trio of Council members expressed strong support for the bond issue.
"The health of our schools is so inexorably intertwined with the health of our city," said Council member Casey Weinstein (Ward 2), who made a motion to approve the issue on second reading. "I think it’s important for Council to publicly affirm that we support this initiative … It’s so important for our kids to have the right facilities and the right environment to learn in and to have the opportunity to reach their maximum potential."
Weinstein said he would not be in attendance at the next Council meeting and wanted to make sure to notch his vote in favor of the resolution.
Council member Dr. J. Dan Williams (At-Large) said he "strongly supports" the resolution and noted he has never seen an issue "so well vetted within the community as this has been."
The district had offered plenty of forums and opportunities for people to share their views and listened to the feedback, according to Williams.
"That’s how things should be done in town," said Williams.
"We have a really fine school system," noted Council member Bill Wooldredge (At-Large). "It is well-recognized and well-known … I think part of the excellence of the city is the schools and part of the excellence of the schools is the fact they have a great city behind them. I think we’re very much married together."
Other councilors expressed reservations about telling residents how to vote on an election issue.
Hanink said he believed that "however a person votes shouldn’t be interpreted as not supporting the schools." He added he believed that Council offering the endorsement resolution suggested the legislative body has some "special insight into the process for the program or the finances. That’s not the case."
"We have a city of residents who are able to make up their own minds," said Hanink. "That’s the way I think it should be. I will pass on my vote."
Kelemen said that while he supports the schools, he noted he would prefer that the resolution not urge residents to vote in favor of the bond issue because "I have a problem telling people how to vote."
However, Kelemen said "we’re not going to pick and choose, so in total, I would support it," and encouraged voters to "do their research [on the issue] and consider it carefully."
Council President Hal DeSaussure Jr. said he has previously been "reluctant" to have Council weigh in on ballot issues, but will make an exception for the school bond issue. DeSaussure added he believes the School Board and administration had "embarked on a program to really cast a vision for this community," engaged residents on the plan and adjusted the plan in response to feedback.
"What the school district is proposing is not just a modern school for the 21st century, but also a true vision for town, for at least that portion of town that encompasses the campus," said DeSaussure.
Mayor David Basil said he felt the issue "deserves Council’s voice."
"These are our children we are discussing," said Basil. "They deserve facilities that are properly constructed and equipped for the teaching techniques and methods that exist today."
Basil stated, "We are not directing citizens how to vote. We are expressing our support as elected leaders in this community for this effort."
Phil Keren: 330-541-9421