$30M School Bond on the Minds of Many at Polling Places
The 13 polling sites saw a steady voter stream in the morning. After a noontime lull, workers are gearing up for the late afternoon and evening rush. Ballot Question No. 5 is the most anticipated item locally.
Sustaining the Newport School Department for the financial long term is on Newport voters' minds as they hit the polls today. With parking scarce at some of the larger polling hubs around noontime, workers at the ward sites say they are gearing up for the late afternoon and evening rush. The polls opened at 8 a.m. and will close at 9 p.m.
Visible at nearly every site are advocates and opponents to Ballot Question No. 5, which asks Newport voters to decide if the city should approve the $30 million bond referendum to build the Claiborne Pell Elementary School, thus consolidating all of Newport's elementary schools into one central building.
Resident Ted Wrobel stood outside Newport Public Library this afternoon holding a sign that read "YES on #5. School Bond SAVE $." He said the resolution will pass if enough people come out to vote.
"It's probably the best analyzed project the city's ever seen," he said. "It'll cost less to build new than renovate the existing."
Wrobel said he thinks that the project, which includes 42 percent in state reimbursement, will save city taxpayers money. He said he feels that paying for short-term patchwork to fix the existing infrastructure that would be more costly.
"The opposition is really an emotional one, not a practical one," he added.
While leaving Newport Public Library, a resident named Joan, who declined to give her last name, said she also voted in favor of the school bonding project.
"The city has to spend money to keep the roads safe, the people safe and the kids in decent schools," she said.
On the other end, Newport resident and Alliance for Neighborhood Schools member Patrick McGrath stood outside the Carey School around 1 p.m. on Election Day advocating voters to turn down the school bond question.
"Local, small neighborhood schools are what parents want," said McGrath, whose son went to the school until it closed down two years ago. "Closing Carey forced parents to vote on this bond."
Several feet away on the same sidewalk stood Dr. Robert Power, who served Newport Public Schools from 1989 to 2005, most recently as interim superintendent. He was telling voters to say "yes" to the school bond project.
"How much money are you going to put into these buildings over the next 20 years?" he asked. "What will you have? Voting 'no' is a very negative direction financially."
"The kids will benefit from this," Power added.
Also being voted on today are 14 candidates for City Council, eight whom are running for an at-large position and six who are vying for ward seats. There are nine candidates running for the School Committee.
Around 12:45 p.m., Moderator Dave McConnell, who is overseeing the Newport Public Library polling site, said he had approximately 206 ballots cast.
"There was a bit of a line this morning, but it cleaned up," he said.