PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Brant Duncan, right, of Lynn, talks to Eric and Bibiana Rogers at their home on Glenwood Street. Duncan was campaigning for a “Yes” vote for new schools.
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — If early voting is any indication, Tuesday’s special election about funding a pair of new middle schools should bring more voters to the polls than the last time a new school was put on the ballot.
By noon Friday, the City Clerk reported 1,000 absentee votes have been cast in advance of the March 21 special election. Voters who can’t make it to the polls on Tuesday have until noon today to vote at City Hall.
While 1,000 votes may not seem like a lot in a city with more than 52,000 registered voters, consider that only 93 early voters came out before the 2013 vote to approve borrowing $92 million for design and construction of the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School.
The controversial initiative seeks approval to borrow $188.5 million to pay for a 652-student school to be built on Parkland Avenue and a second one to serve 1,008 students on Commercial Street. A second question asks voters to OK an exemption from Proposition 2½, the tax-limit law.
In the high stakes election, parents of school children and educators are pitted against a coalition of Pine Hill residents who say they oppose the Parkland Avenue site because it should be preserved to expand nearby Pine Grove Cemetery.
“Both sides have gotten their message out and we expect a big turnout,” said Jane Rowe, City Clerk and Elections Chief. “People aren’t coming in and talking about they voted so we really won’t know how people voted until Tuesday night.”
The election was originally scheduled for March 14. But as a blizzard threatened to shut down the Bay State with more than a foot of snow, the vote was postponed by Essex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat. In an emergency meeting last week, the City Council moved the election to the 21st.
In a filing to the city on campaign spending, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the ballot question, reported it raised $1,395 from Jan. 1 through Feb. 24. Two Schools For Lynn, a group of residents and teachers who favor the new schools, reported $11,055 in donations, much of the cash from the Lynn Teachers Association and public officials. Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) is the lastest elected official to say he will vote for the new schools. “I’m planning to vote yes,” he said. “The kids need the new schools.”
Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]