WOBURN - The City Council last night sanctioned a request to use the old Wyman School as a central polling station for a special election next month regarding the Northeast Metro Tech High School project.
During a meeting on Tuesday night in City Hall, the elected officials voted unanimously in favor of adopting an order from City Council President Edward Tedesco to shift away from the city’s traditional neighborhood polling station model for the special election on Jan. 25, 2022.
Situated roughly in the middle of Woburn by the corner of Main and Wyman Streets, the Wyman School ceased being used as an active elementary school back in 2018.
City Clerk Lindsay Higgins, pointing out that no other questions will be featured during the special election, on Tuesday night argued the one-time maneuver to a central polling location will eliminate potential conflicts with school schedules. The city’s regular polling stations are almost exclusively situated within neighborhood schools, and the district is currently using local cafeterias for both lunches and classroom spaces due to the pandemic.
“The schools are in session and they use the cafeterias, which are what we typically use for the polling locations. It was my office’s recommendation that we move down to one polling location because of COVID and potential restrictions that could happen after the holidays,” Higgins explained.
Though ultimately backing the order, Ward 1 Councilor Joanne Campbell was puzzled by the decision of Northeast Metro Tech officials to restrict the time during which votes can be cast to the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Normally, citizens in Woburn are able to cast ballots for local, state, and federal elections between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
In an assessment that Higgins ultimately agreed with, Campbell suggested cutting off early morning and late evening voting traffic would likely severely limit the number of working citizens who are able to vote on the ballot question.
“The timing, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., that’s going to eliminate the possibility for a lot of people to vote. I doesn’t make any sense to me. People who work, that’s why the polls are open early in the morning [and after the nighttime commute],” the Ward 1 councilor remarked.
“I agree,” Higgins responded matter-of-factly, while emphasizing that Northeast Metro Tech staff, rather than her office, pushed for the restricted polling times.
Citizens in Woburn and nine other communities will be heading to the polls next month to settle the fate of Northeast Metro Tech’s proposed $317 million high school building project.
Generating little controversy in Woburn, the construction of the new state-of-the-art facility across from the existing Northeast Metro Tech building in Wakefield will cost the community around $15.7 million over the next 30 years. Presently, around 115 local students attend the vocational school off of Hemlock Road.
Last November, the City Council, advised by Mayor Scott Galvin that the project will tack roughly $900,000 a year onto Woburn’s annual debt service, unanimously endorsed the undertaking.
However, local citizens and officials in Chelsea and Saugus would later vote against the project, setting up the special election next month. Northeast Metro Tech’s School Committee voted unanimously to ask voters to settle the question by heading to the polls in the respective communities on Jan. 25.
Northeast Metro Tech, which provides vocational and career-focussed education studies for students in Stoneham and 11 other cities and towns, is expected to receive around $141 million from the Mass. School Building Authority (MSBA) to offset the new construction budget.
Northeast’s existing 240,000 square foot facility was last updated back in 1970 and contains a multitude of outdated building systems. Despite presently being occupied by 1,281 students, the aging facility was built to house around 900 pupils.
The new school will contain roughly 268,000 square feet of space and be able to accommodate a student population of at least 1,600 pupils.