Board looks to get word out on vote
by Mike Eldred
May 14, 2017 | 3488 views | 0 0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHITINGHAM- Twin Valley board members discussed public outreach and information ahead of a May 31 public vote to create a unified union district.

If approved by voters, Twin Valley’s current joint school contract would be shelved, and Wilmington and Whitingham’s school districts would merge to become one district. The merger would satisfy mandates under Act 46 for the two towns and, if other towns in Windham Southwest Supervisory Union merge to form their own district, the merger would result in tax incentives and other school funding. Under the Twin Valley plan, the two towns would elect a single seven-member board and taxpayers would have a common education tax rate – only differing by the CLA in each town.

Board member reviewed their informational materials, used at previous public meetings on their plan, which described Act 46 and outlined Twin Valley’s study process. Board members decided to revamp the presentation, cutting several pages of material including information on the history of consolidation legislation, the state’s goals for Act 46, deadlines and time lines. In place of that information, board members plan to include more information about how the merger will affect Twin Valley schools, students, parents, and voters.

“People are going to ask about the governance structure of the new board,” said board member Aimee Reed.

“There may be a lot of people who don’t understand the unification,” said board member Clare Watkin.

“This (presentation) should be more specific to our situation,” agreed board member Kathy Larsen. “This was originally for all five of the schools, and revised somewhat for us.”

Twin Valley has scheduled public information meetings on the proposed unified union merger for Tuesday, May 23, at 7 pm at Twin Valley Elementary School, and Thursday, May 25, at 7 pm at Twin Valley Middle/High School.

During previous information discussions regarding the unified union merger, members of the public, especially those in Whitingham, have expressed concern about the ownership of the former high school building, currently owned by the Wilmington School District. Under the law, any property owned by the districts when the merger takes effect will belong to the new unified union district.

Tuesday’s Twin Valley meeting followed a Wilmington School Board executive session to discuss real estate contract negotiations connected to their efforts to sell the former high school. Last week, Wilmington School Board members met in executive session with the Wilmington Selectboard on the same matter. During the Twin Valley meeting, Wilmington board members said they may not have a deal in place to transfer the building before the May 31 vote.

“We’re hopeful that, prior to the Act 46 vote, we can update the public on what’s on the horizon,” said Wilmington board member Adam Grinold, “But I don’t see any clarity coming to that situation before then. Negotiations are under way, but it won’t be sold before (the vote).”

Larsen and Grinold said they were concerned that the issue could jeopardize a favorable vote on the merger, but they remained tightlipped about the negotiations Tuesday evening. The Wilmington board has warned two more special meetings for old school contract negotiations on Wednesday and Thursday, May 17 and 18.

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