ROCKINGHAM -- A vote for a $10.5 million bond that would have paid for extensive renovations to the Bellows Falls Middle School was defeated by three votes at a Town Meeting Day Australian ballot election.
The controversial bond vote, which the Rockingham School Board worked on for almost three years, lost by a 471-474 count.
Twenty-eight percent of Rockingham voters came to the polls Tuesday, with 962 of the town's 3,370 registered voters filling out a ballot
Supporters of the project walked around in disbelief after the results were read while opponents celebrated.
Article 6 Committee Chairman Tim Doherty said the Rockingham School Board will likely hold a vote to decide if the board will ask for a recount.
"We will contest the vote," Doherty said. "But the people spoke, and if that's what they want, then we are going to have to move on."
The Article 6 Committee held a series of meetings over the past three years and explored a number of options before going to the voters for the renovation.
But even after all the meetings, Doherty said there was too much confusion in the last days leading up to the vote.
"We did our homework, but we got hit with a lot of information in the last days. There were a lot of numbers flying around," Doherty said. "It was a great committee, and if the vote stands, we'll just have to figure out our next step.
The Rockingham School Board began exploring the project after learning that the electrical, ventilation and heating systems in the historic 85-year-old building were all in need of repair.
BFMS Principal Cheryl McDaniel-Thomas, who came to the polling place to hear the results, said all of those repairs will have to be addressed eventually.
"It's really sad," she said. "I was hoping that we would be able to address all of these issues in a thoughtful way and not just fix each of them after they crash."
In other voting Tuesday, incumbent Selectboard member Peter Golec defeated Lamont Barnett for a three-year seat on the board by a 480-427 count.
In a four-way race for two one-year seats, incumbent Ann DiBernardo and Josh Hearne defeated Lance Allen and Deborah Wright.
DiBernardo led the voting with 481 while Hearne received 452.
Allen came in third with 357 votes while Wright received 298.
In school board voting, Chad Illingworth defeated Annie Guyon, 485-390, for a three-year seat on the Rockingham School Board.
And Bill Metcalfe won a one-year seat on the School Board after receiving 488 votes to Carol Blackwood's 296.
Jim McAuliffe beat incumbent Bellows Falls Union High School Board member Jan Mitchell-Love by a 460-408 vote, and McAuliffe will represent Rockingham on the union high school board for the next three years.
The $7.12 million high school budget passed in Rockingham, 602-334, while the $9.3 million Rockingham school budget was approved, 599-345.
The River Valley Technical Center budget was also approved by Rockingham voters, 604-322.
Steven Fuller, Deborah Wright and Laure Senes won seats on the Rockingham Library Board of Trustees.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.