ATHENS — Voters at the annual Town Meeting on Saturday agreed to give official designation to a committee formed earlier this year to look into the town’s relationship with Madison-based School Administrative District 59.
Emotions flared in January with a proposal to move about 35 Athens junior high students to Madison next year in an attempt to save money. The district was trying to fill a $400,000 to $600,000 gap left by the recent secession of Starks.
The school board in February unanimously voted not to move the students, but the town’s share of school district continues to rise, and residents fear the school board’s goal is to close their school.
Committee members said they will concentrate on maintaining the existing pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade Athens Elementary School, not on withdrawing from the district, resident Dan Viles said.
“This is not a withdrawal committee — this committee has no bias,” Viles said. “We just want to know what our options are.”
Residents Saturday expressed frustration with the town’s apparent lack of equal representation on the school board and a feeling of helplessness if Madison board members vote as a block to move students from Athens to Madison in the future.
Athens board member Karen Corson said the committee is made up of between eight and 12 members. She said a survey was sent out in recent weeks and 173 respondents said they wanted to look at what the town’s options are from the state and from neighboring districts.
SAD 59 Superintendent Todd LeRoy, who was present for the meeting Saturday, said he feels he represents the town of Athens just as much as he does the town of Madison.
“They need to know what their options are,” LeRoy said. “And if they feel that their options lead them in a direction that takes them away from MSAD 59, because I represent them. I certainly would be willing to work with them to try and figure out what going to be best for them.
“I hope that in doing this they’ll find that it’s not the best thing and that the relationship with Madison and Athens can heal a little bit. There are certainly some scars and some wounds.”
LeRoy said the district is not looking to close the Athens school, but with the financial times as they are, the district has to look and think creatively.
He said Madison would remain an SAD even if Athens does agree to secede.
In townwide elections on Friday, incumbent Road Commissioner Timothy Small beat former road commissioner John Barron 130-75 for a one-year term. All other races were uncontested.
In voting from the floor of the meeting Saturday, about 50 residents in attendance approved spending articles at the requested $414,715, up $2,717 from last year’s budget.
Of that, $247,585 is to come from taxation. The rest of the money will come from excise tax and from surplus accounts.
Voters also agreed to spend $165,00 for road maintenance and $71,000 for solid waste disposal and $5,000 for improvements to the transfer station, which First Selectman Bruce Clavette said could lead to a recycling program.
Residents also agreed to raise $7,000 to establish an equipment account for the Athens Volunteer Fire Department for the purchase of a fire truck. Voters also agreed to authorize the purchase of a used grader and used loader for an amount not to exceed $80,000.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]

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