Yarmouth Selectmen Vote to Sue D-Y Regional School Committee

YARMOUTH – The Yarmouth Board of Selectmen has voted to sue the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District over the process used to win approval for a new middle school last month.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, selectmen claim it was improper for the school board to use a provision that allowed them to bypass town meeting.

Instead, the $117 million project was only put on the ballot, where it passed by a slim combined margin of 25 votes.

“After careful consideration of the terms of our agreement, which was approved by Town Meeting, and the wishes of our voters based on the December 4th election, we have instructed our legal counsel to initiate a lawsuit with the DY Regional District School Committee seeking an invalidation of the process utilized by the Committee to obtain approval for the loan for the new school,” the statement read in part.

Voters in Yarmouth rejected the school and funding plans in last month’s vote. But it passed by a wide enough margin in Dennis to win overall approval.

The final tally in Yarmouth following a recount was 1,500 for and 1,957 against. The final count in the Dennis recount was 1,361 votes for and 879 against.

“The School Committee’s actions under a seldom used provision of law must yield to the duly enacted provisions of the Regional Agreement,” reads the statement from Yarmouth selectmen.

Regional School Committee Chairman Jeni Landers said she’s disappointed selectmen have decided to file a lawsuit.

“It is an unfortunate use of resources. I really wish that everybody could just be focused on providing the best possible facilities for our students,” she said.

Landers also said it appears Yarmouth officials are threatening legal action as a way to force changes to the regional agreement between Dennis and Yarmouth that governs the school district.

“That’s just not the way we work. Our priority it providing a top quality education,” she said.

But Landers said they would also be prepared to work on amending the agreement in the future.

The proposed school would house students in the district from grades 4-7.

The plan also calls for closing the Mattacheese Middle School in Yarmouth.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has already voted to give the district partial reimbursement for the project and it’s unknown if a lawsuit or injunction could imperil that approval.

“The last we heard from the MSBA, the vote had passed and as far as we’re concerned that was binding and they’re (MSBA) prepared to proceed,” said Landers.

She did say they’ll have to reach out to the state at this point to make sure they will still move forward with the project.

Other regional districts in Massachusetts have bypassed town meeting in favor of a town election for school construction votes in the past.

That’s the process that was used last year to win approval for a new school among the 12 towns in the Cape Cod Regional Technical High School District

The statement from Yarmouth selectmen said they remain willing to negotiate and commit to a new construction proposal.

The following is the full statement from the Yarmouth Board of Selectmen issued Thursday:

The Yarmouth Board of Selectmen has carefully considered the terms of our Regional School Agreement and Massachusetts law relating to financing major capital projects. After careful consideration of the terms of our agreement, which was approved by Town Meeting, and the wishes of our voters based on the December 4th election, we have instructed our legal counsel to initiate a lawsuit with the DY Regional District School Committee seeking an invalidation of the process utilized by the Committee to obtain approval for the loan for the new school.

The School Committee’s actions under a seldom used provision of law must yield to the duly enacted provisions of the Regional Agreement.

As demonstrated by our Town’s support of substantial budget overrides in the last two fiscal years, we believe in high quality education for our students. Our Selectboard has consistently expressed the need for significant revisions to our Regional Agreement with the Town of Dennis.

We remain willing to negotiate and commit to the needed changes, and to reconsider a new construction proposal once an agreement has been reached and voted upon.

By MATT PITTA, CapeCod.com News Director

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