Voters turn out in full-force for three-school merger vote

By HILARY LANE and LEXIE O'CONNOR

HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - While last month's straw vote for the proposed three district school merger in Herkimer County passed in all three of the school districts, officials are expecting the final vote to generate much tighter results.

The results in the Herkimer District were the closest in the straw vote, leading to residents coming out in full force for Thursday's final referendum to make sure their voices and stances are heard.

Herkimer Jr/Sr High School was mobbed all day on Thursday, with people packed shoulder-to-shoulder, stretching out through the school's hallways, each one waiting to get into the school library and cast their ballot. There was more than just waiting going on in those hallways, with many people debating amongst each other. Some were demonstrating outside the school with signs and at least one fight broke out in the parking lot.

Regardless of a stance, it was clear that those voting were passionate about their views and the future of the school districts.

"We are going with ourselves and Ilion," said Marissa Nuttl, who said she voted 'no.' "That's like, our major rivalry. Already people are talking, it is going to turn into fighting and everything else."

"I think it is going to benefit the whole community and the whole area," said Don Bronson, who voted 'yes.' "Certainly gives the kids opportunities they don't have right now, both academically and sports and everything else."

Merging the three school districts would provide the combined district with $59 million in incentive aid for extracurricular activities and increased programming.

After just two hours of polls being open, about 300 people had voted in the Village of Mohawk. While some voters said they feel a bigger district would yield bigger opportunities for their students, others still questioned the plan.

"You're gonna' take three broke schools and make one broke school and its not guaranteed money," said Tammy Hendrick, who voted 'no.'

"I talked to my parents and grandparents about it and did actually convince my mom to change her mind, and she was from Mohawk, was against it originally," said Alissa Snyder, whose parents voted 'yes.' "She wanted it to stay Mohawk and after seeing my schedule and seeing the lack of classes I have, (she decided) that we need a merger."

As a senior and honor student at Mohawk, Alissa Snyder said she's run out of classes to take. While she likes the idea of soon being a third generation Mohawk graduate, she feels the change needs to happen.

While some in Ilion said they were concerned about losing their schools and communities own separate identities with one merged district, others said it is time to look out for the kids and feel the increase in classes and programs that a merged district would bring is worth it.

"I have three little sisters and a little brother," said Destiny Goff, who voted 'no.' "They all go to Ilion, two in grade school, two in junior high, and they don't wanna' leave the school."

"I don't know about what color, what sport," said Keith Neale, who voted 'yes.' "You know, education is more important. I mean, the village is out and the taxpayers, why not."

In addition to incentive aid, one merged district is estimated to reduce property taxes in both the Mohawk and Herkimer School Districts, keeping Ilion's stable at its current rate.

The polls will remain open in each district until 8 p.m. The results of the final binding vote will be counted at Ilion.

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