Fall River voters were less than enthusiastic in their approval yesterday of a debt exclusion that clears the way for a new Durfee High School.The measure, that will see property taxes increase by as much as $115 annually for thirty years passed by a 1,805 vote margin but, only 16.6 percent of eligible voters cared enough to vote.

The existing high school is a mess. It was poorly constructed and not very well maintained since its opening in 1978, four years after the current New Bedford High School opened for business. Most agree that rehabbing the existing school would be too costly. Since the Massachusetts School Building Authority is willing to cover 62.5 percent of the $235 million cost of construction, it makes sense to build a new high school.The city's share would be about $98 million.

Current plans are for a groundbreaking next year with the new school opening in September of 2021.

It saddens me deeply that with so much at stake that voters would choose to steer clear of the polls for this special election. Not only does the debt exclusion put taxpayers on the hook for decades to come but, the vote also involved charting a course forward for Fall River's troubled education system.

Those who skipped the vote will be the first to complain about the new tax rates. That's human nature. But, how could so many care so little about the future of education for their kids and grandkids?  Fall River's silence on this very important issue speaks volumes about a people who constantly complain that they have somehow been gypped out of their fair share.

Shame on you Fall River. Your apathy is showing.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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