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North Stonington — Selectman Bob Testa surprised many people, perhaps including himself, when he voted Tuesday night to send a resolution appropriating funds for the long-discussed school improvement project to the Board of Finance.
Tuesday's Board of Selectmen meeting, which Selectman Mark Donahue was unable to attend, was full of tense moments. First Selectman Nick Mullane acknowledged that he put Testa "on the spot" by asking him to vote in favor of the motion despite his strong objections to the project.
Mullane argued that the selectmen needed to act immediately if the town was going to be able to approve the project this year, because the town would have to submit plans to the state by June 30 to be eligible for partial reimbursement. He recorded Testa's objections to the plan and said the selectman could still argue against the project, but wanted the voters to at least have the chance to vote on the most recent proposal.
While discussing the project, Testa said he was troubled that supporters of the plan called him "anti-education" and that he felt the town simply could not afford the project. In the big picture, the proposal is not in the best interests of the school, he said.
Some of his comments provoked townspeople and Board of Education members to speak up, leading to arguments. Testa and others talked over the first selectman as he tried to get the discussion back on track.
But the meeting ended with applause and laughter when Testa, after a lengthy disclaimer, voted to send the proposal to the finance board and the selectmen cracked jokes about the earlier discussion.
The Board of Finance will consider the proposal tonight, and a town meeting and referendum will follow later this month.