Consolidation passes in Westmer and Aledo by a landslide

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
From left brothers Logan, Jesse and Zeke Snyder help carry in ballots from the 24 Mercer County precincts on Nov. 4, 2008 during the election.

By a more than 76 percent margin in Aledo Community Unit School District #201 and more than 69 percent margin in Westmer Community Unit School District #203 voters agreed to consolidate the two school districts into a new district on Nov. 4, 2008.

The votes from the 14 precincts in Aledo were 2,271 yes and 714 no. Westmer's six precincts voted 1,034 yes and 458 no for the consolidation. The CUSD will be formed for the 2009-2010 school year, with a new seven member school board chosen during this election. They will begin their duties on July 1, 2009.

Waiting at the Mercer County Courthouse for the results was Victor Johnson, co-chairman of the Committee of 10, who along with co-chairman Eric Coulter, worked towards coming up with the best plan to merge the two districts. Declining enrollment was the main impetus for this merge.

“We didn’t really know how this was going to turn out,” said Johnson. “I’m very thankful that it did pass.”

He said the committee worked very hard to get the message out into the community. “It was a team effort.”

He said he was both surprised at the overwhelming vote and pleased. “The new school board is going to have a lot of tough decisions to make.”

Johnson said that the Committee of 10 held a good number of informational meetings in both communities, but it was difficult to predict whether voters were in agreement with the merge. He said the tax base for the new combined district would be around $107 million, as opposed to the separate districts trying to survive on $71 million for Aledo and $36 million for Westmer.

“I didn’t have any idea it would pass with this much approval,” he said.

Twelve people were on the ballot to become part of the school board, with voters choosing seven. The votes have not all been counted, as there are still 14 days for absentee ballots to be submitted. The following tally does not include vote totals from Rock Island County voters in the Westmer School district Vote tallies as of the end of Nov. 4, 2008 in Mercer and Henderson counties:

Doug Ball 2,601

Trisha Hank 2,332

Michael L. Retherford 2,314

Donald L. Yates 2,155

Dwight L. Shoemaker 1,959

Steven Laurence Willits 1,898

Kay Forret 1,836

Todd E. Line 1,835

Michael L. Hedrick 1,806

Ira H. Cunningham 1,799

Marta Tucker 1,560

Mike Bowns 686

Mercer County election judges Judy Loving (left) and Kathy Newswander sign off on early voting and absentee ballots cast for the Nov. 4, 2008 election.