Janet Kuech, left, Tuesday is sworn in as a member of the Town Council Tuesday by Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors. Robert Lowell / American Journal

GORHAM — The School Department appears to have carte blanche to use bond money for a $750,000 kitchen at Narragansett Elementary after the Town Council failed to act Tuesday on sending it to voters.

“We’re going to move forward as the School Committee voted to do,” School Committee Chairman Stewart McCallister said Wednesday.

The School Committee previously approved funding the kitchen from the $2.8 million voters approved last year for modular classrooms and a cafeteria at the school. School officials will pay for the kitchen with $500,000 of unused funds from the referendum and $249,000 from its previously approved operating budget.

But the referendum question voters approved didn’t specify a kitchen, and Town Councilor Benjamin Hartwell says the kitchen proposal requires another referendum under the town’s charter.

The Town Council Tuesday did not discuss or vote on Hartwell’s request to send the proposed kitchen to a referendum in June.  Why he failed to get any support on the council is “a very good question,” Hartwell said.

Council Chairman Suzanne Phillips said Wednesday that the council taking no action doesn’t mean it approves or disapproves  “of what the School Committee will do.”

The town charter requires any capital expenditure over $250,000 be submitted to a referendum.

“It is a charter requirement, ” Hartwell said Wednesday, adding that he does not disapprove of Narragansett getting a new kitchen.

Because the kitchen project is outside the scope of what voters approved last year, he said, it will be a “violation of the charter” if the project proceeds.

“If anyone felt strongly that the kitchen was within the scope of what was already approved, and did not feel it needs to go to referendum, a competing resolution would have been appropriate,” Hartwell said.

The kitchen proved to be a hot issue. Tuesday’s meeting was well attended by school officials and parents, some accompanied by children.

The kitchen issue generated a flurry of correspondence. “We all got quite a few emails,” Hartwell said.

Phillips said she received 12 emails with two favoring a referendum.

Janet Kuech, a School Department employee who was sworn as as a town councilor at Tuesday’s meeting, recused herself from the kitchen referendum matter and stepped down from the board during the discussion.

Kuech, an education technician at Narragansett, was elected in November, but had been disqualified because she is an employee of the town. She fought the disqualification and the matter was resolved last month after court mediation.

Kuech was appointed to the Town Council Finance Committee.

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