With North Shore leaders and lawmakers assembled behind him, Gov. Deval Patrick reached for one of the dozen pens resting on his desk and paused.
"Everybody ready?" the governor asked.
The region has been ready for a brand-new, state-of-the art vocational high school for more than a decade, municipal leaders have said. Yesterday morning's bill signing inside the governor's office finally capped the yearlong process of securing each community's approval to start construction of the $133 million megavoke.
"It's been a long journey," said Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry, D-Peabody. "... I can't wait until we get a shovel in the ground."
The amendments Patrick signed into law marked only minor changes to the planned merger of Essex Aggie, North Shore Tech and Peabody's trade program. It created a temporary board to conduct the school's business until a new School Committee meets and protected the job rights of Peabody school workers transferred to the megavoke.
Mostly, the bill signing was a publicity event where North Shore leaders and Beacon Hill lawmakers congratulated each other for shoring up the required support and finally moving forward on the planned 1,400-student school.
"If ever there were an example of what a team effort can produce, this is it," said Danvers Town Manager Wayne Marquis, who has been involved in the school's planning for 12 years.
State Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, called the megavoke project the "most important and most complex work done in my entire career."
Berry called the new school a "jobs creator," and Patrick said it would help the region keep up with the training of skilled workers.
"There's a tremendous demand for talent being cultivated in these programs, more than we can meet," Patrick said. "This allows us to do it in a more cost-effective way."
State Reps. Mary Grant, D-Beverly, and Joyce Spiliotis, D-Peabody, mayors Michael Bonfanti of Peabody and Bill Scanlon of Beverly and officials from the merging schools were also at the governor's office for the signing.
The state will pay for $98.6 million of the total $133 million price. When it opens in the fall of 2013, the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School will offer programs focusing on construction technology, animal and plant sciences and life and natural sciences. The school will also hold adult night classes.
"This is going to mean the North Shore will have a steady supply of competent, trained, skilled craftsmen," said Scanlon.
Staff writer Chris Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.