Bin licensing proposal pulled, other Fall Town Meeting warrant articles set

Sep 19, 2022

After some very heated discussion, a proposed bylaw that would require donation bins placed in Dartmouth to be licensed will not appear at the upcoming Fall Town Meeting.

The article was voted down 4-1 by the Select Board as it finalized the warrant at its Sept. 19 meeting.

Along with licensing, the bylaw would have required regular bin maintenance and limited the number of bins a property could have. Bin owners would have faced a $300 fine for any violations.

Select Board Member Shawn McDonald was the lone voice of support for the article.

He argued that having such a bylaw would help mitigate the amount of overflow seen in bins at places like Stop & Shop, which no longer allows bins due to the constant misuse.

“Those were crapholes — every single week it looked disgusting,” he said. 

While the rest of the Select Board agreed with the need to prevent additional messes, members had many concerns with the language of the proposal, along with enforcement of such a bylaw.

“We’re asking [owners] to lock them at night and unlock them in the morning,” Board Chair David Tatelbaum said. “I think that’s not realistic. Who’s going to do that and when?”

He added that stickers would also be very vague in allowing people to differentiate which bins would be used by nonprofits and which would be for-profit.

It was that factor that resulted in the proposal being the only article the Finance Committee had voted down during its review of the warrant at its Sept. 15 meeting. 

Committee Chair Bob Gauvin told the Select Board that the definition of bin was “too broad” and that such language could impact flag disposal sites and little free libraries. 

“We have an attorney that was a member of our board and when he read that…” he said. “It’s rare for the Finance Committee to be totally against [an article], but we felt it needed more work.”

Select Board member Heidi Brooks agreed, noting that she would like to see further collaboration with other town departments. She noted that along with being placed outside businesses on Route 6, Dartmouth’s public schools have a number of them on their properties.

According to Brooks, these bins bring in roughly $12,000 in annual revenue for the school district.

“I’ve since spoken with [Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations James] Kiely… it’s not something he’d like to thumb his nose at,” she said.

McDonald said that had the article been approved at Fall Town meeting, officials could “always make the change to the bylaw.”

“We need to get something on the books or else these bins are just going to be a disgusting eyesore throughout the entire town,” he said.

Though the article is now pulled, Brooks said the intention is to rework the language with town counsel and try to get it on the warrant for Spring Town Meeting, which is scheduled for June 6, 2023.

All 12 other articles for the upcoming Fall Town Meeting were approved unanimously by the Select Board.

Notable items include playground equipment upgrades at Dartmouth Regional Park and Trails, the expansion of the Dias Landing Marina, and the creation of a stabilization fund for money the town is receiving as part of a settlement of a national lawsuit it entered last year against drug distributors involved in the opioid epidemic.

The Town of Dartmouth will receive more than $1.1 million in cumulative payments over 16 years from the settlement.

There will also be a number of capital improvement plans such as security and intercom upgrades in the town’s public schools, new vehicles for the police department and Department of Public Works, and design for a project that would relocate part of Tucker Road to create a single intersection with Hathaway Road at Route 6.

Fall Town Meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at Dartmouth High. Packets containing all warrant information will be sent to Town Meeting members by Oct. 4.