Construction, renovation, and decisions: A look at what’s coming up in 2020

Jan 2, 2020

With a new year comes new projects and decisions which need to be made. From a returning tradition to new buildings, here is a look at some of the things in store for Dartmouth in 2020. 

Freedom Festival returns

Fireworks fans will have a hometown venue to celebrate the Fourth of July this year, as UMass Dartmouth will bring back its popular Freedom Festival in 2020. 

The annual fireworks spectacular at UMass Dartmouth was a tradition in Dartmouth for 20 years. The last Freedom Festival was held in 2015, and was put on hold due to construction and budget constraints.

The return of the Freedom Festival is the first major goal of the town-gown compact, an initiative launched by the Town of Dartmouth and UMass Dartmouth to work together on tackling issues, collaborating, and bridging the university and town.

Memorial Stadium renovation

The first phase of a major renovation project of the Slocum Road stadium was completed in the fall of 2019. It brought with it a new artificial turf field, LED lighting, and other smaller improvements to the aging Slocum Road field. But there is still work to be done. 

In 2020, work will continue with the $3.6 million final phase of the project. The stadium's visitor and home grandstands will be renovated, as will the kitchen and bathrooms. Concession stands, a maintenance shed, and other structures will be added as well.

Old police station redevelopment

In the spring, the Dartmouth Police Department made the move from its 249 Russells Mills Road station to its new headquarters building on Tucker Road. With the site vacant, what to do with the property has been placed in the hands of a committee of citizens and town officials to figure out. 

Over the past year, the Police Station Use Review Committee has been coming up with ideas for the 1.97-acre property. The committee is in the process of determining the best use of the land and how to move forward, to present to the Select Board for further debate.

At the committee's last meeting, ideas presented included selling the land for private development, maintaining it as parkland or open space, or swapping land with another agency like Dartmouth Fire District No. 1. 

New housing projects

New apartment buildings on Route 6 and a care facility for disabled people are still in the planning stages. 

The developers of the Dartmouth Woods apartment complex are continuing to plan for an expansion called Dartmouth Woods II at the old Joe’s Used Cycles property on State Road. 

The company is in the process of securing a comprehensive permit under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law, which allows project developers to bypass local zoning bylaws in exchange for setting aside units as affordable housing. Environmental issues on land littered with past pollution problems have dragged the permitting process into 2020.

The Dartmouth Housing Authority and Partners in Housing, a nonprofit organization, are working to bring the Mendes-Monteiro House to construction. 

The 7,600 square-foot facility, planned for Anderson Way, will be supported by the state Department of Mental Health to provide communal and independent living to disabled seniors.

Town budget and health care costs

A protracted debate over employee health care costs and the town’s budget are likely to make an impact on budgeting and contract negotiations in 2020.

Teachers and town employees have been working without contracts since the fall due in part to negotiations over the town’s health care split of 52-48 percent. They are calling for the town to address the rising cost of health care. 

At a December 2019 meeting, town officials decided to set up a new committee to look into a possible Proposition 2 ½ override to address health care costs. It would allow the town to raise property taxes above the state-set maximum of 2 ½ percent in a year.

No decisions have been made, as debate and negotiations continue.

Tucker Road relocation 

The traffic nightmare on Faunce Corner Road and Route 6 could see improvement with a project to realign Tucker Road with Hathaway Road.

No final plans have been approved, but current design drafts call for the relocation of Tucker Road slightly to the east, aligning it with Hathaway Road. This would create a new, four-way, signalized intersection with Route 6, Tucker Road, and Hathaway Road. 

According to MassDOT, the project will include the addition of wider shoulders and new turning lanes, and bicycle, pedestrian access, and drainage improvements.

The project is in the 25 percent design phase, according to MassDOT’s project tracker, and several design issues are still being worked out, including land takings and demolitions which will be necessary. 

Rec center study

In 2020, town officials will be working with consultants to assess the town’s recreation facilities, including both the Council on Aging and Dartmouth Parks and Recreation.

“We’re trying to just do an assessment to see what our needs are, what do we need for space, what do we need for buildings to accommodate programming for now and in the future,” said Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes.