Opinion: Fiasco with the old police station

Jan 9, 2024

To the editor:

At its meeting of January 8, 2023, one of the Select Board’s agenda items was “Police Station Demolition and Environmental Assessment Discussion.” Town Counsel Anthony Savastano opened this agenda item with his opinion that the Historical Commission never followed its demolition review guidelines, and that the Town was not obligated to save the building. If true, town counsel was complicit in perpetuating a charade that had gone on for months. I think that Savastano was grasping at straws to please his employers. 

In a half-hearted effort, Chair David Tatelbaum announced that the town should let the marketplace dictate what to do with the former police station by putting the building on the market. The Select Board has the authority to do that but instead it saw fit to introduce the formation of a small “advisory” committee to look into it. The Select Board, either unable or unwilling to do the work or make decisions, the town is typically managed by committee. Clearly, Tatelbaum just wants this problem to go away. With this committee, chosen by the Select Board through the Town Administrator, we can all predict what that process will look like. 

Stan Mickelson, the most vocal advocate for demolition, is leading the charge for the end game as part of this continuing rigged process. Namely, that the town will spend money on fleshing out a proposal for a recreation center and therefore must demolish the former police station to build a parking lot for a recreation center that doesn’t exist. With an override looming, this $20 million recreation center is just a pipe dream.

In another example of town officials discrediting any efforts or recommendations by the Historical Commission to save the former police station, they refused to read any letters of support by the Community Preservation Committee or the Finance Committee for the public record.  They also chose not to inform the public that the environmental firm, Tetra Tech, Inc., which after a site visit organized by the Historical Commission, submitted a proposal with a suggested a budget of $4,500 to do an Indoor Environmental Quality Assessment. The next step was to bring in a structural engineer which had been lined up. But as of last evening, all that has been thwarted.  

Grabbed directly from the town’s website, “the mission of the Dartmouth Select Board is to provide high quality, efficient, and cost-effective municipal services to ensure the safety, education, and well-being of the community.” It is claimed that volunteer boards and committees are vital to running our town. If the Historical Commission is any example, were I a member, I would run, not walk, to the nearest exit given the disrespect given to this group. Town Hall has turned into a ghost town. The technological conveniences purported to help residents leaves much to be desired. Try to get in touch with the Select Board Office or the Town Administrator, you’re likely to get an assistant if you’re patient long enough to listen to the series of menu selections. I don’t know if the Select Board and its Town Administrator are just lazy, incompetent, disingenuous, or all of the above. These people aren’t even effective at going through the motions as this fiasco with the former police station will attest. 

Diane Gilbert

Dartmouth, MA