Planning for Dartmouth’s future at Spring Town Meeting

Jun 6, 2023

Town Meeting made its voice heard June 6, allocating $200,000 for legal counsel to represent the town in its ongoing issues over proposed septic upgrades, approving town and school budgets and creating regulations for donation bins.

Among the 27 items discussed, Town Meeting approved $200,000 to hire legal counsel “to represent the town’s interests in the proposed changes to the Massachusetts DEP Title 5 regulations and watershed permit.”

The town has been at odds with the state over its proposal that residents replace their septic systems with ones containing nitrogen-filtering technology as part of an effort to decrease pollutants in the region’s waterways.

Some residents and officials have questioned the cost of potential septic upgrades and stated that the town has not been represented in the discussions on the issue.

Although not everyone has septic, the amendment is meant to support all the people of the town, said former Select Board member John Haran, who sponsored the article.

“We want to send a message that the Town of Dartmouth is ready to fight this, and that’s what this is all about,” said Robert Gauvin, Chairperson of the Finance Committee.

Not all Select Board members supported the idea of setting the money aside, with Select Board Chair David Tatelbaum saying the move may be too soon.

“We are getting notices from DEP that change on a regular basis. They have still not really stated what they are going to do,” Tatelbaum said. “I think it is premature, we definitely need to do something, to look ahead, but why tie our hands?”

Town Meeting also approved a school budget of $51,552,183. The overall budget approved for both schools and the municipal side was $99,723,748.

Voters approved $500,000 from Community Preservation funds to construct a 10-unit residential facility for people 55 years and older who suffer from mental disabilities, such as depression, anxiety, isolation and hoarding.

The Mendes-Monteiro House, which will be built on Anderson Way, will have a 24-hour staff seven days a week to assist its residents.

The project is expected to finish in about two years.

Some Town Meeting members had concerns about Dartmouth residents not being prioritized for the housing after the initial residents move in. But other voters pointed out that people become residents when they move to town.

Other changes that were approved include the addition of a communications coordinator for the town, at a cost of $70,000. This position will provide outreach and communication to the public through various means, including its website, social media and print and television media. This position is important, Town Administrator Shawn MacInness has said, to keep the public better informed about what is happening in the community.

Most of the cost for this new job was offset by the loss of a confidential licensing aide position, which was eliminated through online efficiency changes.

The Town Clerk also received a pay increase of $6,568. Some Town Meeting members questioned the raise, but town officials explained that the number is comparable to those of other department heads and town clerks with similar responsibilities.

Without any discussion, voters agreed that donation bins in town should be registered. This change, which will be added to town bylaws, was sparked by concerns from some town officials that donation bins can be overflowing, creating potential aesthetic and safety concerns.

Davoll’s General Store’s effort to receive a beer and wine license was postponed indefinitely with no explanation.