Select Board recommends all Spring Town Meeting requests

May 15, 2024

The agenda, featuring Dartmouth’s first time with a budget over $100 million, has officially been set for Dartmouth’s Spring Town Meeting, which takes place Tuesday, June 4 at 9 a.m. in the Dartmouth High School auditorium.

The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend all but two items — each with one vote in opposition. 

At  a Monday, May 6 meeting, the Charter Review Committee discussed a request to change how members of the Select Board are elected. The request is specifically looking to remove the lotted seats, in which candidates run for a specific seat rather than for the Select Board’s open seats.

The Select Board voted 4-1 in favor of recommending the request, with Select Board Chair Shawn McDonald voting in opposition, stating that members up for reelection should have to “run on [their] record.”

The second non-unanimous vote also comes from a Charter Review Committee request that was discussed at a Monday, May 15 meeting. The request calls for the Select Board to oversee the hiring and compensation negotiation of the director of Public Works. 

At this time, that responsibility falls under the Board of Public Works, which is the only appointed board with such powers, according to Select Board member Heidi Brooks. 

However, Select Board member David Tatelbaum voted in opposition to recommending the request, stating that it’s not an appropriate time to make such a decision given some organization concerns at the department.

Because these are Town Charter requests, if these changes are brought before Town Meeting and are accepted, they will still need to be approved by voters on the spring election ballot in 2025.

Tatelbaum argued the request could be held until the Fall Town Meeting and would still make it on the ballot. However, McDonald said the time to remove anything from the agenda has passed. 

McDonald said once an item is presented, it stays on the agenda unless the language is incorrect and town counsel deems it invalid. 

He said, “At that point in time, it can be voted against indefinitely, postponed or withdrawn by the sponsor.”

The same day as the Monday meeting, Dartmouth Historical Commission member Chris Sewall sent a letter requesting that the item seeking authorization for the Select Board to sell the old police station be withdrawn from the agenda. The commission voted 5-1 in favor of its removal, according to the letter.

The old police station, located at 247 Russells Mills Road, was abandoned in 2014 after legionella bacteria, which can cause a severe type of pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease, was discovered in the plumbing. 

Sewall and other members of the Historical Commission argue the building can still be rehabilitated and would be a worthy cause for the town. She added they would like to see the results of the appraisal and evaluation of the building before it goes to Town Meeting.

In the letter, Sewall said the request was submitted for Town Meeting without input from the commission despite having been told there would be an opportunity to do so. 

However, as McDonald explained, the time to remove items from the Town Meeting agenda had already passed. 

In response to the commission’s letter, he said the Select Board is only seeking authorization to have the “option” to sell the property. Town Meeting approval would not mean the property is going to be sold.