Select Board votes on Veterans Day ceremony, early voting update, and trick-or-treating

Oct 20, 2020

The Select Board on Monday voted to establish a new Veterans Day tradition, reviewed the town administrator’s performance, got an update on early voting and gave Halloween a thumbs up.

Starting this year, Dartmouth will begin a new Veterans Day tradition with a small, pandemic-safe ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Grove outside the Council on Aging on Nov. 11.

The Select Board voted in favor of the new custom following a presentation by Veterans Service Officer Matthew Brouillette at an Oct. 19 meeting.

Brouillette said that this year’s socially distanced ceremony will include police and fire honor guards, a bugler playing reveille, and a flag raising.

“We’d like to see if we can not only do it this year but moving forward,” he said, adding that it is important to “set aside a day to remember those veterans who have served.”

The Council on Aging will also be holding a drive-thru brunch event on Nov. 6 instead of its annual Veterans Breakfast.

Town Hall will also be open for appointment only again this week to limit public access due to the number of people who have turned up to vote early, officials decided.

Interim Town Clerk Sarah Arruda told the board that in just three days since early voting polls opened on Oct. 17, 1,045 people came to vote in person at Town Hall, at times waiting in long lines to do so.

Arruda said officials have already sent out around 8,600 mail-in ballots, and that many staffers came in early — including at 6 a.m. on Saturday — to help get ballots out to voters.

“We have had just so much help from the community,” she noted. “Everybody has been so helpful and cooperative….It’s really heartwarming.”

To help mitigate parking and crowding issues, Town Hall will also be closed for regular business on Election Day, Nov. 3, and will operate only as a polling location.

Members of the Select Board also approved Dartmouth Board of Health guidelines for trick-or-treating this Halloween. 

“I believe there is a need for trick or treating in all of this,” noted Public Health Director Chris Michaud at the meeting. “There’s a huge mental health component to the pandemic that I don’t really believe is getting the attention that it needs to get.” 

Board member Shawn McDonald agreed. “I’m not gonna say the kids really need this, but the kids really need this,” he said. “I think this is something everybody needs.”

The Select Board also gave Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes his first performance evaluation since he took the job in July 2018, awarding him ratings between “Good” and “Outstanding” in almost every metric.

“As a result of online upgrades, improved technologies, and increased online offerings, our town hall’s functioning during the pandemic was quite remarkable,” read one anonymous comment from a board member.

“The Covid challenge has proved to be your crowning achievement,” read another. “You’re at the top of your game.”

Other comments pointed out a desire for better communication on progress as well as a need to reduce expenses and increase economic activity.

One commenter noted, “It is my opinion that the Town Administrator has not handled the Bliss Corner issue and the Covid-19 crisis well.”

But most comments were positive about MacInnes’ work overall, with one commenter stating, “[He’s done an] extraordinary job in his first two years considering so many new and difficult issues were thrown his way.”

The board voted to begin negotiations on a new contract for MacInnes, whose current three-year contract will expire this summer.