Town Meeting members to vote on police cruisers, tech updates, cemetery expansion

Oct 13, 2016

Town Meeting members will be asked to approve spending $3.5 million to fund police cruisers, school improvements, and library construction, among other requests.

Town government is requesting $105,000 to pay for technology updates in several buildings. That includes $25,000 to replace printing equipment, such as copier and scanners, as well as computer replacements and software costs, said Town Administrator David Cressman.

The Dartmouth Police Department also put in a request for $141,634 for vehicle replacements. The department plans to purchase four new marked police cruisers and two unmarked administrative vehicles, according to Dartmouth Police Chief Robert Szala.

He said the purchase of new police vehicles allows the department to take the fullest advantage of police vehicle warranties. Vehicles the department purchases typically include three-year, 75,000-mile warranties.

Dartmouth Public Schools is seeking $967,493 for projects to be completed over the next year.

School Business Administrator James Kiely explained the $115,493 request to go towards school technology and infrastructure, including hardware replacement, peripherals, Smartboards, and desktops in computer labs.

The district also seeks $100,000 to complete a master plan of all school facilities, utilizing the services of an outside architectural firm. Kiely said the project is long overdue as the district operates using aging buildings.

"We haven't done something formal like this in many years, since at least the 1980s," Kiely said. "The average age of Dartmouth school buildings is 65 years. We need a plan on how to move forward."

The district is also seeking $295,000 to replace the leaking roof and loose shingles on the Bush Street administration building.

"It's needed to keep this building up and running," Kiely said.

Other school items on the agenda include $52,000 to replace food service cash registers that are too old to repair.

"They are beyond their usable life," Kiely said. "They are obsolete. Our technology guys piece them together on a regular basis."

The department is also requesting $165,000 to fix problems in the middle and high school auditoriums, including lighting and sound issues.

The final item on the school district’s requests includes $240,000 to replace two modular classrooms which are currently in use at the Potter and DeMello schools. Kiely said the existing portable classrooms are approaching their end of life, but the schools still need the extra space they provide.

The Department of Public Works has requested $1,356,750 in funding. This includes $900,000 in road maintenance and improvements, replacement 4x4 pickup trucks, a new dump truck, and a street sweeper.

According to Cressman, the $900,000 road maintenance and improvement funding will include funds for the Padanaram sidewalk improvement project, which will widen and improve the sidewalks on the stretch of Elm Street between Prospect Street and the New Bedford Yacht Club, and on Bridge Street from the Dartmouth Fire District No. 1 station to the Padanaram Causeway.

Cressman said the Board of Public Works will be responsible for deciding exactly how much money will go into that project from the amount the department is requesting.

Dartmouth Public Libraries are requesting $50,000 to complete a replacement of the Southworth Library parking lot.

The department is also requesting $700,000 for construction of the new North Dartmouth Library. The existing library at 1383 Tucker Road falls in the way of a planned street relocation. The proposed site for a new location is at 211 Cross Road.

Cressman said the town will need to appropriate $5.1 million over the next three years for the project. The town will be doing that by appropriating $700,000 each year in funds at Fall Town Meeting and $1 million in bonds each year at Spring Town Meeting.

Cressman said an additional $150,000 will be raised from gifts or other grants through the library.

Town Meeting members will also vote to authorize the construction project itself and to allow the town to apply for grants to cover part of the project cost.

Parks and Recreation is seeking $235,000 for two projects. The department seeks  $220,000 to improve the restrooms at Round Hill, which Park Director Tim Lancaster said were renovated in the 1990s, but the capacity hasn't been updated since the facilities were built in the 1970s. The number of season passes sold in the past 15 years has doubled to more than 4,000, said Lancaster, but even that number doesn't represent multi-person vehicles and day passes.

"Those facilities just weren't designed to handle that many people," he said via phone. The lack of updates has caused the restrooms to be rundown and there are constant lines, said Lancaster.

Lancaster's second request is for $15,000, set for looking into expanding the Evergreen Cemetery on Old Fall River Road. The cemetery currently houses 1,000 plots, but only a third of the property is developed.

"We've probably got about 2-3 years left," said Lancaster, explaining that the cemetery is running out of room for burial sites. Lancaster said the town should proactively develop the remaining property to avoid a shortage.