Town Meeting to weigh in on library projects, parks upgrades

Oct 12, 2017

Town Meeting members on Tuesday will be asked to fund the construction of one library and allow the potential sale of another, to expand multi-family housing opportunities, and to OK studies that would address the Padanaram Bridge, the sewer system, Memorial Stadium, and the ailing Cornell Pond Dam.

Fall Town Meeting convenes at 7 p.m. in the Dartmouth High School auditorium. The voting members are elected by residents and represent each of the town’s precincts. The public is permitted to attend.

Officials seek approval to borrow $8.1 million and spend $700,000 of existing town funds for the construction of the $10.5 million North Dartmouth Library, and the OK to put the Old Southworth Library on the market.

A sale of the Old Southworth Library is one of three proposals for the Elm Street property, which has remained vacant since 2015 when the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust relocated to a new Chase Road headquarters. Other proposals include leasing the building while retaining town ownership of the property, either on a ten-year or three-year basis.

Town Meeting previously approved $1.7 million for the North Dartmouth project, which will be located at 211 Cross Road next to Potter Elementary School. The 14,000 square-foot facility will feature adult and children’s wings, a centrally-located circulation desk, and a 100-seat multi-purpose room that can be accessed even when the library is closed.

Officials are seeking approval of the remaining balance of the total cost of the project in an effort to make the project eligible for certain grant funding and reimbursement opportunities. The town anticipates receiving $5.3 million via a Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners grant and $187,110 through the state board’s Green Library Incentive for the project, said Town Administrator David Cressman.

The current North Dartmouth library, located on Tucker Road, is in the path of a proposed relocation of that road. A state project is slated to shift the road east through the existing library property and link it with a new, four-way intersection with Route 6 and Hathaway Road. Additionally, the architect of the project -- Conrad Ello of Oudens Ello Architecture, has said the current location has inadequate spacing for programming and a dangerous parking lot.


Multi-family housing, sign regulations.

Town Meeting members will decide whether to allow multi-family housing developments in a section of the town’s general business district, located along Route 6 from Cross Road to the Westport town line.

Developers would still need to secure a permit from the Planning Board for a proposed project. The bylaw update would require that developments be built on at least 15 acres of land and would allow four units to be built per each acre of land. If a development would clean up a state-recognized contamination site, called “brownfields,” developers would be permitted to construct 4.5 units per acre of land. Buildings would be limited to three stories with a pitched roof.

Members will also weigh in on whether to replace the existing sign regulations -- which are currently defined differently in each of the town’s zoning districts -- with one all-encompassing set of rules.

Among the new additions is a detailed section on “electronic messaging center” signs — large, outdoor electronic signs that display cycling messages. If approved, the electronic signs would would only be allowed in certain commercial zoning districts. Limits on message timing, brightness, contrast, and colors would be imposed. The new regulations would ban the use of potentially distracting features, such as fading and dissolving.


Bridge, sewer, dam, and stadium studies

The Department of Public Works is seeking $250,000 to complete a design and engineering study of the Padanaram Bridge and $250,000 for an examination of the sewer system.

The Padanaram Bridge study would target its electrical and mechanical systems, including the systems that physically move the bridge, said DPW Director David Hickox. The goal is to have design information available in the event the town decides to seek state approval and funding for a project.

“Many of the components– the rollers and gears – are original to the bridge,” Hickox noted. “In the event of a failure, it’s not like replacement parts would be available."

A separate project is currently being completed on the causeway of the bridge. The last time major work was done on the bridge itself was in 1988, and only targeted electrical systems, not mechanical systems, Hickox said.

Officials are also asking for $250,000 to complete a federally-required examination of the town’s sewage system. The funds will identify locations where clean water is entering the system, which is inefficient, Hickox said.

Elsewhere on the agenda, the School Department seeks $50,000 for a design and engineering study of Memorial Stadium that would analyze the current conditions, offer renovation options, and include preliminary cost estimates and designs.

Funding to revamp the stadium’s turf, lighting, and seating was tabled earlier this year after concerns about the town’s ability to borrow funds for the project.

In previous School Committee meetings, School Business Administrator James Kiely described the stadium as an “embarrassment,” with inadequate lighting, a field with poor conditions limiting use time, and handicap accessibility issues.

Town Meeting members will also be asked to approve $35,000 for a study of the Cornell Pond Dam, which has structural issues that the state is requiring be addressed by September of 2018. Options on the table include repairing the dam, lowering the dam, or breaching the dam.

Cressman said the study will examine sediment contaminated by industrial chemicals at the site and evaluate the risks of disturbing the sediment depending on which remediation option is chosen.


Improvements to parks, buildings

The Parks Department is seeking $73,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to revamp the gazebo and make improvements at Apponagansett Park.

Community Preservation Act funds are raised through a 1% surcharge on property taxes and can be used only for outdoor recreation, open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing.

The department also seeks a total of $691,670 in town and CPA funds for the “Phase V Regional Parks and Trails project,” which would bring electricity to the facility located on Old Fall River Road and revamp the multi-purpose field with lighting, among other improvements. It also lays the groundwork for a dog park proposed by the Dartmouth Dog Advisory Work Group with utilities, drainage systems, fencing, paths, and benches.

The project is anticipated to open up the fields at the north end of town for more youth and adult sporting events, said Parks Board member Jim Vieira.

“There’s a lot of interest in using the fields in North Dartmouth, but we have no electric down there,” Vieira said.

With $291,670 in CPA funds, Cressman said the remaining $400,000 will be covered by a state PARC grant, which the town has applied for but has not yet been awarded. The project can only move forward with grant funding.

The Parks Department is also asking for $178,300, which would: fund playground improvements, pay for parking lot work at Jones Park, allow for an expansion of Evergreen Cemetery, and purchase security cameras for town beaches.

Elsewhere on the agenda, town officials are seeking $950,000 to replace Town Hall windows and complete exterior repairs. Cressman said that will include window replacements and masonry work along the building's west and south facades. Other items include $60,000 for fiber optic cabling in town buildings, and $60,000 to pay for a records management system.


Vehicle purchases

The Department of Public Works is continuing its vehicle fleet replacement project, spurred by an efficiency study several years ago that found deficiencies in the department’s aging vehicles. Town Meeting members will be asked to approve $383,250 to replace seven vehicles, including administrative vehicles and dump trucks.

Elsewhere on the agenda, members will be asked to approve $78,462 for new police cruisers, and $96,930 to replace a van and three passenger vehicles for other town departments.


Fines for synthetic marijuana sales

A Board of Health-sponsored article would add a non-criminal fine for violating its new “prohibited product” regulations. In August, the department banned the sale of synthetic marijuana and the drug known as "bath salts.” If approved, the measure would impose a $300 fine for selling the banned products in town.