Select Board weighs in on Bristol Aggie project

Feb 6, 2018

Dartmouth will vote in favor of a renovation of Bristol County Agricultural High School, but the Select Board is not happy with the process - and price tag - behind the project.

At its February 5 meeting, the board voted to direct member John Haran, who serves on the Bristol County Advisory Board that oversees the project, to give a favorable vote on the project at a vote on February 8.

The county-operated school is proposing a $103.75 million renovation and new construction project. With the state picking up half of the costs, the rest is up to the cities and towns with students enrolled at the Dighton agricultural high school to cover the costs over 30 years.

Haran said the project will cost Dartmouth $107,500 for the first year of the project, with the cost decreasing each consecutive year. Dartmouth currently sends 25 students to Bristol Aggie, but Haran cautioned the project may boost enrollment with more space, and could possibly raise costs for the town.

He went on a tour of the campus to see what the project will fund, and although he said the campus is clean and the students are well-behaved, there are areas in need of improvement.

“There are some buildings there that have no heat in the classrooms,” Haran said. “They have a barn for milking cows that is in dire need of being replaced.”

The Select Board was not happy to learn about the price tag, and process behind the vote.

“My only complaint is that our town administrator didn’t know anything about this until a few days before the vote was taken, and to me this organization should have made a point to involve the communities that were going to be involved,” said Chair Frank Gracie.

Member Shawn McDonald said he felt the way cities and towns are charged for the project is unfair, and questioned why the burden isn’t shared by all of Bristol County. He also shared his frustration in dealing with the advisory board, which he had previously served on.

“There’s been a long standing history of having fits with this advisory board, and it just seems to me they’re entrenched and I just don’t understand why they still exist,” McDonald said. “It’s a dinosaur and it needs to go away rapidly.”