Historical Commission OKs Gidley School demolition

By Angie Hilsman | Dec 07, 2016
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch The Gidley School has been out of use since 2007.

The Gidley School on Tucker Road has been decaying since 2007, when it was first closed due to budgetary issues. Overloaded with asbestos and now mold, the Historical Commission had little choice but to approve its demolition.

The site will be used for a new Dartmouth Police station.

The Historical Commission met on December 5 with Police Chief Robert Szala and his advisory group for designing the new station. The group concluded that while the building could not be saved, its features should be incorporated into the station design.

"We're endeavoring to make the building fit in with the neighborhood. It will be of historic character," said project architect Greg Carell of the Hopkinson-based Carell Group. Carell aims to repurpose both the carved stone sign in front of the building, and possibly some bricks.

The town has owned the building for the past few years, said Town Administrator David Cressman. Town Meeting voters in the fall approved using $785,000 to demolish the building due to its structural and mold issues.

"It doesn't meet current building codes. It is ill-suited for use as a police station," said Carell.

The Dartmouth Police Department's current station, a 21,000-square-foot facility on Russells Mills Road, was shuttered after bacteria in the water supply made an officer sick in early 2014. Since then, the department has operated out of a temporary, modular building in the back of the property.

Cressman said a number of groups have toured the Gidley School with interest in buying it — including the sheriff's department, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and someone looking to turn it into a private school — but those were all several years ago, and none of the groups had followed through, he said.

"It's not a base of interested parties with viable plans for the Gidley School," said Cressman.

The Gidley School is currently slated for demo in late February or early March, said Cressman.

The police station will be funded by a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion. This would allow taxes to be increased above the limit imposed by Proposition 2½ until the town repays the money it borrows for the project. The measure will have to be approved by both Town Meeting members and by town voters at the ballot, via a ballot question.

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