Officials welcome Karyn Polito for Sunday tour of Padanaram

By Angie Hilsman | Jun 25, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman Selectman John Haran, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Karyn Polito, Harbormaster Steve Melo, Town Administrator David Cressman, Director of Development Deborah Melino-Wender, and Select Board Chair Frank Gracie.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito stopped by Dartmouth on June 25 and learned first-hand how the $1 million in state funding the town received to build a 530-square-foot maritime center will impact the economy and culture of Padanaram.

Polito chairs the state Seaport Economic Council, which awarded the grant.

The maritime center is "going to bring the village to the water, and hopefully, it's going to bring the water to the village," said Waterways Commission Chair Gerald Hickey, addressing a small crowd at the landing.

The $1.2 million project is currently in a permitting stage, while engineers and architects confirm the structure's detailing. Soil tests were finished last week.

The proposed single-story, 530 square-foot public maritime center and pier will include a public deck, a public boat ramp, two bathrooms and two showers, and a 14-by-14-foot, multi-purpose room to be used as a welcome center and seasonal office for the harbormaster. The center will be located on town-owned land at the corner of Bridge and Water streets.

Previous proposals — which involved the purchase of the property at 4 Water Street — featured a larger building. But neighbors said the design didn't fit into the neighborhood, and worried that the center would impede views of the harbor and cause parking challenges.

The current design was settled upon after several iterations and extensive feedback from the community.

"We're happy to invest the million into this project. We know it will bring a lot to this community," said Polito. "My only other request is that you keep this project on time and under budget."

Polito said that such projects are supported with state monies if the project is supported by the community, if the town has all other necessary fundings in place, and if the project has a long-term economic component to it. She noted that the maritime center will create jobs that transcend the construction phase, and will connect students to waterfront.

In addition to the $1 million grant, Department of Public Works and Waterways Department funds were used for the project, as well as approximately $186,000 of Community Preservation Act money, which is raised through a 1 1/2 percent surcharge on property taxes.

"It's a way of encouraging people to come here. On this side of the harbor, there hasn't really been any public access to this point," said Town Administrator David Cressman. The project targets both transient boaters and residents, officials explained.

While in Padanaram, Polito also walked down the dock to talk with outgoing boaters, and visited Farm & Coast Market on Bridge Street.

Harbormaster Steve Melo was pleased with Polito's visit and the activity around Padanaram. "I didn't pay these people to come. It demonstrates that there is a need," he said.

He further explained that the maritime center is only part of the future development officials have planned for the area. The town is currently working with the state to produce a master harbor plan that would welcome transient boaters, revamp aquaculture and shellfishing, and increase public access to the water, said Melo.

Our goal is to keep it accessible, but safe, said Melo.

Also on the agenda is the $1.2 million overhaul of Padanaram's sidewalks that is already underway, and expected to be completed by spring 2018. The Padanaram Causeway is expected to be finished by June 2018. The town is also currently working to secure funding to update the Padanaram Bridge.

The Seaport Economic Council has spent $21 million in taxpayer monies to support coastal assets, said Polito. Dartmouth is one of 78 coastal communities in Massachusetts.

Karyn Polito chats with boaters. (Photo by: Angie Hilsman)
A crowd gathers for a small ceremony at the Town Landing on Water Street. (Photo by: Angie Hilsman)
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