Town Meeting to weigh in on police station proposal

By Douglas McCulloch | Oct 12, 2016

The Dartmouth Police Department is asking Town Meeting voters for $215,000 to aid its search for a new headquarters.

Police Chief Robert Szala’s request is a response to the five-year quick-fix modular offices that the department currently works out of. Following the 2014 find of bacteria in the water system that made an officer sick, the department was ousted from its Russells Mills Road location to makeshift units behind the building.

A $8.6 million proposal to rehabilitate the contaminated offices was rejected by Town Meeting voters in April. Since, Szala and an advisory board have worked to find a new headquarter site that is more centrally located, keeping in mind the high-call zone bordered by Route 6, Allen Street, Slocum Road, and Old Westport Road.

The requested $215,000 would fund first steps to founding a new headquarters, including a feasibility study, a schematic design of a new building, a project manager, and site management and geotechnical testing at selected potential sites.

“If the money is appropriated, then we’ll be ready to immediately jump in with the feasibility study,” Szala said.

Currently, the board is looking at several publicly-owned properties, including the Gidley School site on Tucker Road, town-owned land on Allen Street, and land owned by Dartmouth Public Schools on Slocum Road.

The board is also looking into purchasing private land or having it gifted to the town. Szala said options include land for sale near Town Hall on Slocum Road, and two parcels on Route 6 near Hawthorne Medical and Colonial Honda.

The board is also accepting solicitations from landowners who are interested in selling or gifting land to the town, Szala said. The application deadline is November 1 at 2 p.m., and those interested can request an application from Cressman. The board will not make a final decision on a location until after that deadline.

Szala said that if the vote fails at Town Meeting, it will mean the end of the current proposal.

“This the first big step we need to take,” Szala said. “If voters don’t appropriate the funds at Town Meeting, the current process stops. It ends because of a lack of funding, which means we keep the status quo,” he said, adding that the status quo is continuing to work out of the trailers.

Both the Finance Committee and the Select Board voted to support the appropriation.

Szala and advisory board members will present the latest update on the project at the October 17 Select Board meeting.

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