23 Aug 2014
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Ames Schoolhouse, Private Ways Highlight 'Mini Town Meeting' in Dedham

The meeting wrapped up in just over two hours, officials said.

Ames Schoolhouse, Private Ways Highlight 'Mini Town Meeting' in Dedham

Dedham Town Meeting members, along with local officials and residents, gathered Monday night for the town's annual "Mini Town Meeting" event to discuss the warrant articles to be voted on at the actual Town Meeting next week. 

The meeting wrapped up in just over two hours, officials said Tuesday. 

"What's nice about this Mini Town Meeting is it's more relaxed," said Cheryl Schoenfeld, a Precinct 7 Town Meeting member and Chair of the same precinct. "We encourage people to ask questions and make comments."

Also known as the District Chairmen's Warrant Review Meeting, Monday's gathering highlighted two main articles on this year's warrant: Article 19, which focuses on the purchase of the Ames Schoolhouse for a proposed Municipal Campus project, and Article 33, which focuses on proposed changes to the town bylaws related to repairs and improvements to private ways.

Selectman Chair Michael Butler provided a presentation on the municipal campus proposal, while Planning Board Chair Michael Podolski presented on the private ways changes, Schoenfeld said.

"There weren't many questions,"  Schoenfeld said. "Everything was explained really well. I think the town really wants to come to a fair solution for people that are on private roads and also be fair to the other tax payers in town."

The two articles will most likely be the highlights of Monday's Annual Town Meeting, Schoenfeld said. 

Dedham's Annual Town Meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 19 at Dedham High School. More information on Articles 19 and 33 can be found below. To read the full Annual Town Meeting Warrant, click here.

Municipal Campus (Article 19)

If passed at Town Meeting, Warrant Article 19 would authorize the Dedham Board of Selectmen to establish a municipal campus at the intersection of Bryant and Washington streets.

The project would comprise three phases:

  • Phase I would involve the purchase and renovation of the Ames Schoolhouse building at 450 Washington St. for conversion to a Town Hall and Senior Center. The project would be completed by 2017.
  • Phase II would allow for substantial renovation and a small addition to the existing Dedham Town Hall so that it could be used as a new Dedham Police Department. This project would be completed by 2018.
  • Phase III would allow for the renovation and expansion of the Dedham Fire Department 10 years down the road.

Previously, officials sought to develop a municipal campus on Rustcraft Road at a Special Town Meeting in November 2013, which voters did not support. The idea to look at purchasing the Ames Schoolhouse was discussed, and officials have worked with an architectural firm to discuss construction cost estimates, the results of which can be found below:

  • Purchase Ames Schoolhouse: $5,850,000
  • Renovate Ames Schoolhouse: $10,103,000
  • Relocation Assistance for tenants: $1,000,000
  • Renovate Town Hall for Police: $7,796,000
  • Contingency: $2,227,000
  • Inflation: $1,308,000
  • TOTAL COST Phase I & II: $ 28,284,000

The town would pay for the project by issuing bonds, which would be repaid using funds accumulated in the Robin Reyes Major Capital Facilities Stabilization Fund, created in 2009, according to officials.

All transfers in and out of that fund, though, need to be approved by a two-thirds vote at Dedham's Annual Town Meeting.

The town, officials estimated, could borrow $28 million needed for the proposed project and repay it over the course of 30 years while still maintaining a balance of $1 million in the fund at all times, officials said.

Currently, Dedham owns the 1.5 acres of land on which the Town Hall and Fire Department are located. The Ames Schoolhouse, meanwhile, is located on 2.04 acres of land, and the purchase would create a 3.5-acre campus.

The new Dedham town Hall would occupy about 34,000 square feet of the Ames Schoolhouse's 50,000 square feet of gross floor area, while the senior center would comprise about 16,000 square feet.  

The current Dedham Town Hall comprises 18,000 square feet, and the proposed Dedham Police Department requires 21,000 square feet, which means a 3,000 square-foot addition would be needed.

For more information on the proposed municipal campus, click here.

Private Ways (Article 33)

If voted on, the article would approve proposed changes to the town's bylaws relating to repairs and improvements to private roadways.

Currently, Dedham's bylaws limit the maintenance the town can actually perform on such roadways, and they require private-way abutters who would like to make the street a public way to first pay for upgrading the private way to current standards. Dedham currently has about 17 miles of private streets.

The proposed changes to the bylaw would change the process, so that in the future, the town could pay for up to 100 percent of the road improvements. The new process would require 100 percent of the abutters to support the change.

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