The $6.1-million project will receive $1.7 million from the state and is slated to begin next spring
By Timothy Robertson, Dedham Patch
May 17, 2011
After roughly 90 minutes of passionate debate, Dedham Town Meeting members passed, by voice vote, an article to borrow $6.1 million to overhaul Dedham Square.
Selectmen have said the project should go out to bid in the fall, and begin in the spring of 2012.
“The Town of Dedham did the right thing,” Town Meeting member Amy Haelsen said after the meeting. “We are absolutely thrilled, we’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”
Haelsen also serves as the executive director for Dedham Square Circle
Opponents called for more time to research impact on local business owners, and opposed spending money in what they called tough economic times.
“It came from somebody’s taxes, one way or another. Maybe not right today, but tomorrow and down the road,” said Planning Board chairman Robert Aldous.
The vote required a two-thirds majority.
Eileen Kelly, who owns Sheep Skate in the Square, told fellow members that she did fear the effect of construction on the livelihood of her business, but said if it wasn’t done her business would be in rougher shape and would be forced to leave.
“I am more afraid of not doing this construction than I am of doing this constructions,” Kelly said.
Later in the meeting, members voted to spend $14,000 of mitigation funds for an economic program to encourage people to shop in the Square during construction.
The vote from Town Meeting will be a major investment in small businesses, said member Joe Findlen.
“We invest in our schools, we invest in our infrastructure. I think we should invest a little bit in our small businesses and help them,” Findlen said. “I don’t look at it as spending money. I think it is investment – investment in small businesses, investment in our town and investment in our future.”
Selectman Michael Butler estimated the last overhaul of Dedham Square occurred in the 1920s.
The town will borrow the money over a 15-year period. Town officials have said there is room within the established debt to pay for the project.
While some members argued against replacing debt and favored lowering taxes, Town Meeting member Margo Pyle said maintaining an established level of debt safeguarded the town from a surprise tax increase.
“By having debt in place, and letting it roll off the books and taking on more debt, we do not fall into the trap of having a sudden increase in taxes,” she said.
After three years of public meetings, plans, grant applications and studies, the Dedham Square Improvement Project now moves full-steam ahead.
“I think we are about as close to a magic wand as we can be with this project,” selectman Sarah MacDonald said. “[We are] taking care of something taken care of that we know is going to be a need either now or in the future.”