A $6.1-million improvement project for Dedham Square took a step forward today when the town's Capital Expeditures Committee voted 3-to-2 to recommend the project.
The Finance Committee will take up the project at its meeting Tuesday, and vote on whether to recommend the project to Town Meeting on May 16.
At this morning's meeting, there was dissent over whether Dedham Square should get priority over other proposals before the committee, such as a police station, fire department, or senior center.
“Are you saying that there’s no other capital items on this list that don’t need to be done more than this improvements project?” said Michael Podolski, the Planning Board appointment to the committee.
“Are you saying they just throw this stuff in here, because I don’t believe that--they need this stuff, and we’re saying you can’t get funded this year because of the $5 million gorilla in the corner,” Podolski said, referring to the cost of the Dedham Square project.
Another point of contention was the lack of a town policy on which projects need a Proposition 2 1/2 override, and which projects can be funded within the town’s operating budget.
The Dedham Square Improvements Projects will cost $6.1 million. The town received a state grant for $1.3 million to fund the project, and the town will borrow the remaining $4.8 million.
The improvement project will make pedestrian crossings safer, improve traffic flow through the square, increase parking spaces, and enhance the aesthetic appeal of the square.
The project can be paid within the town’s existing borrowing capabilities, said Town Administrator William Keegan. If the town had to use a debt exclusion, it would require a Proposition 2 1/2 override, which requires a townwide ballot referendum, because that would result in raising property taxes.
Proposition 2 1/2 limits the annual increase in a community property tax revenue to 2.5 percent. A debt exclusion allows a community to raise taxes to repay debt and not have that revenue count toward the limit. In Dedham, debt exclusions have been used on such projects as the Avery School and athletic field complex.
Three selectmen were at this morning's meeting to show their board’s unanimous support for the project.
The town is taking on this project now because it was awarded a state grant, Selectman Mike Butler said “To some extent, the timing is being accelerated,” said Butler. “The town was awarded the state grant and the process started in 2008, and we don’t have control when we’re going to get the award.”
Selectman Jim MacDonald encouraged the committee to recommend the project because Town Meeting will have three options when they vote on it.
“I’m always a believer in Town Meeting and putting it to Town Meeting, where they can accept it and move on, reject it and it dies, or they can say we want to put it to the voters,” said MacDonald.
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