The Island’s troubled fishing industry will be a major focus of the Chilmark annual town meeting on Monday night.
In a town meeting warrant otherwise characterized as “very noncontroversial” by the chairman of the Chilmark board of selectmen, J.B. Riggs Parker, “the shellfish articles will obviously get much of the attention on the meeting floor.”
The town meeting begins on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Chilmark Community Center; longtime moderator Everett Poole will preside over the session.
There are 24 items on the warrant, and four of them are concerned directly with fishing. Another is indirectly related, in that it addresses water quality in the Tisbury Great Pond..
One article would establish a new shellfish steering committee to advise selectmen on propagation and enforcement issues and work with the shellfish department on propagation.
The five members of the committee would be appointed for three years, although initially one would be appointed for a single year and two others for two and three years respectively.
Another article would create a new position of shellfish propagation officer, at a cost of $50,306, to begin on June 1. Another would appropriate $15,000 to fund the first year of a five-year shellfish restoration program.
Another article would rescind a measure adopted last year defining those who qualify as commercial fishermen, and place the power of determining who is and is not a commercial fisherman in the hands of the board of selectmen.
Another article seeks approval to spend $12,000 on the assessment of water quality in the Tisbury Great Pond through the Massachusetts Estuaries project. The money would make up the final third of the cost of the three-year project.
Apart from the fisheries-related issues, Mr.. Parker said, there were only “a couple of items [on the warrant] that jump out at you” as being other than straightforward financial housekeeping.
The proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2008 is just over $6 million, an increase of 2.83 per cent over the previous year. The major cost increase can be tracked to in a 3.6 per cent cost of living increase, across the board to staff.
“We anticipate a very quiet budget meeting,” Mr... Parker said, and contrasted the likely course of the Chilmark meeting with some of the more lively recent meetings of down-Island towns.
“We very uncontroversial here,” he said, continuing:
“If you look at the budget the items that jump out at you are the ambulance service, which is up over 20 per cent, and that’s because there will be a new coordinator for advanced life support services, with a big salary in there. We’re expanding the Tri-town ambulance service.
“And the beach committee [cost] is up because we will have extra hours at Squibnocket Beach this year.”
Benefits are up because there are three new benefitted positions included, including the new shellfish propagation agent which may or may not come to pass.
The fire chief is now taking benefits and there is an administrative assistant.
The only other item likely to be questioned is a new truck for the fire department, the cost of which has escalated to almost $415,000, more than double the original estimate.
The brush breaker truck is an all-terrain, four-wheel-drive fire truck built to barge its way through scrub to otherwise inaccessible fires in the woods or in remote homes.
“The brush breaker for the fire department will probably attract some attention,” Mr.. Parker predicted. “I mean, you could buy a Bentley for that amount.”
Other articles on the warrant include a request for $122,737 to pay for prior year assessments for the Vineyard Transit Authority, and another seeking $50,000 to carry out a state-mandated revaluation of all Chilmark properties in fiscal year 2009.
The last article on the warrant seeks the appointment of three representatives to help draft guidelines and regulations for an Island-wide Energy District of Critical Planning. Any recommendations would have to go back to a town meeting for approval before it was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
A school-related article proposes amending the up-Island regional school agreement to require any town in the district to pay 80 per cent of the capital costs for a school facility that it owns, regardless of enrollment. The remaining two towns would split the remaining 20 per cent according to enrollment numbers.
All the spending articles have the endorsement of the town finance advisory committee.
The annual town election will be held on Wednesday at the community center. Polling hours are from noon to 8 p.m. There is only one contest on the ballot: a race between Mr... Parker the incumbent selectman and challenger Karsten David Larsen.