An ongoing political fracas over a plan to repair the Oak Bluffs waterfront spilled into public view on Tuesday when selectman Kerry Scott accused one member of one town board of delaying repairs to the beach along Sea View avenue.
Ms. Scott said newly elected parks commissioner Nancy Phillips delayed a plan to install a universal access ramp at the beach by insisting her commission hold several public hearings on the plan before construction began. Ms. Scott said the delay tactics prevented the ramp from being installed at the start of the summer as planned; the ramp was installed this past week.
“A promise was made to the people of this town that was not kept,” Ms. Scott said during Tuesday’s regular selectmen’s meeting, which was attended by Ms. Phillips. “What has been installed there is not stable — it’s too little too late.”
She continued: “I don’t know how to apologize to the people of this town . . . this is what happens when people work at loggerheads. Because of one town board, that beach has pretty much been off limits [for disabled people] all summer.”
Ms. Scott during the meeting did not name the board she was referring to, but said after the meeting that her remarks were aimed at Ms. Phillips — who was elected to the parks commission during the annual town election in April.
Ms. Phillips has done extensive work on planning renovations to the town waterfront. She was previously chairman of the now defunct Boardwalk to Beach task force, which last year drafted a 35-page report that recommended a wide range of improvements, including the installation of new railings, new walkways to the shoreline and improvements to the old snack shack. The total cost was estimated at $2.7 million.
The focus of the waterfront improvements shifted dramatically in February when a 30-ton retaining wall holding up a steeply sloping bank along Sea View avenue suddenly collapsed, sending town officials scrambling to repair the area in time for the summer season.
Since then, selectmen have appointed a new waterfront committee to take charge of the repairs, with Ms. Scott as chairman and Ms. Phillips a member. The selectmen also voted to remove the old comfort station at the foot of the old pay beach in order to move forward with a plan for a gentle slope to stabilize the crumbing waterfront.
Meanwhile, the waterfront committee has received a report from CLE Engineering of Marion which concluded a large section of the wall behind the snack shack and another portion to the north is unstable and in imminent danger of collapse.
Ms. Scott has supported removing all previous amenities at the beach in order to create a gently sloping coastal dune system — which studies say helps curb erosion. Ms. Phillips has pushed for a plan to install portable bathrooms at the beach.
Ms. Scott said divided opinions have delayed the installation of the universal access ramp.
“This was my greatest disappointment during my entire tenure as selectman. [Ms. Phillips] let her own personal agenda get in the way of what was best for the townspeople,” she said.
Ms. Scott said the walkway has not been installed properly, and in her opinion the ramp as installed does not meet federal disability laws.
Reached by phone yesterday, Ms. Phillips said the accusations are groundless.
“We have a waterfront committee that was appointed to lead this process, to take into account everyone’s point of view and listen to as many people as possible. [The parks commission] held a number of public hearings to gather public input, as opposed to the [waterfront] committee which is more of a one-way conversation between the chairman and the engineer,” she said.
Ms. Scott disagreed: “I want to get people to the beach and [Ms. Phillips] wants to get them to the bathroom.”
Ms. Phillips said she is confident of progress:“I think we will all move forward together. Everyone understands how important that beach is to this town and the people of this town.”