The West Tisbury selectmen voted this week to approve a request for proposals (RFP) for a study of the Mill Brook watershed. Drafted by the town conservation commission, the RFP seeks consultants qualified “to prepare and deliver a study of the watershed of Mill Brook,” which includes Mill Pond as well as Fisher Pond, Crocker Pond, and Priester’s Pond and several tributaries. The RFP limits the cost of the proposed study to $15,000, the amount approved by voters at the annual town meeting in April. The selectman originally approved a study of the watershed in August 2012. Proposals submitted to the town must itemize each task according to its cost, as well as “include the ranking in priority of tasks” they propose to undertake.
Once the RFP undergoes a final edit, the town will accept responses from consulting groups. The data collection study is estimated to begin this fall and continue for a year. After data collection is completed, another RFP will be sent out to contract with a group to analyze and interpret the data, and make recommendations for further work.
Mill Pond, an artificial pond located within the Mill Brook watershed, has been a point of contention in town for the past several years.
The RFP outlines a study with a broad scope, including a review of existing data, water quality sampling, measurement of water flow, a field study of the various ponds in the watershed, and an examination of water use.
“The successful bidder is the one who can do the most with $15,000,” said selectman Cynthia Mitchell at the selectmen’s meeting Wednesday.
There was disagreement about whether West Tisbury voters approved a project that prioritized the study of Mill Pond within the watershed, or whether the town had asked for a holistic study. While Mrs. Mitchell and selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter 3rd voted to approve the conservation commission’s RFP, which takes a more comprehensive approach, selectman Richard Knabel voted against it. “The town meeting voted for preservation of Mill Pond,” he said, suggesting that they focus first on the hydrologic aspects of the watershed, and get “some closure on Mill Pond.” He said he would like to get the hydrology study evaluated for cost first, and then see if there was money left over for the rest of the RFP tasks.
“I would like to see the RFP set up so that the costs of a comprehensive study and the costs of a strictly hydrologic study can be compared,” he added.
Mrs. Mitchell agreed that the pond was a priority, but said that it was best studied in the context of the entire watershed. “It’s the preservation of the pond that is the premise for doing a watershed study,” she said. “The preservation of Mill Pond requires a greater understanding of the watershed.“
Maria McFarland, administrator for the conservation commission, answered questions about the RFP. Prudy Burt contributed to the discussion on behalf of the conservation commission, as well as the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition, which has offered to share their temperature data recorded within Mill Brook watershed at no cost to the town. Mill Pond committee member and engineer Kent Healy also plans to measure the water flow at three locations in the watershed.
Bill Wilcox, former water resource planner for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, presented an alternate RFP and was present to answer questions about it at the meeting.
In other business the selectmen approved a permit for a Daytrippers band concert at Grange Hall.
They also discussed the financial situation of the library renovation project.
“We are concerned about their budget, and expect them to stay within it,” Mr. Knabel said. “It’s a big project. Money can become an issue . . . I hope it doesn’t.”
During public comment, Barbara Day, a town resident, voiced her wish that the selectmen commit to the health of Mill Pond. “I hope the board of selectmen will follow through on Mill Pond and not let it go on forever,” she said.