A level-funded budget, a possible name change for State Road and a major spending request for the relocation of the Gay Head Light will come before Aquinnah voters at their annual town meeting Tuesday night.
It will mark the last annual town meeting on the Vineyard this year.
Annual and special town meetings begin at 6:45 p.m. There are eight articles on a special town meeting warrant and 21 articles on the annual. Moderator Michael Hebert will preside.
The ongoing project to relocate the endangered lighthouse is the centerpiece of the warrant, when voters will be asked to put $155,000 toward the effort, which now has the backing of every Island town. Between public and private support, a total of $1.1 million has been raised for the $3 million project. The historic 1856 red brick structure now sits 46 feet from the edge of the cliff and is slated to be moved next spring.
The spending request includes $120,000 from Community Preservation Act funds which would be put toward moving the structure and landscaping, and $25,000 from free cash to help pay for fundraising and public relations materials. The $25,000 fundraising question appears on the special town meeting warrant while the $120,000 CPA question is on the annual warrant.
The town has already spent $170,000 from CPA funds on the lighthouse over the past four years.
The five other Island towns have all agreed to contribute CPA funds to the project. “Everyone has been behind it one hundred per cent,” said Aquinnah selectman and board chairman Beverly Wright. “All the towns have really come through, which I think is a precedent. I’m sure towns down the road will need something, and we’ll all be there.”
The town’s application to take ownership of the lighthouse from the U.S. Coast Guard is under review by the National Park Service.
In other business on Tuesday night voters will take up a $3.9 million budget, an increase of just $57,000 or 1.5 per cent over last year. The budget includes a two per cent cost of living adjustment for town employees.
Town administrator Adam Wilson said the good financial news in Aquinnah this year is due largely to reductions in education assessments, health care savings and personnel changeover. Town assessments for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and up-Island regional school district are down $61,000 this year due to lower enrollment.
Several longtime employees left this year and new employees were hired at a lower pay grade, Mr. Wilson said.
“There’s no reason to expect to continue this trend,” he said, noting that school assessments fluctuate with population changes.
This year all spending articles will come from free cash rather than taxation.
“We were very successful in getting a free cash report last fall that totaled close to $400,000,” Mr. Wilson said. The large sum is the result of two intensive years of tax title research, he said.
“We’re a town that spends frugally and have engaged ourselves in appropriate finance mechanisms to ensure that dollars from tax titles are secure,” he said. “People are coming through on tax payments which is always extremely helpful.”
Aquinnah may catch up with Google Maps as voters consider whether to change the name of State Road. Proposed by the town planning board, the pending change is part of a comprehensive review of street names in town, planning board chairman Peter Temple said.
“As a small town there are certain requirements of state law that we have not kept up with over time,” Mr. Temple said. Two of those requirements include keeping a list of all public ways and naming new roads. “Neither of those have been happening,” he said.
State Road is legally South Road, Mr. Temple said. Voters will be asked if they want to formalize the name or go with something new entirely.
“We’re asking, do you want to change the name of State Road or do you want to keep it?” Mr. Temple said.
If the article is approved, the planning board will hold public hearings this summer to discuss the name change. Residents would also have to change their mailing address.
Beyond legal issues, Mr. Temple noted that the digital mapping systems relied on by so many people today are out of sync with reality in Aquinnah. Google Maps, for example, says the Aquinnah Library at 65 State Road is in Chilmark and that the Aquinnah town landfill is at the Chilmark police station.
“Changing the name of the road would be a way to help make it clearer to people using GPS and emergency service vehicles,” Mr. Temple said.
Voters will also be asked to establish a capital improvement stabilization fund and place $78,300 into the account. The town is considering building a new public safety building to house police and fire departments.
Other articles include $2,600 for the town’s share for funding Adult Continuing Education of Martha’s Vineyard and $2,500 for a new police radar machine known as a light detection and ranging (LIDAR) machine. “It gives more accurate readings when you’re speeding so you can’t deny it,” Mr. Wilson said.
Voters will be asked to adopt a state law that authorizes the town to withhold or revoke certain permits and licenses from residents who have unpaid taxes.
Aquinnah is the last town being asked to approve a set of rules to control fertilizer use through an Islandwide district of critical planning concern. The rules are aimed at limiting nitrogen loading in Vineyard ponds and waterways.
The town boundary line between Chilmark and Aquinnah along Menemsha Creek may change slightly next week, if voters agree to an adjustment proposed by the selectmen.
Voters return to the old town hall on Wednesday for the annual town election. Selectman Beverly Wright is being challenged by Julianne Vanderhoop for selectman. There is one ballot question asking for voters to urge Gov. Deval Patrick to shut down the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth. Polls are open from noon to 7 p.m.