Tisbury town leaders took their lumps this week for failing to keep up with the digital era and vowed to take steps to address the problem.
At the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday one resident took the town to task for the fact that no meeting minutes or agendas are posted on the town website.
Hyung Lee noted the scarcity of information available on the town website and asked if agendas and minutes could be scanned and put online.
“I’m genuinely interested in what’s happening nowadays but there’s no way I can track it down,” he said.
Town administrator John (Jay) Grande said hard copies of the minutes were available in binders in his office and that anyone was welcome to look at them. Mr. Lee said that he had tried to come look at them but was turned away.
Selectman Tristan Israel said the town currently did not have the resources to post minutes online.
“But you’re more than welcome to come in and look at them,” Mr. Israel said.
“It is something we would like to do, but we don’t have the resources,” said board chairman Jonathan Snyder.
Selectman Melinda Loberg addressed the matter again later in the meeting, during discussion of a two-year-old organizational assessment report prepared by the consulting firm CDM Smith. The report, which was prepared in 2012 and is now available at town hall, offered several recommendations for internal restructuring. Mr. Israel said he felt many of the recommendations were too general to be acted on.
Ms. Loberg said that on reading the report for the first time, certain things had stood out to her. “I think the minutes difficulty we’ve put ourselves in is the lack of tech expertise in the building and we need to work on that,” she said. She added that the town also needed to establish operating procedures and policies as soon as possible in anticipation of upcoming retirements.
“The reason this might be very challenging to us is we’re going to lose some key people in this building, and their brain goes with them,” she said. “I think it ought to be a big priority.”
Mr. Grande said currently town treasurer Tim McLean doubles as the IT person in town hall. “And he does it ad hoc,” Mr. Grande said. Other departments have taken it upon themselves to update their sections of the website, he said, but many people still “are not trained or knowledgeable about posting to the web page, so that’s why we’re having a training session with the vendor in the fall . . . Certain departments, like the planning board, have a very good amount of information.”
The board agreed to discuss the report further with town department heads during a future town cabinet meeting. Mr. Israel said the IT education training session for employees will be held in September.
Meanwhile, Mr. Grande is working on codifying town policies, but he said more work is needed. “Based on the work that’s been done to date . . . it might make sense to weigh in on some other ideas and concepts discussed [in the report],” he said.
In other business, selectmen discussed an ongoing issue involving ownership of beachfront property near the seawall that was previously thought to belong to the town, but may in fact be owned privately.
Since April, the town has been investigating ownership of the property located just before the beginning of the seawall on Beach Road that includes a fishing shack at the end of a small wharf. The poor condition of the building prompted town building inspector Ken Barwick to explore condemning the shack, but after checking assessor records Mr. Barwick thought the building, believed to be owned by Ralph Packer, might belong to the town.
Mr. Grande said town counsel David Doneski had investigated the matter and after reviewing land records had determined that Mr. Packer did in fact own the building. Town assessors have issued a letter confirming this.
Since then, Tisbury resident Frank Brunelle had submitted more information that appeared to indicate otherwise. Mr. Grande said Mr. Doneski would be reviewing the new information as well.
“Others are volunteering information and are hopeful that the town owns more of that beach area [and] more public access, potentially, to the wharf,” Mr. Grande said. “This is dealing with the public and private property rights and we need to be careful, and not infringe and make claims that we can’t back up.”
Mr. Israel said he planned to meet with Mr. Brunelle as well as assessor Ann Marie Cywinski.
“If it turns out more of the beach belongs to the town, that’s a good thing; I’m not opposed to it,” Mr. Israel said. “We’re trying to be respectful of Mr. Packer, but the issue was raised as to who owns what.”
Mr. Grande also said the town recently received a loan and grant package from the United States Department of Agriculture to help finance town wastewater projects. The grant, which totals $347,500, will be combined with a loan of $800,000 as well as $20,000 in town funding. The board unanimously agreed to accept the package.
The board also accepted a gift of $12,500 from the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group for repairs to the Lagoon Pond pier.