In a classic double bind, Edgartown will need to rely on voter turnout to reduce the number of voters required for future quorums at town meetings. The quorum question will form part of a special town meeting on Tuesday night.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Old Whaling Church and will be moderated by Philip J. Norton Jr.
The warrant features 19 articles, the majority of them housekeeping items. Headline issues include a vote on increasing the budget for town paramedics to provide 24-hour coverage, money for improvements at the town water department, and almost $100,000 for town assessors who are in the process of recertifying residential town properties.
In a town that has struggled with voter apathy for at least the past five years, rallying the required 148 voters for a quorum (five per cent of the 3,000 registered voters in town) may prove to be the biggest challenge.
If they do achieve a quorum, voters will be asked to amend town bylaws reducing the quorum requirement to 100 voters.
Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck said this week that he supports reducing the quorum requirement — special town meetings are a necessary town function, he said, and rescheduling the meetings costs money.
And he acknowledged that it is sometimes difficult to pique voter interest.
“We can’t gin up controversy every time we want to take care of business at a special town meeting. We can’t serve beer and hot dogs,” Mr. Smadbeck said.
In other requests on Tuesday, voters will be asked to spend $35,000 to add to the town budget for paramedic coverage; if the money is approved, paramedics will be on call six days a week with the remaining day being covered through a reciprocal arrangement with Oak Bluffs. The money will only cover the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 31. A full year’s budget for the service will be drawn up at a later date.
When reviewing the warrant two weeks ago, Mr. Smadbeck said the expenditure could be viewed as a trial.
The water department is seeking nearly $40,000 to improve town mains, water service lines and fire hydrants. If voters agree, the money will be transferred from a water company surplus account to an expense account.
The Edgartown assessors need money to complete a revaluation of residential town property for the current fiscal year and are asking for $75,000 from free cash, plus another $20,000 to replenish the reserve fund for money that has already been assigned to the project.
Assessors also will ask voters to spend $2,600 to buy and install archival quality adjustable shelving in the office vault for town maps and other documents requiring long term storage.
Park commissioners will ask for $12,000 to resurface the basketball court and two tennis courts at the Edgartown recreation area, behind the Martha’s Vineyard Boys’ and Girls’ club.
The school committee is requesting $75,000 from free cash to pay for roof repairs at the old Edgartown School.