School Bond, Town Obligation

The regional high school district committee was correct to rescind its vote on the sewage treatment bond issue once it came to light that Island towns had not been properly informed of their right to vote on the matter.

Call it an unfortunate oversight on the part of the school superintendent’s office — hopefully it was not intentional. But the towns were not told that in order to take action on the school committee’s decision to float a bond to pay for the sewer project, they must call a town meeting within sixty days of the committee’s vote. If no action is taken the bond is automatically approved.

Fortunately town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport threw down a flag on the play last week.

The school sewage treatment project has been plagued by troubles from the start. Last year the school district tried to get the town of Oak Bluffs to front the money for it, but voters at the annual town meeting balked, asking for more information about payback through user fees. The sewage treatment project is intended to help not only the high school, but also the still-unbuilt YMCA project across the road from the high school. (Because it is so big and lies in the watershed for both the Lagoon and Sengekontacket Ponds, the Y cannot be built without some kind of sewage treatment facility.)

The school committee has since decided to float its own bond to pay for the treatment plan, which calls for tying into the Oak Bluffs sewage treatment facility at an estimated cost of some one and a half million dollars.

The committee will take the matter up again in March. And this time all six Island towns will be given time to put the bond question on their annual town meeting warrants.

Which is as it should be, since the towns who are members of the regional school district are the ones who pay the obligation.