A second attempt to attract a quorum failed in Aquinnah last Thursday, with just 17 voters turning up for a special town meeting.
Four per cent of the electorate made the journey to the old town hall on Thursday night. The minimum quorum requirement is 39 voters, or 10 per cent of the 396 registered in Aquinnah.
As a result, town moderator Walter E. Delaney dissolved the special town meeting, already continued from October, and in the process indefinitely delayed action on some $25,000 in spending requests.
The articles dealt with town expenses such as replacement of a worn-out town hall furnace and payment for a town Web site.
Failure to pass the latter article represents a catch-22 for the town. A Web site may prove an important advertising tool in getting out the vote on other issues. Currently the town operates without a Web site and relies on e-mails from town coordinator Jeffrey Burgoyne to notify voters of upcoming meetings.
The eleven-article warrant which was first issued in early October also included a request for $3,500 to repave part of the town hall car parking lot, $4,000 to bury power lines at the Circle and a vote on whether to ask the Massachusetts General Court for one-day beer and wine licenses in the newly wet town. The licenses would be available for nonprofit events such as this summer’s Aquinnah music festival.
Asked about the second no-show, selectmen were downbeat.
“It’s in limbo,” said chairman Jim Newman of the meeting.
“It’s over,” said selectman Camille Rose. Asked what happens now to the items on the warrant she was even glummer.
“Nothing,” she said.
Mr. Burgoyne jokingly suggested that the town might be best served a blend of the firefighter charity method and coercion.
“We should block off the road at the town hall line and go out there with a boot and try and fill it with contributions to get this town hall heated,” he said, “I have to say I’ve been a bit belligerent, a bit sarcastic lately. When you’re running a $3 million business it’s a little tough when you’re hands are tied like that.”
In other town news, the Aquinnah commercial scalloping season finally began yesterday after a minor regulations fracas delayed the start date.
Many town leaders, including shellfish constable Brian Vanderhoop and two selectmen, were under the impression that the season was to start Monday. And indeed, scallopers were out on Menemsha Pond Monday before it was determined that selectmen had not officially voted the matter.
The decision on when to open the scallop season is ultimately made by the board of selectmen who did not convene to vote until Wednesday. Mr. Vanderhoop called it a misunderstanding.
“I thought they’d okayed the recommendation. In fact they didn’t officially meet,” he said.
In fact they did meet. At a Nov. 7 selectmen’s meeting, the board advised Mr. Vanderhoop and deputy shellfish constable Hollis Smith that they would follow the recommendation of the shellfish committee. The committee met later that night and voted to recommended a start date of Nov. 17 for commercial scalloping.
The selectmen voted to approve the recommendation of the shellfish committee Wednesday, but not before Ms. Rose said that Mr. Vanderhoop’s practice of posting the regulations at just two spots in town was unlawful. She insisted that five posters be put up, two in town hall and three in different spots around town.
Mr. Vanderhoop said he had posted the notice in the same way as every in previous year and in the same fashion as shown to him by the previous town shellfish constable. He also said he checked with other constables, and that no Island towns conform to the five-postings rule.
But Ms. Rose was adamant.
“If it hasn’t been done right in the past isn’t reason enough to keep doing it,” she said.
Mr. Burgoyne confirmed yesterday that selectmen are set to process a record 31 commercial scallop licenses this year, up from 20 last season.
Aquinnah scallopers are limited to three struck level bushels a day and can scallop from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m.