Voter turnout may have been low at the Aquinnah town election and annual meeting this week, but those that did turn out came prepared to approve large expenditures and voice their disapproval of the Oak Bluffs roundabout.

A total of 54 voters, or 14 per cent of registered voters, went to the polls Wednesday to approve a $175,000 Proposition 2 1/2 override for the annual budget. The override passed 33 to 19. Aquinnah was the only town on the Island to seek a general override this year.

Voters also approved debt exceptions for the costs of new school buses for the up-Island Regional School District (42 to 10), new school buses for the regional high school (41 to 11), repairs done to the West Tisbury School (40 to 11), and construction costs for the Chilmark School (39 to 13). A vote at the annual town meeting on Tuesday night to approve $25,000 for four new Scott Air Packs and four air cylinders for the fire department, contingent upon the election override, also passed.

The last town on the Island to have a say in the roundabout debate, Aquinnah voters overwhelmingly said no to the project, with nine votes in favor and 44 votes not in favor of the traffic improvement project in Oak Bluffs.

A total of 55 voters, one more than at the election, unanimously approved a $3.35 million operating budget at the Tuesday night annual town meeting. Though slightly reduced from the originally proposed $3.4 million budget due to trimmings to police wages and town employee insurance line items, the budget marked a sizable increase in the annual operating budget.

Approved spending articles at the town meeting included $15,000 for a tax title associate, $50,000 for the Dukes County Other Post-Employment Benefit trust and the $25,000 for the Scott Air Packs and air cylinders.

Voters also approved a town zoning bylaw that allows a simplified review and permitting process for small structures or minor changes to existing projects.

But voters’ penchant for spending and saying yes came to a halt with a request for $39,000 for a new police cruiser. Aquinnah police chief Randhi Belain said the money would go toward a four-wheel drive vehicle, but voters questioned the necessity of the purchase. The measure was defeated with 25 in favor, 17 opposed; a two-thirds vote was required.

Michael Stutz
Michael Stutz questioned a fingerprinting bylaw. — Ivy Ashe

A new bylaw that would have required taxi drivers, ice cream truck operators, alcohol license managers and antique vendors to go through a criminal background check prompted a lengthy debate, but was eventually tabled indefinitely. The bylaw would have allowed fingerprinting to be cross referenced in a national database. Selectmen and Chief Belain argued the bylaw was most pertinent to taxi drivers to ensure public safety, but voters said it would create a slippery slope for privacy violations.

“I think this article sets a dangerous precedent,” Margie Spitz said.

The “bylaw isn’t ready for primetime,” said Michael Stutz, who made the motion to postpone the article.

Voters shifted in their seats when one person asked if the selectmen would be able to run a criminal background check for managers of casino licenses, a reference to the Wampanoag tribe’s recently announced plan to bring a casino to the town. The selectmen said it would be out of their purview to conduct background checks because the tribe, not the selectmen, would issue any casino licenses. It was the only point in the evening when the topic of casino gambling in Aquinnah was raised.

The evening concluded with a unanimous vote in favor of an amendment against the Citizens United campaign finance ruling. Just before the vote was taken, Jeffrey Madison thanked fellow voter Richard Skidmore, who helped petition the article for the annual town meeting warrant.

“Good for you, thank you very much,” he said to loud applause. “[This ruling] was absolutely horrid . . . this presidential election is going to be affected like no other in the history of this country because of this decision. This is one of most important things that is on this meeting agenda tonight.

All Island towns have supported the call for an amendment.

Elected without contest on Wednesday were: Betty Joslow, library trustee, 50 (top vote getter); Berta Welch, planning board, 48; James Glavin, board of health, 43; Darren Leport, board of assessors, 43; Carlos Montoya, Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission, 42.

Voters elected selectman Jim Newman to another three-year term on the board with 40 votes and no challenger. June Manning received one write-in vote.