Tisbury voters spent six and a half hours over two nights Tuesday and Wednesday tackling the 56 articles on their annual and special town meeting warrants, agreeing to fund new dredging projects, construct a new leaching facility and rehabilitate the town standpipe, but rejecting $1.3million to build a connector road between Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and Holmes Hole Road.
This marks the second year in a row for the connector road project to fail, even though the cost was cut down from last year. Last year, the full road project, which consists of three phases, was proposed on the warrant; this year, only phase one was up for debate. The article saw some support during Wednesday’s meeting, but at 69-66 the count failed to achieve a needed two-thirds majority.
Selectman Tristan Israel spoke out against the current incarnation of the connector road on the grounds that it would create a dangerous intersection at the State Road exit. Most opposition to the warrant item came not from the plan itself but its timing: Michael Loberg said a longer term capital plan should be adopted before proceeding, particularly in light of other critical town capital project needs, such as the aging elementary school.
“I won’t speak to the why or the how; I trust our people to have done their work,” Mr. Loberg said. “I would speak, though, to our ability to approve it today.”
But Bruce Llewelyn, a member of the finance committee, countered as a proponent.
“This is the one item before you that can tie borrowing to the prospect of . . . increasing
tax revenue of the town,” he said. Tisbury also killed a request to fund early design work for a new building for the Vineyard schools superintendent by rejecting a request for $36,500, their share of spending for the project, which totals $566,000. The vote was 81-55. The project is planned for the high school campus and every Island town is being asked to contribute to funding for early designs.
Finance and advisory committee chairman Larry Gomez explained why his group had voted 6-0 against the item.
“We thought the $566,000 was an awful lot of money to pay for design,” he said. “We did talk to the school committee about looking for more of a modular system.” The new MVTV building will be a modular unit costing $900,000 total, he said. “We thought they could consider this [system] instead of a brick and mortar building.”
Tisbury School and high school committee member Colleen McAndrews urged voters to approve the funds.
“We have a phenomenal school system; our kids get so much more than just an education in the building,” she said. “It’s because of the superintendent and the staff who work around the clock . . . given the responsibility and dedication, it’s time to give them a school building.”
“We need to take care of the people that come in and take care of our kids,” Ms. McAndrews said.
Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury approved their shares at their annual town meetings Tuesday.
A $21.4 million town operating budget was approved, as was a large package of spending from the ferry embarkation fee, green-lighting the town to use $243,000 for six projects that include dock repairs at Owen Park, a new police cruiser, a new fire truck and a downtown beautification project. A $20,000 spending article for extensive repairs and cleaning to the Causeway Road runoff basin was also approved.
Voters appropriated more than $657,000 for community preservation act projects, including restoration of the Nathan Mayhew Seminars building and the construction or renovation of several playgrounds and parks. As part of the CPC appropriations, Tisbury agreed to help a county courthouse window replacement project, although West Tisbury voters dealt a blow to the project the night before by rejecting their portion of spending on it.
Two borrowing articles passed unanimously: a $500,000 project to dredge the town harbor entrance and Lake Tashmoo inlet and an $850,000 project to continue rehabilitation of the town standpipe. The dredging proposal sparked a lengthy discussion, but ultimately drew no nays from voters.
A total of 157 voters turned out for Wednesday’s continued meeting; the opening session on Tuesday drew 225.
Voters spent a little more than two hours tackling a 21-article special town meeting warrant on the first night, making it through 10 of the 35 articles on the annual warrant. The town voted to finance repairs to the town hall building and to fund a pest management program. The latter article intentionally did not specify whether this would be part of the Dukes County Integrated Pest Management program or a Tisbury-specific plan.
“The county is having discussions about [its] program and how it will be implemented in the future,” Mr. Israel said. “If we feel the county is the right way to go, then we’d like to do that. If we want to use some other option, this would allow us to do that.”
Tisbury devoted the final portion of Tuesday’s meeting to plans for safeguarding water quality in Lagoon Pond and Lake Tashmoo through the design and construction of a new wastewater treatment facility. The money for the project will come from borrowing against existing revenues from the wastewater plant, and does not come out of the tax base, department of public works director Fred LaPiana said.
Consultants from Wright-Pierce, the group that developed the wastewater proposal, were on hand to answer questions from voters, which ranged from concerns about nitrogen in the harbor to potential groundwater contaminations.
“In the universal scope of things we have to discharge this water somewhere,” Mr. Israel said. “. . . It’s the lesser of choices [harbor, Lake Tashmoo, Lagoon Pond], and the harbor flushes, and the water is treated.
“It’s not the perfect panacea but . . . I do believe that it’s the best option I’ve seen for our town.”
The measure was overwhelmingly approved by a voice vote.
In a second wastewater article, voters also approved a measure to fund consulting for phase two of the wastewater plant expansion.
They appropriated $135,000 for a newly-created stabilization fund for the fire department and EMS department. The fund itself had been approved just a half hour before, during the special town meeting.
On the special warrant, an article which would impose a temporary moratorium on the construction of medical marijuana dispensaries received the most discussion. In the end the article failed to obtain the two-thirds vote needed to pass (the count was 123-64).
By contrast, a second article relating to marijuana, a public consumption bylaw, passed with no discussion and only a smattering of no votes.
Among other articles on the special warrant, voters agreed to increase the excise tax on hotels and lodging, impose a 0.75 per cent tax on restaurant meals, and establish three new department of public works positions. The meeting also approved a new bylaw relating to loose farm animals and a master plan for proposed modifications to the harborfront on Beach Road.
The annual town election is April 30.