The future of the long-neglected Island Theatre has become even more uncertain.

Voters at the annual town meeting on Tuesday decided not to pay for emergency bracing to prevent the historic building on Circuit avenue from falling down. Now, with the summer season approaching, town officials are under the gun to come up with a plan B.

“There is no backup plan,” selectman Walter Vail told the Gazette on Wednesday, after voters on Tuesday rejected a $200,000 request to reinforce the building.

Building inspector Mark Barbadoro discusses state of Island Theatre at town meeting. — Mark Lovewell

“Clearly there was a lot of emotion in the room,” said town administrator Bob Whritenour, who had encouraged voters to support the article as written. “The only thing we can do is respect the will of the voters and continue to try to solve the problem.”

The article drew lengthy debate at the town meeting, with voters lined up for about 45 minutes in front of microphones in the high school performing arts center. Many said they would rather spend the money to tear the building down, and an amendment proposed by Mr. Vail to do so was met with applause.

Building inspector Mark Barbadoro was among the few who pressed for the emergency measures to keep the building safe until further action could be taken.

“This vote is for safety,” he said, adding that without the $200,000, he would need to consider fencing off the road and revoking occupancy certificates around the building. “The state inspector can also do that,” he said, “and the state inspector is also very concerned.”

In the end, however, Mr. Vail’s amendment and the article itself failed, with voters indicating a desire for a more comprehensive plan for the site. But Mr. Vail said he left the meeting on Tuesday without a clear sense what strategy they would prefer.

He puzzled at voters’ concerns that taking responsibility for the building would expose the town to lawsuits if the building were to collapse. “We have taken great pains to do things according to the book,” Mr. Vail said, including working with the state.

“Mark Barbadoro made it clear that we are under the gun from them,” he added. “I don’t know that he emphasized that quite enough. We don’t have many choices here.”

Mr. Barbadoro could not be reached by press time.

Selectman Gail Barmakian was also among those who favored the emergency bracing.

“It’s going to affect the value of our town to have a vacant lot that is fenced,” she said at the town meeting. “After that point in time, there will be not much the town can do unless it wants to purchase the property by eminent domain.”

But Mr. Vail didn’t think the selectmen would go that route. “It’s a long process,” he said, adding of the building: “We don’t have a plan for what to do with it if we did take it. We just haven’t had time to sit around and talk about that.”

Some people at the town meeting raised concerns about how the absence of the historic movie theatre might affect the character of downtown.

Mr. Whritenour encouraged voters to consider what Oak Bluffs would be without the familiar building. “Without a specific redevelopment plan, which does not exist, once you eliminate that [building], it really could diminish the overall appearance, and potentially the value of the remaining structures,” he said.

Linda Wilson made a case for preserving the historic facade, even if the building were taken down. “It would be such a shame to lose that,” she said.

But at this point, any long-term plans for the site are merely conceptual. Mr. Whritenour acknowledged people’s desire for a longer-term solution, but he said the town simply hadn’t gotten that far. “Maybe it needs a more holistic approach,” he said.

One thing everyone seemed to agree on at the annual town meeting was that the Hall family would be unlikely to solve the problem on its own. Several voters said they saw the $200,000 request as simply putting money in the family’s pocket. “This is a band aid,” Fred Hancock said of the proposal.

“I worked so hard for my money and I’m not going for this,” said Donna Hayes, urging town officials to hold the Halls accountable for the building.

Town counsel Michael Goldsmith pointed out Tuesday that regardless of the vote, the selectmen would need to hold a public hearing with the Halls and decide how to proceed. “You are not going to be able to direct the board how they are going to act,” he said.

For now, at least, Mr. Vail said the building would remain in its current state, although he anticipated the issue coming up at the next selectmen’s meeting on April 25. “I don’t expect anything to happen between now and then,” he said.