Voters in Chilmark next week will revisit a number of issues from previous town meetings, including a request to allow the sale of beer and wine in restaurants.
The annual town meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 24, at the Chilmark Community Center, following a special town meeting at 7 p.m. Longtime moderator Everett Poole will preside over the session. There are 34 articles on the warrant.
The special town meeting will present two articles aimed at clearing the way for the stalled Squibnocket Beach restoration project. The articles would amend the town’s Squibnocket Pond district bylaw to allow for reconstructed roadways, “including the addition of elevated sections or causeways,” and other provisions.
The restoration project has appeared at each of the last three annual town meetings, with voters last year allocating an additional $350,000 for the town’s portion, which involves relocating a town parking lot and removing a stone revetment. The project has been mired in litigation since last year, in light of a proposed causeway to the homes at Squibnocket Farm, which has long been a sticking point for neighbors. (The causeway portion would be funded privately.)
Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll said the amendments would not make or break the project, but could clear a path forward and give voters a voice in the process. “Essentially there are some small items being litigated,” he said, “and this may eliminate most of those from consideration, because it would clarify the existing bylaws and clarify the existing practice and other things.”
A $9.57 million annual town budget represents an increase of about 5.7 per cent over last year, largely in the areas of education, employee benefits and health insurance. Town accountant Ellen Biskis said some items this year are included in the annual budget, rather than on the town meeting warrant, since they are recurring costs. She also noted an increase in the police chief’s salary, from about $96,700 to $120,000.
Echoing last year’s town meeting, voters will decide whether the selectmen should seek approval from the state to allow up to five licenses for the sale of beer and wine in restaurants with at least 50 seats. A similar article (also submitted by petition) drew considerable debate last year, and failed by a voice vote. Chilmark is the last dry town on the Island.
Voters will revisit a request by the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District to borrow up to $2.5 million to expand its central transfer station in Edgartown. All four member towns approved the spending in 2014 and 2015, but were asked to vote again last year due to a technicality. Edgartown tabled the article in 2016, but then approved it last week, as did West Tisbury. The borrowing requires approval from all four member towns, including Aquinnah.
A three-year process to redraw the boundary between Chilmark and Aquinnah is set to come to an end this year, with voters in each town being asked to formally exchange two small parcels of land on Boathouse Road that the new line has created. Gov. Charlie Baker signed a rare piece of state legislation approving the line change in January.
An eight-acre lot on Middle Line Road could provide a new home for the town shellfish and highway departments, which now operate out of a garage at Peaked Hill. Mr. Carroll said an effort to redesignate the parcel for general municipal purposes was aimed partly at providing more affordable housing, since it would free up the space at Peaked Hill for that purpose. The landfill parcel would likely include space for commercial fishermen to store their gear, instead of using their yards or space in Menemsha.
“We have created housing for three new commercial fishermen over the last few years, but they have no place to put anything,” Mr. Carroll said. The Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust has endorsed the proposal, with trust president John Keene offering to clear a new road free of charge. Voters will be asked to approve the new designation, along with $10,000 for layout and site improvements.
A request of $200,000 would allow for the purchase of a new ambulance and other equipment for the Tri-Town Ambulance Service. Mr. Carroll said ambulances have gotten harder to maintain as a result of changing laws, and limited technical resources on the Island. He argued that buying a new ambulance was the safest option in light of future maintenance issues.
Voters will decide whether to spend $41,532 to reduce the up-Island regional school district’s liability for other post-employment benefits (OPEB). Mr. Carroll said the request has stirred heated debate in the district, with some arguing that the money should come from the school budget or other sources instead. “We are all far behind on funding our OPEB obligation,” he said. “This would be an important first step.” The spending would be added to the town’s education budget, but only if the other up-Island towns contribute proportionally.
The Chilmark finance committee has voted unanimously not to recommend funding for First Stop Martha’s Vineyard, an Islandwide information and referral service that recently transitioned from Dukes County to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
“In the last two years, voters on Martha’s Vineyard have spent $174,000 to develop a website that, however well-intentioned, has been underutilized,” the town finance committee said in a statement. The committee cites Community Services executive director Juliette Fay as saying the program’s website received only 489 hits in 2016, and asserts that the recent merger would have no apparent savings.
The Healthy Aging Task Force, which helped launch the program in 2015, has argued along with Community Services that it offers the only comprehensive listing of Island services. Chilmark’s assessment for the year is $10,152.
Proposed community preservation projects this year include $31,512 to help replicate the historic roof and chimneys at the former marine hospital owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Vineyard Haven, and $10,000 to help rebuild a basketball court at the West Tisbury School. A request for $5,200 would allow for the restoration of the town’s historic weights and measures cabinet and contents, which have been in storage since 1984. Mr. Carroll said the goal is to put the items on display in town hall.
Voters will decide whether to ask town police to refrain from using town funds to enforce federal immigration law, in keeping with existing practice. The Islandwide article, submitted by the citizen’s group We Stand Together, won enthusiastic approval at town meetings in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury last week.
The annual town election on Wednesday includes two other Islandwide questions — one asking whether to ban mopeds on Martha’s Vineyard, and the other gauging support for a regional housing bank akin to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank. Both questions are nonbinding.
There are no contested races on the ballot. Warren Doty is running unopposed for his seventh three-year term on the board of selectmen. Polls are open from noon to 8 p.m. at the Chilmark Community Center.