Sewer expansions to protect sensitive ponds and watersheds and big-ticket spending to bury utility lines on Beach Road will top the agenda when Tisbury voters convene for annual and special town meetings next week.
A special town meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Tisbury School gymnasium, immediately followed by the annual town meeting. Moderator Deborah Medders will preside. There are 15 articles on the special warrant and 36 on the annual warrant.
Voters will be asked to approve a town budget of $27.1 million a 6.3 per cent increase over last year. Finance director Jonathan Snyder said the biggest drivers in the budget are an increased assessment for students at the regional high school, and increases in health insurance.
Tisbury’s high school assessment went up about 20 per cent this year — a $741,000 increase — due to higher enrollment from students in town.
“In a budget of 27.1 million, that is a significant increase,” said Mr. Snyder. Still, he noted there will be no need for a general override to Proposition 2 1/2, the state-mandated tax cap, this year.
Selectman and board chairman Melinda Loberg said all town department heads were asked to keep spending to a minimum this year as a new school building project lies ahead. With funding from the Massachusetts’s School Building Authority, the town is designing a new elementary school. It has not been decided yet whether the school will be rebuilt on site or in a new location. If the school moves, the town would have the current school building at its disposal.
“We’re trying to do all this in context of where the school’s going to be,” Mrs. Loberg told the Gazette, speaking of spending needs.
Meanwhile, the town continues to confront concerns about excess nitrogen in its saltwater ponds and watersheds. Extending sewer lines to the State Road business corridor has been on the drawing board for a couple of years, and next week voters will be asked to spend $50,000 for planning and engineering for the project.
In its first phase, the town wastewater plant was designed to protect the harbor from pollution by connecting downtown businesses on Main and Water streets to sewers. “Now the emphasis is to look at areas that are primarily feeding into Lagoon and Tashmoo so we can start chipping away on the nitrogen there,” Mrs. Loberg said. Voters will also be asked to spend $60,000 for engineering to bring online the so-called wicks — a vertical leaching field for the wastewater treatment facility that aims to save space and nearly double the capacity of the plant.
“The first step is to do the engineering for the pipe to the leach field to the wicks,” Mrs. Loberg explained.
In separate articles, voters also will decide whether to extend a sewer line to the old marine hospital, the new site of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and to three lots on High Point Lane. Neither article has money attached. The sewer connection for the High Point Lane lots was required by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission during a recent review.
Mrs. Loberg said the museum plans to pay for its sewer connection and could extend an option for Skiff avenue residents to tie in. “That guarantees they don’t contribute nitrogen to the watershed,” she said, noting however that other neighbor concerns about the museum’s building plans could surface at the meeting.
In one of the biggest spending items this year, voters will be asked to allow the town to borrow $1.8 million to bury power and utility lines along Beach Road. Last year a request for $300,000 for design and engineering for the same project failed. Mr. Snyder said the change this year involves financing — the town now hopes to pay for the project through a bond. The project is part of a larger and long-debated state public works initiative to redesign and reengineer the stretch of Beach Road that runs roughly from Five Corners to Wind’s Up. In order to pass, the $1.8 million article also needs approval in the ballot box at the annual town election in two weeks.
Mrs. Loberg said MassDOT is at the 75 per cent design stage on the Beach Road project, so when it comes to putting utilities underground, it could be now or never.
“We thought here’s one last opportunity, we have a better idea of the price, it’s a time when if the town approves it we can have the work done simultaneously with the construction of the road,” she said.
Voters will be asked to spend $60,000 to design an expansion to the town library, a project that does not have the support of the selectmen or the finance committee.
Here again, Mrs. Loberg said, the issue revolves around holding off until a new school becomes reality. “We had a cabinet meeting quite a while ago, we specifically asked departments to postpone any planning for additions until we had better understanding of what the school would be,” she said. “The library board wanted to pursue it anyway, they feel they have money to build and just want money to design it.” She said the selectmen and finance committee “are not thrilled they did that, it would be better if we wait a year.”
A request for $750,000 to build a new waterworks garage does have the support of the selectmen and finance committee. The plan to build a prefabricated garage and office building up the hill from the current location on Spring Street was put on hold last year when the Tisbury school building committee thought it might consider the site as a possible location for a new elementary school. The site has since been ruled out, putting the waterworks project back on track, Mrs. Loberg said, noting that the price has already gone up.
Capital improvement projects include $30,000 for roof repairs at the town hall, $20,000 for police department repairs, $36,000 for new snow plows and $65,000 for 20 new transient moorings.
More than $1.3 million in Community Preservation Act funding requests will come before voters. They include Tisbury’s share of funding to replace the roof at the old marine hospital, and another $50,000 to repair the porches on the building.
Three CPA funding requests would go toward restoration and historic preservation at the American Legion Post 257. In addition to $70,000 for general building repairs, $10,000 is needed to restore the flagpole and $30,000 to catalogue and preserve an array of artifacts. Jeff Kristal, a member of the American Legion building committee, said this week that the archives of historically significant war items include a civil war rifle and posters from both World Wars.
Other CPA funds would go toward lighting and sound repairs at the Katharine Cornell Theatre ($30,000), Owen Park improvements ($80,500) and affordable housing requests ($469,650 for the Kuehn’s Way project, $120,000 for rental assistance and $50,000 for the town affordable housing trust fund).
Voters will be asked to allocate $278,500 in ferry embarkation fees for a variety of projects, mostly focusing on public safety. Wages for summer police officers, training and equipping the Islandwide tactical response team and EMS equipment are all on the list along with repairs to the Owen Park dock, downtown beautification and sidewalk replacement. Embarkation fees come from passenger ticket sales by the Steamship Authority and go to all the port towns. As the main year-round Island port,Vineyard Haven receives a large share of the funds.
A bylaw to regulate rental housing appears on the special town meeting warrant but will be withdrawn by the selectmen, who voted this week to hold more public meetings before bringing it to voters.
“Because we hadn’t had public hearings, there would have been a lot of discussion and questions that would have been more appropriate at a public meeting,” Mrs. Loberg said.
The annual town election is May 9. The ballot includes a question to allow the sale of hard liquor in restaurants, in addition to beer and wine. Mrs. Loberg is up for reelection as selectman and will be challenged by James Rogers. Joseph McCarthy is running against incumbent Hillary Conklin for town clerk.