Tisbury annual meeting requires a second night
At 10 pm on Tuesday, town moderator Deborah Medders, presiding over the Tisbury annual town meeting, told voters they had 32 out of 44 warrant articles remaining. After the collective groan, it was no surprise they voted no, loudly and clearly, against continuing the meeting another half hour. Instead, they chose to reconvene yesterday evening.
However, despite the apparent slow progress, by the evening's end voters had dispensed with several articles containing multiple sub-articles. Under Tisbury's lottery system for choosing their order, the questions they answered happened to come up the first night. Voters approved expenditures of $194,500 from Tisbury's unreserved fund balance on capital projects and allowed the town to borrow $493,250 to repair Veterans Memorial Park. They also approved several expenditures from ferry passenger embarkation fees and Community Preservation Act funds.
Halfway through the meeting, a torrential rainstorm began that at times hammered so loudly on the school gymnasium roof that the speakers' voices, even with microphones, could barely be heard. "I'm glad we fixed this roof last year," said Mr. Pachico.
Voters seemed to be in a yes mood, even agreeing to two capital projects they rejected last year. This time they approved $70,000 to fund exterior repairs and exterior painting of the police station and $50,000 to fund the reconstruction of approximately 500 feet of sidewalk on William Street.
Other capital projects approved included $45,000 for an addition on the dog pound facility, $7,500 for new computer hardware and software for the finance director, $5,000 toward a fund for custom-made replacement windows at town hall, $7,000 for an optical scan ballot reader, and $10,000 for repairs to the town hall annex garage.
Rebuilding Veterans' Memorial Park, located behind the post office off Causeway Road, generated the most discussion of the evening. Funding for the project included $590,000 in borrowing, under a capital appropriations article, as well as $96,750 for an irrigation system for the park, to be taken from the town's fiscal 2007 Community Preservation Act revenues.
Board of Public Works commissioners John Thayer and Dave Ferraguzzi made strong arguments in favor of spending the money on the park, outlining their meetings with the many athletic groups that use the field, including both adults' and children's leagues, their consultations with town boards and engineering firms, and the Department of Public Work's (DPW) studies of the grounds.
The project involves rebuilding the playing fields to address irrigation and drainage problems, as well as adding new bleachers, scoreboards, nets, backstops, trash receptacles, and water fountains.
Mr. Thayer explained the bonding authorization includes $50,000 in engineering costs for plans and the final design. The DPW also will try to use existing town contracts for much of the work to keep the costs down, he added, which prompted a round of applause.
Mr. Pachico clashed with the public works commissioners and Department of Public Works director Fred LaPiana over technical aspects of constructing the playing fields and addressing drainage problems, and questioned the necessity of irrigating the fields. At one point Mr. Ferraguzzi told him, "You have to trust your DPW - this is our job."
Voters defeated Mr. Pachico's amendment to strike the expenditure for the irrigation system from the CPA funds article. Because they approved the use of the CPA funds, the $590,000 in the borrowing article for the park was amended to $493,250.
In other recommendations for CPA funded projects, the use of $32,750 for the construction of four flat-bottomed boats for Sail Martha's Vineyard's sailing programs also generated a great deal of debate. Selectman Tristan Israel said that it was town counsel David Doneski's opinion that using CPA funds towards the creation of an historic resource rather than to improve an existing historic resource was questionable, under the terms of CPA legislation. But, Mr. Israel argued in favor the project anyway, which prompted Margaret Wolontis to remark, "I'm beginning to think that some people think this town has an unlimited amount of money."
Kay Mayhew asked Mr. Doneski whether that might jeopardize the other projects. He said each item stands on its own.
While some voters thought the money should not be spent on a project for a private, non-profit organization that would benefit only a few in the community, others equated it with spending money on Veterans' Memorial Park. An amendment to remove the item from the CPA fund article did not pass. Voters also approved the appropriation of $96,750 in CPA funds for partially funding the extension of a water main to the Bridge Commons affordable housing project on State Road.
An article regarding passenger ferry embarkation fee receipts included 14 expenditure requests from various town departments, the bulk of them from the ambulance and fire departments. Tisbury receives the funds from a legislature-imposed 50-cent surcharge on one-way ferry passenger tickets to mitigate the impacts of ferry service on the town.
Voters approved spending $253,308 out of the fund's total, $255,108. They rejected one request from Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur for $1,800 for the design of improvements to his office at Owen Park. During discussion, Mr. Wilbur made a case for improvements to his facility to enhance visibility, ventilation, heating, and cooling, including an observation deck so he can look out at the Steamship Authority slips, construction which he estimated might cost $37,000, in addition to the design plans.
Selectman Denys Wortman objected vigorously. He suggested buying a video camera surveillance system instead. "I'm not buying into this," he said. "I've been up in the harbormaster's shack, and if you lean forward, you can see the Steamship Authority slips clearly. This is more than we need to do." A majority of voters approved Mr. Wortman's amendment to strike the expenditure from the article.
In other discussion about using embarkation fee revenues, Ms. Wolontis took another of her many trips to the microphone to object to spending $50,000 on summer traffic officers. "My husband and I found in our experience, whenever there's a traffic jam, a traffic officer is the cause of it," she said.
Police Chief John Cashin told her, "That reminds me of an old saying - no situation is so dire, it cannot be worsened by a policeman." In response to a question from planning board member Peter Duart, Chief Cashin explained that controlling summer traffic exacerbated by arriving ferry passengers is the type of use for which embarkation fee money is intended. His department's budget will be reduced by $50,000, which will save taxpayers money.
Voters also addressed two of three articles submitted by Dukes County asking for Island towns for additional funds to supplement programs. While voters approved $5,275.27 toward the county's pest control program, they rejected spending $9,873.50 for the county engineer.
Yesterday, town clerk Marion Mudge said 198 voters, 7.3 percent of Tisbury's 2,713 registered voters, attended Tuesday night's meeting, a typical turnout for annual town meetings.