DPW rejects sex offender reg discussion
Tisbury selectman Jeffrey Kristal proposed Monday that town officials consider a town bylaw that would prohibit registered sex offenders from establishing residency or loitering near specific areas of town.
Mr. Kristal made the proposal at a joint meeting of the Tisbury selectmen and Department of Public Works (DPW) board Monday night to discuss ongoing town projects.
Mr. Kristal decided to introduce his proposal at the meeting because the commissioners oversee the town's public parks, he said. The commissioners said it was the wrong venue.
Mr. Kristal proposed that Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders who have committed a sex offense against a child be prohibited from establishing residency within 2,500 feet of certain areas in town, such as schools and public parks, and from loitering within 500 feet of certain areas and facilities.
Mr. Kristal said people have come to him with concerns about child safety, in light of the town's plans to improve Veterans Park and build a new soccer field. Staff at the Vineyard Haven Library also mentioned their concerns about unsupervised children, whose parents drop them off at the library for long periods while they run errands, he said.
Although Mr. Kristal said he sent copies of the proposed bylaw to selectmen Denys Wortman and Tristan Israel a few weeks ago, they had not yet discussed it as a board.
Mr. Israel took exception with the scope of the proposed bylaw. He said the issues surrounding sex offenders get political. The law provides punishment, and once someone has been sent away, he argued, "the person has to come back to somewhere."
"I don't want to become hysterical about this - I want to do this in a rational way, not where we're going to have a big circle around the town," Mr. Israel said. "I don't think we should zone them out of the community."
Mr. Wortman said his concern was how the bylaw would be enforced. Mr. Kristal said Island law enforcement agencies, as well as the public, would do that.
Putting an end to the discussion, BPW commissioner David Ferraguzzi said, "This is a public debate, not a DPW debate. This has nothing to do with the parks - it's not in our purview to restrict who lives near our parks." The selectmen agreed to discuss it further at one of their meetings.
In other discussion about parks, director Fred LaPiana said the DPW anticipates starting work on Veteran's Memorial Park after Labor Day. He hopes to have grass and sod down on the fields by Columbus Day weekend in October. The fields will not be available for play until September 2009 in order to give the grass time to take root, Mr. LaPiana added.
In other business, the two boards reviewed and evaluated a proposal from GCPS of Massachusetts for installing a fiber optic network. Mr. LaPiana said after putting out a request for proposals, GCPS, which had originally pitched the plan to the town last year, came in with the only proposal.
GCPS proposes to build an unmanned 25- by 35-foot telecommunications central office facility capable of serving the whole Island on DPW property. Tisbury voters approved an article to allow it at special town meeting on March 27.
In exchange, the company will build a fiber optic network throughout the town to provide connectivity between municipal buildings and to monitor 80 wastewater pumps in the town's sewer system.
Mr. LaPiana said on Tuesday both boards responded positively on proposal evaluation forms, and that the next step is completing legal paperwork.
In other business, Mr. LaPiana said the DPW is looking at the economic viability of getting certification for its water-testing laboratory and is working with the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on the process.
Currently, waste-water samples are sent off Island for testing. Considering the cost and the fact that some of the samples have a shelf life of 24 hours, Mr. LaPiana said it makes sense to have a local lab. The lab would be used to evaluate waste-water samples and also road runoff and beach water samples. To that end, Tisbury Waterways recently voted to contribute $15,000 to the project.
The selectmen said they agreed that the proposal had merit, and Mr. LaPiana said the commissioners will be deciding on it soon.
Mr. LaPiana also provided an update on progress on the Tisbury connector road between State Road and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Town counsel is reviewing negotiations with property owners off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, he said, and the DPW is putting together a package for the DEP for approval to go around the town landfill.
The town also has started discussions with property owners on the Holmes Hole Road side of the project. Mr. LaPiana said he has started preparing paperwork for a grant from the Public Works Economic Development program (PWED program) to seek state funding for a majority of the work.
The two boards also discussed Mr. Israel's proposal to find a small piece of land in town to create a community garden area where residents could grow their own produce on small plots.