West Tisbury down to short list in police chief search

The West Tisbury selectmen expect to receive the short list of three finalists for the position of police chief soon. The committee selectmen appointed to help identify the person who will fill the spot left vacant when Beth Toomey retired in April expects to present that list once it completes background checks.

The committee charged with the search and recommendation process completed its initial screening of applicants and then conducted in-person interviews on Saturday to identify the semi-finalists. However, committee chairman Robert (Bob) Wasserman told The Times that the committee still must undertake background checks before presenting the selectmen with its short-list of finalists. The search committee also includes Hasty Runner, David Merry, Al DeVito and Pierce Kirby.

Following a formal presentation by the committee, the selectmen will schedule public interviews of the finalists prior to a vote to determine the next police chief.

Mr. Wasserman declined to answer any questions about the finalists or the process to date. Selectman Richard Knabel told The Times that he believes the committee interviewed six applicants Saturday. The selectmen are expecting to receive the names of three finalists at their next regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 20.

In the meantime, selectmen must take action on the contract under which Sergeant Dan Rossi was named acting Police Chief. That contract expires on Oct. 12. The selectmen have scheduled a special meeting at 8:30 am, Tuesday to act on Mr. Rossi’s contract extension.

Loose lips charged

The search process has not been free of controversy. West Tisbury selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter, in a brief email memo dated September 21 to the members of the search committee, wrote, “It has come to my attention the confidentiality of the search committee’s executive sessions has been breached.”

Mr. Manter, who is also a town police sergeant, said, “People outside of the search committee know of at least one applicant’s name and where they are in the process. No one outside your committee should have this information.”

Mr. Manter, who is not an applicant for the job, described the incident as a serious violation of privacy. He urged the committee to meet as soon as possible to discuss the matter.

In a telephone interview with The Times, Mr. Manter said that the committee met in executive session to conduct the preliminary screening process to protect the identity of applicants. According to Mr. Manter the committee “may” meet in executive session, but it could have also elected to meet in public. “It was up to them to have the process hidden from the public,” Mr. Manter said.

Mr. Wasserman told The Times that he will ask the committee members what they want to do in response to Mr. Manter’s complaint. “There has never been anything in writing about requiring confidentiality,” Mr. Wasserman said.

Library moves forward

In other town business, at their September 29 meeting, the selectmen signed a contract with Oudens & Ello Architecture of Boston for $39,275, on behalf of the West Tisbury Free Public Library. The Friends of the West Tisbury Library has given the town the funds.

Oudens & Ello will undertake the pre-design work needed to complete an application for a funding grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). If the library receives a MBLC grant, the state funds will account for 60 percent of the total construction cost, including up to $800,000 in land acquisition expenses.

Library director Beth Kramer told The Times that Oudens & Ello will do a site analysis of the current location and one other site to determine which is more viable. A schematic rendering of the proposed library will be developed, along with cost estimates. The project is expected to double the size of the library from the current 5,640 square feet to approximately 10,395 square feet.

Mrs. Kramer hopes by the end of October to be holding the first of two public forums to show the design ideas and get public feedback. “The Library Building Committee has done a wonderful job of keeping the process moving forward in a timely fashion,” Mrs. Kramer said.

The Oudens & Ello firm was selected from 12 that submitted proposals and four that were interviewed. Previous library design experience and strong recommendations were a factor in the firm’s selection.

“The team came fully prepared — more so than the other groups who appeared. They were intelligent, able to listen and field questions. Both of the principals will be fully involved in our project and because of their previous experience they are fully aware of what the state is looking for in these grant applications,” Mrs. Kramer said. “There is going to be no learning curve.”

The library filed its letter of intent to submit a proposal for the MBLC grant on September 30, a week ahead of the deadline.

The selectmen also acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) agreeing to the town request that the state repair the road surface of State Road at Old County where recesses in the road bed were created to help slow down traffic. The town had requested that the recesses be removed as they pose a danger to bicycle and moped operators. No date for the road work is scheduled.