Tri-town bill tops Aquinnah special meeting called for Tuesday

Gay Head Light is a symbol of Aquinnah. — File photo by Tim Johnson

Aquinnah will hold a special town meeting Tuesday, July 12. Voters will be asked to take action on a three-article warrant that includes a request to fully fund the town’s Tri-town ambulance assessment voters shorted at the May 9 annual town meeting.

The special town meeting begins at 7 pm in Aquinnah Old Town Hall on State Road.

The first article asks voters to raise and appropriate $25,909 to complete the one-third share of funding for the 2012 fiscal year Tri-town Ambulance budget.

The Tri-town assessment formula for the ambulance force splits the cost evenly between Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury. That has been a sore point in the past with Aquinnah voters and town officials who point to a disparity in calls between the up-Island towns.

The Tri-town budget called for the town’s ambulance service assessment to increase from $104,269 to $160,278. At the request of selectmen, the Aquinnah budget presented to voters at annual town meeting called for a reduction in the assessment to $134,360.

The jump in funding was part of a larger effort to transition the ambulance service from a largely volunteer to a professional force. Over the objections of Aquinnah Police Chief Rhandi Belain, who is also chairman of the Tri-town committee, voters agreed with the cut in the town’s assessment.

In the intervening weeks, Tri-town hired a new director and there have been discussions among Aquinnah selectmen and their counterparts. As a result, the selectmen backed the money request, Adam Wilson, Aquinnah town administrator, told The Times in a telephone conversation Wednesday.

Voters will also be asked to contribute $4,000 for the town’s share in the cost of an Island-wide housing needs assessment by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). The request is contingent on the support of all six island towns.

That support is not there. Edgartown selectmen strongly rejected the MVC request based on the view that the regional planning agency should pay for any study out of its existing budget.

Tisbury selectmen took a similar view.

The MVC operating budget for fiscal year 2012 is $1,167,265. The regional permitting and planning agency employs an executive director, an administrator, an administrative assistant, and seven planners.

The bulk of MVC funding comes from assessments to Dukes County towns, based on equalized property valuations. Edgartown contributed $291,486, or 25 percent of the total budget in FY 2011.

Voters will also be asked for $300 to bolster the wages of the planning board clerk.

The print version of this story incorrectly stated that the meeting is scheduled for tonight, Thursday.