Massachusetts under fire after grants denied Martha’s Vineyard towns

Edgartown town administrator Pam Dolby criticized the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) at Monday’s meeting of the board of selectmen, for the agency’s decision to reject a $2 million grant application.

Edgartown and other Island communities have won the federal funding for home improvement and child care subsidies in each of the past eight years. The agency rejected the grant this year because of a technical omission in legal advertisements for public hearings. Grant administrator Alice Boyd took responsibility for the mistake.

“Edgartown wouldn’t even be getting the grant, except for the work Alice Boyd did at the beginning,” Ms. Dolby said. “I think somebody (at DHCD) could have picked up a telephone. They could have called and given us a heads up.”

Selectmen also sent a strongly worded letter to DHCD urging the agency not to change its applications rules. The state is considering a change that would prevent a community getting grants in consecutive years. “This proposed policy change will have a severe impact,” the selectmen said in their letter. “Currently there are over 220 families on our childcare subsidy wait list and over 150 families waiting for housing rehab.”

Also Monday, selectmen heard proposals for new bathrooms near Memorial Wharf, and new sidewalks on Chappaquiddick. Chappy ferry owner Peter Wells presented plans for public bathrooms at the ferry building.

“There are always people coming to me with their legs crossed asking ‘where is the bathroom,’” Mr. Wells told selectmen. “It seems to me we have space down there at the wharf.”

Selectmen asked him to consult the capital planning committee and other town boards.

“The first think we have to do is find out who owns the building and the land,” selectman Margaret Serpa said. “Then we have to see if we’re going to partner, and how that would work.”

Mr. Wells also proposed the town build two new sidewalks on Chappaquiddick, to improve safety for pedestrians who now walk in the road. He envisions a sidewalk from the ferry landing to the Beach Club, on the south side of Chappaquiddick Road. He also proposed a sidewalk on the north side of the road near the Chappy Community Center.

Claire Thacher, a Chappy resident, questioned the idea. “You start a sidewalk, and pretty soon you’ve got suburbia,” Ms. Thacher said.