Aquinnah will try again to convene special town meeting

— File photo by Tim Johnson

Aquinnah voters will be asked to pull double-duty Tuesday, September 27, and take action on a seven-article town meeting warrant, and another three-article warrant for a special town meeting postponed from July because of a lack of a quorum.

On the surface there do not seem to be any hot-button issues on either of the two warrants. Most of the articles concern financial housekeeping measures.

The biggest question of the evening will be whether enough people show up to form a quorum. The previous special town meeting, on July 12, was postponed when only 34 people turned out, five short of the required quorum of 39 voters.

“That may be the biggest issue of the night, whether enough people show up,” town administrator Adam Wilson said. “There doesn’t seem to be any controversial issues, but there are important issues. I hope we get our quorum.”

The town meetings start at 7 p.m. at the Old Town Hall on State Road.

The postponed special town meeting includes an article asking voters to appropriate just under $26,000 to complete the town’s one-third share of the annual Tri-Town ambulance budget.

The article is an outgrowth of a decision by the selectmen at the annual town meeting in May to cut $25,909 from the town’s assessment for the Tri-Town budget.

The selectmen did not give an explanation for their decision at the time, despite concerns raised by Police Chief Rhandi Belain, who is also a member of the Tri-Town ambulance committee.

Mr. Wilson said the selectmen have since learned the Tri-Town agreement between the three towns requires each member town pay a one-third share for the ambulance service.

The main special town meeting includes an article asking voters to appropriate $20,800 for the town’s share of the fiscal year 2012 Medicare and social security payments.

Town accountant Margie Spitz told the Times this week that the article was required because of an error in the original line item at the annual town meeting.

Ms. Spitz said she traditionally has taken the cost of the social security out of the Medicare line item, largely because there was little or no social security being paid out to employees a number of years ago.

In recent years, she said, the town started taking social security out of the Medicare line item. This year she separated out the money for social security, but the amount was accidentally left off just before it went to the printer.

“It was a misunderstanding between me and Judy [Jardin] as we were trying to get it off to the printer. I asked her the Medicare amount; when she told me she didn’t understand why it was lower than it should have been,” she said.

Ms. Spitz said she will explain the situation to voters at the special town meeting.

Another relatively large spending item asks voters to appropriate $14,000 to contract a qualified agent to assist the town in tax title takings.

“We are hoping this is only short term. It should be a one-time expense,” Mr. Wilson said.

Voters will also be asked to take $4,000 from the Community Preservation Affordable Housing reserves for the town’s share of an Island-wide assessment of housing needs .

Aquinnah’s share will be conditional on the support of all six towns’ approving the study. Edgartown selectmen have rejected the measure on the basis that the town already pays a sizeable assessment and the MVC should fund the study from its existing budget

The study was requested by the Joint Affordable Housing Committee and will be administered by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Officials from the MVC have said an updated housing study will improve the chances of Island towns’ receiving state and federal grants.

Voters will also consider money requests for: $2,496 to pay police officers for unused fiscal year 2011 holiday, vacation or personal time; $4,000 to pay a one-third share to Tri-Town ambulance for the education and travel expenses for an Emergency Medical Technician basic staff member for certification as a paramedic; $2,000 for the annual rental and outfitting of storage space for town records; and $923 for the unexpected police wages and emergency storm coverage associated with Hurricane Irene.