Edgartown voters will gather Tuesday in special meeting

Edgartown voters will gather at the Old Whaling Church for annual town meeting Tuesday.

Edgartown voters will gather in a special town meeting next Tuesday, October 25, to tackle a warrant with a range of issues, including new appropriations for payroll expenditures in several departments, new equipment for the fire department, money to evaluate the sale of the Warren House, and the location of mobile phone towers.

The meeting will convene at the Old Whaling Church, beginning at 7 pm.

Art Smadbeck, chairman of the selectmen, says he expects the cell tower issue to interest voters.

A warrant article asks whether selectmen should be authorized to change the use of silos on Katama Farm for the purpose of installing mobile telephone antennae and equipment. A two-thirds vote is required, according to the town’s bylaw covering mobile communication towers.

“That might bring out some people,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “It’s my hope that we have lots of interest and discussion surrounding whether or not to add cell towers to improve cellular service to areas of Katama that, at this point, are not being well served. If we can have plenty of discussion about that, it will bring out enough people for a quorum, because there are plenty of housekeeping items we need to take care of in the best interest of the town.”

He noted that the issue has arisen in two recent public information sessions during selectmen’s meetings, including some who have raised health concerns about the radio waves emitted by mobile technology.

Also on the warrant for the meeting is a question submitted by the library building design committee, to see if the town will authorize $10,000 for real estate appraisals and engineering drawings related to the prospective sale of the Captain Warren House. The money would come from an appropriation already approved by town meeting voters, for the committee’s work in siting and designing a new library.

The town bought the Warren House in 2005 for $3.5 million, as part of a plan to expand the library on North Water Street. The building proved to be unsuitable for library use, and the town scrapped plans for a 17,000-square foot library expansion at the North Water Street library when private fundraising fell far short of its goal. The town is now moving forward with a plan to build a new library on the site of the old Edgartown School.

“It used to be a hot-button issue,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “The fact that we’re moving in the direction of building a new library makes this surplus property. What they’re thinking of is to figure out a way to keep a portion of the parking lot and just sell the front part. It will be interesting to see.”

The 15-article warrant includes a total of $167,288 in town spending. Voters are asked to fund several items from the town’s free cash account, including $40,000 for new fire equipment, $27,000 for new software for billing and collections in the water and wastewater departments, $28,912 for final salary payments for a police officer who retired, $10,000 for legal fees related to tax takings and foreclosures, and $9,950 to purchase a new motor for the shellfish department boat.

The Edgartown Firemen’s Association will ask for $20,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to buy interpretive plaques for historic artifacts in the Edgartown Fire Museum.