Edgartown, West Tisbury make no decision on MVC lawsuit

— File photo by Mae Deary

West Tisbury and Edgartown selectmen, now engaged in a joint lawsuit against the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), put off until Monday a telephone conference with their lawyer planned for yesterday.

Last Thursday, the selectmen met together in West Tisbury town hall to discuss their lawsuit aimed at overturning MVC approval of the controversial roundabout project, at the Blinker intersection in Oak Bluffs.

The decision to meet, and comments by several selectmen endorsing an Island-wide referendum to address the conflict, fueled speculation that, absent some indication of firm voter support, the town leaders may be looking for a way to rein in mounting legal bills in a potentially costly legal action.

In comments last week, Edgartown selectman Michael Donaroma raised the possibility of putting the lawsuit aside pending a response from voters to a non-binding question about the wisdom of the suit to be placed on the spring election ballot in all six Island towns.

Mr. Donaroma acknowledged that the lawsuit is unpopular among some Edgartown voters.

On January 12, the town leaders held an hour-long meeting in executive session, but they emerged to announce there was nothing new to report.

At that time, selectmen said they would meet on January 18 to continue their discussion. They tentatively scheduled a joint meeting with their lawyer Richard Renahan of the Boston law firm of Goulston & Storrs for 3 pm yesterday, January 18.

In December, West Tisbury and Edgartown together filed an appeal in Dukes County Superior Court against the MVC. West Tisbury selectmen have since received the first legal bill for the two towns, totaling $30,422. West Tisbury’s share is $15,211.

West Tisbury selectmen held a brief meeting after the January 12 joint session adjourned. Town administrator Jen Rand said the latest legal bills from Goulston & Storrs through December 31 are closer to $17,000.

Ms. Rand said the town’s current legal fund balance is around $29,000, which does not reflect the $17,000 for the roundabout lawsuit and another $4,000 in unpaid legal bills, which together will reduce the balance to about $8,000.

That figure also does not include legal bills from Goulston & Storrs for January 1 through 12, and pending legal bills from attorney William Solomon for the ongoing negotiations with cable television provider Comcast.

“I would say, between now and town meeting I will have only around $5,000, and usually the month of March is around $5,000,” Ms. Rand said.

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell suggested they request a transfer from the finance committee to replenish the legal fund. Doing so might avoid the need for a special town meeting.

Chairman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter suggested selectmen approach the finance committee immediately, but his two colleagues suggested they wait until after the January 18 meeting.