West Tisbury selectmen agreed unanimously on Wednesday, January 18 to place a non-binding question on the spring election ballot in April to gauge town voter support for the construction of a roundabout at the blinker intersection in Oak Bluffs.
In December, West Tisbury and Edgartown jointly hired the Boston law firm of Goulston & Storrs to appeal the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s (MVC) approval of the roundabout project. The legal challenge has put a $15,211 hole in the town’s legal budget.
West Tisbury selectmen have discussed the possibility of holding a special town meeting to ask voters to replenish the town legal fund, which will be depleted by several other legal actions.
The West Tisbury selectmen’s decision to place the roundabout question on the ballot was prompted by a failed petition received by town clerk Tara Whiting on January 13.
The petition turned in by Barbara Day and signed by 13 residents proposed to ask voters, “Should a roundabout be built at the blinker intersection?”
Wednesday, town administrator Jen Rand said that in order to be valid the petition needed to be submitted 90 days before the election, but this one had narrowly missed the deadline. However, Ms. Rand explained, the selectmen could vote to place the question on the ballot.
Chairman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter moved that the selectmen sponsor the question. It was quickly seconded and approved unanimously without discussion.
Following the meeting, Ms. Rand said the selectmen’s decision to place the non-binding question on the ballot should not, at this point, have any bearing on the legal challenge of the MVC’s approval of the roundabout.
In other business, selectmen heard from Arnold Fischer, who complained about what he called an ongoing problem with trash along several town roads, including Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
Mr. Fischer said much of the debris comes from people bringing trash to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Refuse District. “It’s a huge issue . . . from Morning Glory to New Lane it’s trash everywhere,” Mr. Fischer said.
“I just think we need to get the word out; we need to raise a stink, we need to scream bloody murder and stop this,” he added.
Police Chief Dan Rossi said he spoke with Mr. Fischer and agreed something needed to be done about the trash problem. He said police have stopped trucks in the past for bringing unsecured loads to the landfill, and there was a campaign a few years ago with the tagline “stop it, don’t drop it,” aimed at curbing the problem.
“We as citizens need to be better informed on how we carry our loads to the dump, because we live here. I go down that same road every day and it’s irritating . . . it’s not a summer problem, it’s us. And we have to a better job securing our garbage,” the chief said.
Mr. Rossi said police can issue a $250 ticket to someone who dumps trash, intentionally or not. He said he talked to highway superintendent John Powers and Edgartown police Chief Antone Bettencourt about starting a new campaign to address the trash problem.
He said he planned to post an officer at the refuse district on a busy weekend day to distribute flyers of the $250 fine, if they are caught with an unsecured load.
Selectmen also met with West Tisbury library director Beth Kramer and Mr. Powers about possibly upgrading the septic system for the Howes House, in conjunction with the planned library renovation project.
Mr. Powers said the library renovation plans call for the parking lot that Howes House shares with the library to be paved. He said the library renovations would be the ideal time to replace the Howes House septic system.
Ms. Rand said the town would need to upgrade the septic system anyway if it ever renovated or expanded Howes House, which has been discussed in the past.
“If we ever plan to do anything else with Howes House, which is conceivable, considering that second floor, we would need to be upgraded so perhaps the time is right to do that,” she said.
Mr. Powers said the current septic tank would need to be expanded from 1,000 gallons to 1,500 gallons if Howes House is expanded. He said it made the most sense to install a new, larger tank during the library renovations.
He also suggested a plumbing stub be installed to the new tank allowing the town to connect the nearby Field Gallery down the road. “We are looking to the future rather than say we have to dig this up again,” he said.
“We are going to be digging it up anyway,” agreed Mr. Manter. “Just the cost of replacing the tank isn’t all that much.”
Ms. Kramer said she talked to the architects for the library project prior to the selectmen’s meeting, and they agreed the best plan was to replace the Howes House septic tank as part of the library renovations.
Ms. Kramer said she is still talking to the designers about possibly using an alternative, more environmentally friendly, septic system. She said library officials will know more about an alternative system in the coming weeks.
Selectmen agreed they should explore folding the Howes House septic upgrade into the library project and briefly discussed the possibility of placing an article on the warrant of the annual town meeting seeking funding for a new septic tank.
They also reached a consensus to include the Field Gallery in the plans. “I am in favor of dealing with the Field Gallery right away, but also in an alternative system. I think that makes a statement,” selectman Richard Knabel said.
“It’s a teaching tool, as well,” agreed Mr. Powers.
Selectmen agreed to revisit the issue at a future meeting.