Aquinnah voters in special meeting Thursday

— Photo by Tim Johnson

Aquinnah voters will decide at a special town meeting on Thursday, Nov. 15, whether to fund the town’s share of the long-delayed Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) to study Squibnocket and Menemsha Ponds.

The MEP article would transfer $16,767 from the town’s stabilization account to fund the study of the two ponds.

The special town meeting is at 7 pm at the Aquinnah Old Town Hall on State Road. At least 39 voters must gather to form a quorum and allow the special town meeting to be called to order.

The Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) is being conducted through collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

The MEP uses scientific analysis of plant life, water quality and the amount of nitrogen flowing from septic systems and other sources to gauge the overall health of at least 89 coastal ponds around the state.

Because Menemsha/Squibnocket is a shared system, the cost of the study is being shared with the town of Chilmark and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

The town’s share of the study was further reduced by a $15,000 donation from the Kennedy family as part of an agreement with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) regarding a subdivision plan for their property off Moshup Trail.

Town administrator Adam Wilson said the town has a memorandum of understanding with the tribe and Chilmark requiring the town to partially fund the MEP study.

Mr. Wilson said officials from the MEP haven’t contacted the town recently with any updates, but the initial agreement stated that the study would be completed by June 30, 2013. He said that selectmen could extend that date if necessary.

“We have heard through the grapevine they are close to finishing the down-Island estuary studies. We need to pay our share of these studies,” he said.

The rest of the articles are mostly routine housekeeping measures that will likely pass with little discussion. One article asks to appropriate $85 to cover a prior year Wampanoag Environmental Laboratory bill.

Another article asks to appropriate $1,500 from the Community Preservation Act historic preservation reserve for the restoration and repair of the Aquinnah Cattle Pound.

The pound was once used to house stray livestock during colonial times, and those who lost an animal would pay a tariff to retrieve it out of the cattle pound. The pound is located on private property on State Road just past town hall.

Mr. Wilson said the town has sent a letter to the owners of the property alerting them that the town wants to perform renovations of the historic property. To date, there has been no response.

Voters will also consider an article to appropriate $180 for a previous year MV Tech Bill, and another to spend $420 for a previous year Cable Advisory Board legal bill.

Another article would allow the town to establish an account to cover future payments of unused sick and vacation days after an employee retires.