Edgartown set to debate $29.8 million budget, medical marijuana

In this 2012 photo, Edgartown voters prepare for annual town meeting in the Old Whaling Church. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Edgartown voters will decide 67 warrant articles and two Proposition 2.5 questions, covering everything from the cost of a birth certificate to the cost of two new fire trucks to the social cost of the new medical marijuana law, at special and annual town meetings scheduled for Tuesday, April 9.

The special town meeting begins at 7 pm at the Old Whaling Church on Main Street. Annual elections will follow on Thursday, April 11.

Michael Donaroma, chairman of the board of selectmen, expects a smooth town meeting.

“No contentious items that I know off,” Mr. Donaroma said. “I think the town administrator and the FinCom (financial advisory committee) have done an excellent job with getting the budget in order.”

Town meeting voters will consider a $29.8 million operating budget that includes a two-percent cost of living salary hike for all town employees except teachers, who will receive contractual increases. The spending plan represents a five-percent increase over the previous fiscal year.

The fiscal year 2014 operating budget includes $4,050,582 to cover the cost of educating Edgartown students at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, an increase of $560,420, or 16 percent, over the previous year.

The budget for the Edgartown school increased by $396,022 this year to $6,653,749, an increase of 6.3 percent.

Fire finances

The fire department will ask voters to appropriate $634,000 for two new fire trucks, in the first of two Proposition 2.5 questions on the warrant.

“It’s a big number,” Mr. Donaroma said. “With the economy still the way it is, there might be a conversation.”

Fire Chief Peter Shemeth said the department pared its original plan by choosing more economical options such as a smaller engine and different equipment for the new trucks.

“The trucks we’re replacing are very old, they’re in need of replacement,” Mr. Shemeth said. “We have a long-range plan with the capital programs committee. This is part of the plan. We actually ended up asking for a lot less than we thought we would.”

Mr. Shemeth said the purchase will help the town save money in the future. One of the new trucks will be a combination pumper and rescue truck, which will replace two trucks now in service.

“We’ll replace engine 1, the old pumper, and dispose of the rescue truck,” Mr. Shemeth said. “There is always an issue in the daytime for the number of people who can respond. By reducing the number of trucks, we can also reduce the number of personnel needed. We don’t have to roll two separate pieces of equipment. We can roll one piece and get the job done.”

He said the sale of the rescue truck currently in service will result in further savings for the town.

The second Proposition 2.5 question asks voters to exempt a bond to finance painting of a water tower from from the limitations of the tax law.

Medical marijuana

Like all the other Island towns, Edgartown will ask voters if they want to change zoning laws to declare a moratorium on growing or selling medical marijuana. The proposed bylaw, which requires approval of two-thirds of town meeting voters, would “establish a temporary restriction in order to allow the town adequate time to consider whether to allow facilities associated with medical use of marijuana, to the extent those facilities are permitted under state law and regulations and if so, in which areas of the town and under what conditions the facilities should be allowed,” the warrant article reads. The article proposes a moratorium that would last one year from town meeting day.

Another article would amend town bylaws to prohibit use of medical marijuana in any public part of the town, including streets, sidewalks, beaches, and parks. The proposed bylaw calls for a fine of $300 for each violation.

Town clerk Wanda Williams submitted an article that would increase many of the fees charged for routine documents. For example, if voters approve, the cost of a birth certificate will rise from $5 to $10. Amending a marriage record would rise from $10 to $25. The cost of filing a record of practice of podiatry will remain $20. But the cost of a license to operate a bowling alley will double from $50 to $100

One candidate, one vote

There are no contested races in town elections scheduled for Thursday, April 11.

Running for re-election unopposed are Mr. Donaroma, board of selectmen; David Rossi, school committee; Robert Cavallo, planning board, Denise Searle and Carl Watt, library board of trustees.

There is room for write-in candidates in two races. Steven Jordan is the only candidate on the ballot for the financial advisory committee, though two seats are open. One seat is open on the board of assessors, but no candidates will appear on the ballot.

The two Proposition 2.5 articles must be approved both by town meeting voters, and by ballot in the town election, in order to take effect.

Polls are open at town hall from 10 am to 7 pm.