Tisbury annual takes another look at connector road

Tisbury town moderator Deborah Medders will be back at the podium Tuesday night. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Tisbury voters will confront 56 articles when they meet Tuesday night to take action on special and annual town meeting warrants.

The meeting begins at 7 pm in the Tisbury School gym. Town meeting moderator Deborah Medders said the town decided to schedule both meetings on one night because it proved difficult in the past to get a quorum for two separate meetings.

Voters will be asked to take action on a range of issues that include new town positions, wastewater planning and expansion of the treatment plant, and medical marijuana treatment centers. One Proposition 2.5 question asks voters to fund a connector road between State and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven (Edg.-V.H.) Roads.

Town elections will be held on April 30, the same day as the state primary for the 2013 U.S. Senate special election to replace Senator John Kerry. The polling place has been changed to the new emergency services facility on Spring Street. There are no contested races.

Budget up 3 percent

Voters will be asked to approve a $21,480,032 budget for fiscal year 2014 (FY14), an increase of about 3.04 percent, or $632,824 over the FY13 budget of $20,8847,208.

The budget includes a 2 percent increase in department budgets to cover a 1.7 percent cost of living increase for the town’s union and non-union employees — except for teachers, who will receive contractual increases.

About 41 percent of Tisbury’s $21.4 million operating budget, or $8,862,445, is devoted to education.

That includes $3,155,698 to cover the cost of educating 144 students at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, an increase of $69,710, or 2.25 percent, over last year. Tisbury School, with a current enrollment of 323, has a budget of $5,706,747, an increase of $334,318, or about 6 percent over FY13. Both school budgets include shared expenses for schools Island-wide that the superintendent’s office handles — special education services, for example.

Special warrant

Three articles on the special town meeting warrant ask voters to approve new positions for an assistant public works director, wastewater laboratory director, and wastewater superintendent.

The board of public works (BPW) commissioners hired a consultant to review the department of public works (DPW) workload and staffing in advance of DPW director Fred LaPiana’s retirement by the end of this year. The consultant recommended adding an assistant public works director to handle the day-to-day interactions with crews and quality assurance, Mr. LaPiana told The Times.

Mr. LaPiana said hiring a full-time wastewater plant superintendent would save the town money. Tisbury currently pays an outside contractor to help run the plant. A full-time laboratory director is needed to maintain the town’s water testing lab certification.

The town’s personnel board endorsed the BPW’s request for the new positions.

Voters also will be asked to approve a master plan for the area on the harbor side of Beach Road extending to the Lagoon Pond drawbridge. Designed by architect Jamie Weisman of Terrain Associates and funded with Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds, the plan focuses on improving pedestrian access and includes reconstruction and reconfiguration of the seawall, which is owned by Tisbury.

Mr. LaPiana said the seawall is in bad shape and in need of repair. “It’s a big ticket item and could cost as much as $10 million,” he said.

Tisbury voters will also be asked to impose a one-year temporary moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers to give the town time to consider whether to allow the centers, to the extent they are permitted under state law and regulations.

Another article would prohibit people from smoking, ingesting or otherwise using or consuming marijuana in any area accessible to the public, including public transit vehicles. The proposed bylaw calls for a fine of $300 per violation.

The special town meeting warrant also includes several municipal “housekeeping” items. In keeping with Tisbury’s tradition, most spending articles will be addressed at the annual town meeting that follows.

Annual revisits connector

A connector road, wastewater treatment plant upgrades, and harbor dredging are the big-ticket items on the annual warrant.

Article 5 asks voters to allow the town to borrow $1.3 million to fund the construction and associated costs of the first leg of a connector road system that would link Edg.-V.H. and State roads. Voters must approve both the article and a Proposition 2.5 override ballot question.

The first leg would include a road that cuts over from Edg.-V.H. Road along the access driveway now used by Island Food Products near the Edgartown National Bank branch and exits from Holmes Hole Road on to State Road. The connector road system plans also include two other legs with exits from High Point Lane and Evelyn Way. The goal is to decrease traffic congestion in the State Road-Five Corners-Beach Road Tisbury business district, especially during the summer months.

At last year’s town meeting voters rejected a request for $3 million to build two legs of the connector road. They also nixed a request to reduce the funding to $1.6 million to build the road with one exit.

“Our intent this year is to see if we can build one of the three links instead of the whole project, to try to ease the financial burden on the town,” Mr. LaPiana said.

Mr. LaPiana said his efforts to get state funding for the connector road were unsuccessful once again last fall. Over the past year, however, the town received financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a water line on the main part of the connector road layout.

“The water line basically cleared out a large portion of about half of this particular link, which would save us a little money on the project, so we figure it’s a good time to bring this to the voters again with a reduced price, while everything is still freshly cut,” Mr. LaPiana said.

Article seven asks voters to approve borrowing $990,000 to expand the wastewater treatment plant’s capacity. The project would be funded from the sewer enterprise fund.

The town’s wastewater planning committee and BPW commissioners recommended the project, based on the advice of consultants Wright-Pierce. The purpose is to allow for business district properties to hook up to the town’s sewer system to reduce the nitrogen level in Lake Tashmoo.

Article 18 asks voters to allow the town to borrow $500,000 to fund various dredging projects in Vineyard Haven Harbor and the Lake Tashmoo channel and inlet. The state is not funding such projects with grants anymore, interim dredge committee director Nevin Sayre told The Times, and the small entrance to the harbor is already close to filling in, as it did in 1997.

Unlike years past, Tisbury’s FY14 operating budget does not include a line item for the Dukes County Integrated Pest Control program. Instead, article 29 asks voters to transfer $12,861 from free cash to fund a town program that would include skunk control.