Shark referendum wins 225 to 186 in Oak Bluffs

— Photo by Steve Myrick

Oak Bluffs voters signaled a desire to change the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament to a catch and release only event, in a non-binding question on Thursday’s town election ballot.

The referendum, which asked voters whether “all shark fishing tournaments held in the town of Oak Bluffs shall be catch and release only,” passed by a 225 to 186 margin.

Town meeting voters had their say on the shark tournament referendum Tuesday evening. Following a spirited debate, voters approved the referendum question 64 to 50.

The non-binding question does not impose any changes on the tournament, but selectmen have said they will be influenced by the vote in future decisions, as they were by a 2007 ballot question.

In 2007, voters were asked whether they wanted to use town property for events relating to the shark tournament. Voters approved that measure by a margin of 458 to 386.

Monster Shark Tournament organizer Steve James told selectmen last week, that if the town adopts the catch and release policy, he would move the tournament elsewhere.

Also on Thursday’s ballot, was a measure to exclude from the limitations of Proposition 2.5, nearly $1 million in borrowing for a series of road paving and repair projects.

Voters approved that measure 274 to 112.

“Really excited the town has decided to make repairs in our infrastructure a priority,” highway superintendent Richard Combra, Jr., said immediately after the vote was announced. “We will get started in the fall, and hopefully finish the following fall.

Town meeting voters approved the road plan by a near unanimous voice vote Tuesday evening.

With only one contested election for town office on the ballot, turnout was very low.

In the only contested race, for water district commissioner, incumbent Michael deBettencourt defeated challenger George Brown 318 to 56.

Brian Packish won election to the planning board with 30 write-in votes. There were no candidates on the ballot for that board.

Gail Barmakian, running unopposed, got 315 votes to win reelection to the board of selectmen.

Also winning seats unopposed were Lisa Reagan, school committee, with 321 votes; John Campbell, board of health, with 324 votes; Richard Combra, Jr, parks commission, 315 votes; Robert Iadicicco, wastewater commission, 272 votes; Priscilla Sylvia, Martha’s Vineyard Land bank Commission, 330 votes; Linda Wilson, cemetery commission, 321 votes; Duncan Ross, water district moderator, 298 votes; and Jesse “Jack” Law, moderator, 338 votes.

Herbert Kiehn (244 votes), James Klingensmith (244 votes) and Michael Taus (266 votes), all won seats on the finance and advisory committee. All are newcomers to the committee.

A total of 437 people, representing 12.3 percent of the town’s 3,531 registered voters, cast ballots at the Oak Bluffs Library meeting room.