West Tisbury voters will gather for a special town meeting this Tuesday at 7 pm in the West Tisbury School gym. There are only two articles on the warrant: one, a revised Up Island Regional School District budget that will circumvent the need for a Proposition 2.5 override vote, and two, an article to withdraw the town from the Up-Island school district. Selectmen plan to withhold their support of the article, to withdraw it until the implications of a withdrawal are better understood.
Taxis on the agenda
West Tisbury selectmen plan a “taxi afternoon” in late June, at which they will address several issues surrounding local taxi companies. Selectmen plan to hold a public hearing to address taxi fare rates that have not been changed since 2009, according to town administrator Jennifer Rand, who spoke at the selectmen’s meeting on Wednesday, May 20.
Selectmen will also discuss the use of meters, which are not required presently; and the town’s policy of licensing only four cabs per company, in response to a request from Alpha Cab owner Benoit Baldwin, who has requested a fifth cab.
Selectmen also plan to discuss the implications of Internet-based transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber, and the town’s responsibilities in regulating taxis. The town’s taxi companies raised concerns at a selectmen’s meeting on April 29 about their ability to survive if they have to compete with businesses that do not have to comply with town regulations. Uber began operating on Martha’s Vineyard over the Memorial Day weekend.
The state has proposed a law regulating TNCs. Its final form and its implications for locally regulated taxis are not known.
In a letter dated May 7, addressed to West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand, town counsel Ronald Rappaport said the town’s current regulations only pertain to traditional taxicab companies. Mr. Rappaport said that in his opinion, current regulations do not give the board the power to regulate TNCs, but state law gives the board “broad authority to promulgate regulations governing TNCs.” Mr. Rappaport said the town could expand its rules and regulations after following its procedures for doing so.
“The Governor has recently filed a bill with the state legislature to establish a statewide law regulating TNCs,” Mr. Rappaport added. “However, until the legislation is final and enacted into law, it is too early to assess what impact the law may have, if any, on the town’s authority to regulate TNCs locally.”
In other business last week, selectmen discussed plans to form two committees: one to handle the planning and construction of a new department of public works building, for which an announcement will be posted; and another to study the implications of the town pulling out of the Up Island Regional School District. The other towns in the district are Aquinnah and Chilmark.
Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said the school study committee would “not so much develop a parallel budget analysis to what the school is doing, but more … do an analysis of what would happen if West Tisbury went it alone — if we were to pull out of the region, and what it might mean to West Tisbury taxpayers.” The committee would include the finance committee, members of the community, and possibly an outside consultant.