Tisbury residents will be able to report a pothole or cracked sidewalk, or register a noise complaint, with the click of a mouse or a tap of a smartphone app.
The town is about to begin its use of SeeClickFix, an online system that allows residents to report a problem, have the appropriate town department notified, and then track the progress of the town’s response, Heidi Rydzewski, the town’s information technology director, said during a presentation to the board of selectmen Tuesday night.
SeeClickFix also allows other residents to comment and vote on the issue, Ms. Rydzewski told the board.
“This isn’t going to create any extra work for anybody,” she said. “They’re already getting requests — it’s on sticky notes, or they get foot traffic into the office.”
The program will be loaded on the town’s website, but will also be available through an app, Ms. Rydzewski said. The requestor will be able to snap a photo to include with the request, she said.
The public is being asked to include a name and phone number so a town official can get more information if necessary.
“We want to roll this out as a positive thing to resolve issues,” she said.
Ray Tattersall, the town’s DPW director, said he plans to use it as a tool himself. There are things he sees on his way to work;, this will allow him to snap a quick photo and start the process of getting his crews to work on fixing it, he said. Those messages won’t be accessible to the public, but people can track the issues raised by their friends and neighbors.
“The whole initiative is really to engage the citizens,” town administrator Jay Grande said.
Ms. Rydzewski has been testing the site, which is already in use by Salem, and expects to roll it out by the end of the year.
Another computer initiative planned by the town is an “open checkbook,” similar to the one on the state’s website, which allows the tracking of government spending, Ms. Rydzewski said.
Solar is paying off for town
Tisbury is reaping the rewards of having made a deal with the Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) to install a photovoltaic (PV) solar array on its capped landfill.
Liz Argo, manager of CVEC, reported that in fiscal 2017, the town’s profit from the solar project reached $177,684, a $70,000 increase over the previous year. The arrays were installed during fiscal year 2015, and in 2017 produced 1.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.
“That’s why you have PV on your capped landfill,” Ms. Argo said at the outset of her presentation to the board.
Ms. Argo also reported on what impact a rate hike requested by Eversource would have on the town’s revenues if it’s approved by regulators. The town’s take would see a reduction of $30,000, she estimated.
Selectmen unanimously approved a request by CVEC for a so-called adder, a half-penny charge on each kilowatt-hour produced that helps the agency pay for its management of the systems. Based on the fiscal 2017 production, that would cost the town a little more than $7,000, Ms. Argo said.
CVEC has spent $30,000 in legal fees battling the Eversource rate hike on behalf of the towns, she said.
“I feel as if we’ve been very well served by this group, particularly in the Eversource rate case,” selectman Melinda Loberg said.
The additional money, which all of the member towns with the exception of Edgartown have approved, will help CVEC meet its annual expenses, Ms. Argo said.
Meanwhile, answering a complaint raised in June about maintenance of the grounds and erosion at the solar array, Ms. Argo said a new company, Greenskies, from Connecticut, has been hired to do the work. The company will likely hire local subcontractors to do the actual mowing, she said.
“We’re hoping because they’re not West Coast–based, they’ll be more responsive,” she said.
The company was onsite Tuesday evaluating what needs to be done — more loam, seeding, and hay bales to stop the erosion, Kirk Metell, Tisbury’s point man on the project, said.
Taxes stay about the same
At the annual classification for property taxes, selectmen voted to keep the status quo on how town property taxes are doled out. The town has the same tax rate, $9.41 per $1,000 for residential and $8.88 for commercial, industrial, and personal property, Jon Snyder, the town’s finance director, wrote in a follow-up email. (The numbers presented at the meeting were off, he wrote.)
The vote was taken after a required public hearing, though there was little public comment.
“I would encourage you to keep things right where they are,” Josh Goldstein, a Vineyard Haven resident and owner of the Mansion House Inn, said. “Our summer residents, we are lucky enough to have finance us through the winter.”
This isn’t the year to tinker with what’s going on in Washington, D.C., Ms. Loberg said. “Our tax situation is in flux nationally, and some of the things in the tax bill will affect us somehow,” she said. Now isn’t the time to “fiddle with” local taxes, she said.
The town’s average value of $831,348 puts the town in a disadvantage in some funding formulas, selectman Tristan Israel said. “On a lot of things we get screwed, if I can use that word,” Mr. Israel said.
“You just did,” Ms. Loberg replied.
The town gives property owners who live year-round in their homes a residential tax exemption, providing an annual savings of $1,408 per year, Jon Snyder, the town’s finance director, told the board.
The town’s $24.3 million tax levy is split between property taxpayers; 90 percent are residential properties. Of the 2,921 total parcels in town, 919 are eligible for the 18 percent exemption.
Town assessors went through and removed ineligible taxpayers who were receiving the exemptions, Ann Marie Cywinski, the town’s assistant assessor, said.
“We are removing 99 residential exemptions because people did not comply or because they are no longer domiciled in Tisbury,” Ms. Cywinski said. Residents had to prove where they live with, among other things, a copy of their federal income taxes.
Mr. Snyder praised the work that went into the project.
“It was a really good project for us to undergo this year, to make sure that everyone who is benefiting from the exemption actually qualifies,” Ms. Cywinski said. She said assessors will review the list, most likely, every five years.
In other business, the town put off a discussion of the controversial Boch Park until after the new year. That decision came after talking to lawyers for both sides, who are trying to hammer out an agreement on an easement requested by representatives of the Boch family.
The board has a meeting scheduled for 5 pm Thursday with the Tisbury School Building committee to review the school project’s budget and approve a schematic design to submit to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for review.
After an executive session, the board announced it had reached a one-year contract agreement with Police Chief Daniel Hanavan to continue as chief while the town looks for his replacement.