The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High (MVRHS) school committee voted unanimously on Monday night to approve a 1.9-acre expansion of the footprint of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) on land it leases from MVRHS on the Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road opposite the high school. The MVCS footprint becomes 4.9 acres with Monday night’s approval of a 99-year lease on the additional land. The footprint expansion gives MCVS a total of 4.9 leased acres.
The vote provides MVCS with increased capacity for its internal wastewater management system as part of a planned campus expansion over the next few years. The move may be a temporary solution, several public commenters said, as state regulations are moving, perhaps within five years, to require that users with internal wastewater systems hook up with town systems if sewer lines are available.
Oak Bluffs’ sewer lines are used by MVCS right now, but the town’s wastewater treatment plant has been at capacity, pending planned expansion, Gail Barmakian, a wastewater department commissioner and Oak Bluffs selectman, told the committee. “The entire complex can be hooked up to Oak Bluffs; the entire [MVRHS] campus has been approved. We have to check the regulations, but it’s likely that within five years, MVCS may be required to hook up,” she said.
Ryan Bushey of South Mountain Co. said that wastewater treatment plan approval is a key first step in state regulatory approval for an MVCS expansion. “Without an OK on wastewater first, other plans can’t go forward,” he said.
The committee also unanimously passed a measure to establish a formal building committee to oversee expansion or replacement of the existing high school. The planning process has been underway for more than three years under the MVRHS facilities subcommittee, which has been developing needs assessments while working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which pays up to 42 percent of approved school building projects.
Committee members on Monday night envisioned a panel including representatives of all six Island towns and up to four representatives from the high school, tasked with using completed datasets and studies, gathering input from all towns to create a master plan with a menu of priorities expressed as specific projects that nonprofits and donors could adopt.
In calling for a committee dedicated to the project, several committee members expressed frustration with the pace of their efforts to date, and the need for a master plan which reflects specific projects based on an MVRHS needs-based agenda.
“We need to drive our own bus here,” chairman Kris O’Brien said.
Board member Amy Houghton spoke bluntly. “We cannot keep pushing it down the road, moving consideration until the ‘next meeting.’ We are holding people in this purgatory. We need a master plan to get started,” she said.
Board member and noted fiscal skinflint Jeffrey “Skip” Manter embraced the idea of town input as part of developing the plan, stunning himself and drawing faux horrified gasps from his colleagues by suggesting the committee provide seed money to get the work started.
Board members will now begin going to their towns to enlist candidates for the committee.
The two-hour meeting was shortened by the absence of MVRHS current financial reports. MVRHS finance manager Mark Friedman said the school’s server has been down after Comcast outages related to last weekend’s wintry blow. “There are no big issues, based on review of the past several weeks’ numbers,” he told the meeting.
The committee also voted to streamline the annual process for evaluating the Island’s school superintendent, and change the review period from a fiscal- to a calendar-year basis. The committee had voted several weeks ago to turn the task over to the All-Island Regional School Committee in a single evaluation session, with input from each of the six member towns.
In the past, the superintendent’s annual review has been conducted through five separate evaluations, by three member towns, the Up-Island Regional School Committee (Chilmark, Aquinnah, and West Tisbury), and the high school on a fiscal-year basis.