The towns of Oak Bluffs and Tisbury held a joint meeting Tuesday at the Oak Bluffs library to discuss and vote on maintenance projects, shared town services, and funding for human services.
Members of both boards of selectmen, Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande, Oak Bluffs town administrator Bob Whritenour, and Dukes County manager Martina Thornton were all in attendance for the summit.
Oak Bluffs selectmen drafted a letter to several human service agencies requesting those agencies meet to review and plan a more efficient human services model to meet the needs for the Island, especially the needs of the Island’s rapidly growing elderly population.
Oak Bluffs funds more than $266,000 in direct subsidies to private human services agencies, specifically Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), Vineyard Health Care Access, Center for Living, Healthy Aging Task Force, Dukes County Human Service Department, and Substance Abuse Prevention Program — all agencies which will receive copies of the letter. In addition, Island-wide subsidies exceed $1 million.
In the letter, Oak Bluffs states the current model has each town contributing individually, which, by their prediction, is “on its way toward failure.” Funding the services is important, several selectmen said, but more oversight is needed.
“We have other people deciding what Oak Bluffs can afford or not,” Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian said. “My concern is that the need is there; they’re all growing, but they’re growing separately … they remain separate under a common umbrella, that does not force them or encourage them to work together and find ways they can combine.”
Instead, Oak Bluffs suggested shared administrative services, conservative budgeting techniques, stricter cost control, and private fundraising as solutions to the problem.
“I think this is great. We really need to start working on this,” Tisbury selectman Jim Rogers said.
“If we don’t team up together as one, I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem,” Oak Bluffs selectman Greg Coogan said. “All of this is only going to grow; we’ve got to get a handle on it.”
Both boards voted to sign the letter, send it to each agency within a week, and set up a meeting with town administrators, a group of selectmen, and financial committee members to start charting a direction.
Board members from the two towns discussed the potential for a shared building commissioner who would have purview over Oak Bluffs and Tisbury, with separate local inspectors in each town. Oak Bluffs selectman Mike Santoro suggested combining each town’s budgets to hire a “top-notch” commissioner.
Oak Bluffs has had difficulty finding a fully certified building commissioner, Whritenour added. By combining budgets and increasing the commissioner’s salary, both towns felt, they could attract a certified candidate.
Both boards voted to combine budgets and share one building commissioner for both towns.
Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel suggested other services the towns could share. Restaurant inspections, equipment purchasing and sharing, grant-writing services, animal control, joint training for EMS and police, an affordable housing coordinator, wastewater management, school programs, IT services, and a natural resources planner were among the services suggested which both towns were willing to explore.
Oak Bluffs selectman Brian Packish said he was interested in looking into a shared police chief for the two towns. Coogan said it made “a ton of sense,” and Tisbury selectmen said they were open to discussing the idea.
The potential for a maintenance plan to restore and preserve Eastville Beach was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. Oak Bluffs owns the majority of the beach, while Tisbury owns a small triangular potion. Dukes County owns the section of sand in the middle of the beach. Maintenance will include repairs to the road and parking lot, and landscaping.
The boards voted to contribute $5,000 each from Community Preservation funds.
The boards voted to meet on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 4:30 pm in Tisbury for another joint meeting.
After Tuesday’s meeting with Tisbury, Oak Bluffs selectmen held their regularly scheduled meeting.
The saga of Trade Winds Field Preserve — nicknamed Tradewinds by many Islanders — continued Tuesday, with Nora Love and Phil Cordella going before town selectmen to update them on recent events surrounding the contentious property.
Tensions have been running high between members of the public and Land Bank staff, most recently with police being called after a man refused to leave Monday’s Land Bank meeting during executive session.
Love and Cordella, both staunch opponents of the fence that was constructed back in May, gave selectmen copies of Cordella’s proposal for modifications to the property, which he submitted to — and which was subsequently denied by — the Land Bank.
A large group of trail users met with the town selectmen in June to voice their frustration with the Land Bank. Packish was especially vocal at the June meeting, saying the issue and the Land Bank’s response “doesn’t feel healthy.”
While the June meeting offered the prospect of a joint selectmen and Land Bank meeting, no such meeting happened.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Barmakian said the selectmen had contacted the Land Bank for a joint meeting, but finding a date that all parties could attend proved difficult. Selectmen are looking at having a meeting on either Oct. 3 or 4, pending a response from the Land Bank.
Packish reiterated that the best course of action for anyone upset with the Land Bank was to run for a seat on the Land Bank Commission and bring change from within.
“I don’t want to place blame on anybody, but at the end of the day we’ve got this fence that really isn’t great. There were a lot of discussions around the fact that the use of the property really wasn’t great leading up to that,” Packish said. He added he was “not very optimistic” the Land Bank would change its position, but that he was looking forward to a joint meeting.
In other business, Larkin Stallings and Rose Guerin requested to close Circuit Avenue on Oct. 20 from 6 to 11 pm for Ladyfest, an event of female-led music performances that benefits Connect to End Violence, an MVCS program. Selectmen approved the street closing, with a provision Stallings report back in two weeks to update selectmen on approval from other town departments.
Selectmen voted to have the special town meeting on Nov. 13. Deadline for submitting articles to the town warrant is Sept. 28.