West Tisbury finances up in down market
West Tisbury's municipal credit rating has been upgraded by Standard & Poor's (S&P), the benchmark municipal credit rating bureau, enhancing the town's chances of a successful bond issue later this month, selectmen learned last week. Short-term bonds totaling $4 million will be offered to finance the reconstruction of the town hall.
Town treasurer Kathy Logue told the board that West Tisbury's rating had been adjusted to AA from AA- status this month.
The town has been planning to issue up to $4 million in short-term notes to finance renovation of town hall, since voters passed a $5.1-million renovation package at annual town meeting in April.
The rating upgrade comes despite a backdrop of economic uncertainty. "We've noticed a trend (by rating agencies) to regard smaller, isolated communities, such as we have on the Cape and Islands, more favorably," said Ms. Logue. "The glass ceiling we operated under for years seems to be dissipating as they see that residential towns with a strong residential tax base are more attractive than larger communities, dependent on state aid and a single employer or company."
Noting that the bond issue set for September 30 was cancelled and reset for October 30, Ms. Logue said the town made the decision at the urging of Lynne Ludwig, its financial advisor for the borrowing.
"We would have been coming out the day after Congress rejected the bailout legislation and the stock market went crazy. Lynn said under the circumstances, no lender would be paying attention to our offering," Ms. Logue told selectmen.
The treasurer has been watching municipal bond offerings since. "We've seen two deals completed or agreed upon from communities like ours. The interest rates are in the 2.5- to 3.5-percent range, below our budgeted 4-percent range. We have options. We can borrow all of the $4 million or in a couple of increments as we need the money," she said.
Noting that the renovation is planned as a year-long project, she said, "We could also go out after 11 months and roll the short-term bond over for a couple of months before converting to long-term bonds, which are limited at 20 years."
West Tisbury selectmen also voted unanimously to keep Mussa, a nine-month old Siberian husky puppy, on a short leash to avoid repetition of her participation in fowl and livestock killing in two Island towns that has led to the banishment of the dog's father from Martha's Vineyard.
Selectman agreed to schedule a hearing and to accept animal control officer Joan Jenkinson's recommendation to euthanize the dog, if it is both loose and in the proximity of livestock in West Tisbury. They also agreed to schedule a hearing for Mussa's owner, if the dog is observed otherwise loose in the community.
Mussa and her father, Storm, ran afoul of authorities in both Oak Bluffs and Tisbury. Oak Bluffs banned the animals in September, after they had killed or fatally wounded 15 chickens at the farm of Elisha Smith. In August, Tisbury selectmen banned Storm from their town for killing chickens on several occasions.
Storm has been relocated to a new home in New Rochelle, New York, about 30 miles north of New York City.
Noting that Mussa resides in West Tisbury and was temporarily housed in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury when the attacks occurred, board member Jeffrey S. (Skipper) Manter said, " We cannot tolerate this. I am not comfortable with this dog in this town or any other town."
Resident Ginny Jones told selectmen that "allowing dogs with a history to migrate from town to town is not a good idea. And with the increase in agriculture in our town, we should remember that it is a farmer's prerogative to shoot dogs threatening his livestock."
Mussa is owned by Rebecca Garde, who resides in West Tisbury. Ms. Garde's parents, Ken and Nina Garde, who are Tisbury residents, had owned Storm.
"She's the only one of three litter mates with this problem. In my experience, once (killing) occurs, it cannot be trained out of them," Ms. Jenkinson said. She noted that she has met with the dog's owner and observed that a satisfactory pen is in place for Mussa. "I believe she really is serious about restraining her dog."
Selectmen also began the process of reviewing job descriptions of town employees. They agreed to add several sentences to the executive secretary position, to reflect the non-supervisory direction and advice provided to town employees by the executive secretary.
Ms. Logue recommended that elected town officials, such as treasurer and town clerk, participate in the job review process. "It's a good opportunity to build a new description," she said. "We won't be doing it again for five years. For example, over the last few years our office has become sort of an information technology department that's taking more and more time. Our current job descriptions do not recognize or compensate us for that work."