Low interest rates save West Tisbury thousands
In West Tisbury, good fortune or lucky timing is again helping the town's taxpayers. On October 7, the town selectmen signed the necessary documents to authorize the sale of $4.45 million in long-term bonds to finance the renovation of the town hall. The cost of the debt will be below earlier estimates, saving the town hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The bonds will cost the town 3.06 percent over 19 years. However, according to the consultant assisting the town in the bond offering, if the bonds had been put on the market two years ago, when the town hall renovation and addition was under consideration, that annual interest rate may have been as high as 6 percent. The financial chaos of last fall and winter contributed to the delay of the permanent financing.
"We delayed this sale because by the end of last year the municipal bond market fell apart," Lynne Ludwig, from the municipal finance consulting firm of Unibank in Northbridge, reminded the selectmen.
As a result of waiting to go to market and the resulting sharp downturn in the bond market, West Tisbury will save an estimated $600,000 to $700,000, according to Kathy Logue, West Tisbury treasurer.
Selectman Richard Knabel commented that "between savings on the interest rate and savings on the cost of construction, the project should be about $1 million lower than originally thought."
According to Ms. Ludwig, Fidelity Investments, Inc. has already begun to sell the bonds in the retail marketplace. For investors, despite the savings to be realized by the town, the return on the bonds in this low interest environment is not bad. Bea Phear, chairman of the committee that oversaw the renovation of the town hall, told The MV Times that she intends to make a purchase. "I think the bonds' return on investment is better return than I am getting on my money market, the bonds are a safe investment, and I'm feeling patriotic - it will be somewhat emotional but not stupid emotional," she said.
According to Ms. Ludwig, the bonds are being sold in $5,000 denominations and yield a variety of returns based on the length to maturity. Investors interested in purchasing any of these West Tisbury bonds should visit the Fidelity Investments Inc. website for information on the availability of municipal bonds. The town of West Tisbury bonds are all identified by a six-digit number (956287) and the town hall issue is dated October 15, 2009.
In other business, selectmen began a discussion of the best way to restore the town's historic Mill Pond. Bob Woodruff and Craig Saunders, two of the three residents appointed to a Mill Pond research committee during the April 2008 annual town meeting, presented a report of their activities to date, including research.
Following a review of existing background information and documents, and after taking their own measurements, Mr. Saunders and Mr. Woodruff told the selectmen that they concur with the 2006 study conducted by Aquatic Control Technology Inc. (ACT) that concluded that dredging is the best way to preserve.
"There are cattails emerging in the pond." Mr. Woodruff said, describing the changing condition of Mill Pond. "Seeing those in the pond says you are well on the way to a marsh in the pond."
Kent Healy, the third member of the pond committee, was not in attendance. He does not support the recommendation that the Mill Pond be dredged, according to Mr. Woodruff.
The committee members and the selectmen discussed the dredging options - hydraulic or mechanical. Mechanical dredging involves draining the pond and, after "dewatering," removing and hauling away the sediment. In hydraulic dredging, a dredge floating on the pond suctions the sediment from the pond and then pumps it to a nearby site, where it would be "dewatered" and then hauled away. According to Mr. Woodruff, hydraulic dredging "would have less impact on the surrounding properties."
According to the committee report, the pond currently covers 2.5 acres, but only two acres should be dredged "in order to avoid vegetation at the north end of the pond" including water willows. The cost of the project, using either method, is estimated to be approximately $20 a cubic yard to remove and truck away the sediment.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Nancy Cole, secretary of the historic district commission, urged the selectmen to move forward with the dredging of Mill Pond, reminding the meeting that the Mill Pond is among the 14 properties identified in the town bylaws "to be preserved for future generations." She said the historic district commission "feels very strongly that the Mill Pond should be dredged."
Ginny Jones asked why the pond requires dredging and expressed concern that the inhabitants of the pond, especially turtles, be protected, saying that she is "not sure any dredging will do that." Mr. Woodruff commented that the conservation commission also had wildlife "concerns."
Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Saunders recommended that application be made for approximately $30,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding to undertake "Phase I permitting and design" efforts. The Mill Pond preservation project has been approved for eligibility under the CPA, according to the committee representatives. Mr. Woodruff explained that the CPA application must be received by the town's Community Preservation Committee by October 31, but the selectmen in attendance (Mr. Knabel and Skipper Manter) deferred taking action until this week's selectmen's meeting, when chairman Dianne Powers is expected to be present.
The selectmen also learned from Richard Olsen, superintendent of streets, about the Lambert's Cove Road repair project, scheduled to begin November 2. A portion of the road will be closed for the work.