Oak Bluffs selectmen hear hospital plan
The Oak Bluffs selectmen heard a presentation on the plans for a new hospital, voted to reopen the wastewater plant superintendent's contract, and heard suggestions on how to make the Island less dependent on off-Island sources of energy at their regular bimonthly meeting on Tuesday.
At their meeting two weeks earlier, the selectmen had invited Martha's Vineyard Hospital officials to discuss their plans to rebuild the aging facility. At that meeting, John Breckenridge, the selectmen's appointee to the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), provided an update on an informal meeting between members of the regional planning body and hospital planners earlier this month at which several MVC members raised concerns about plans to rebuild the hospital on its current site.
Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, and Tim Sweet, hospital board vice chairman and chairman of the hospital building committee, attended this week's selectmen's meeting to describe the plan and the financial and logistical reasons hospital trustees decided to rebuild the hospital at its current location.
Mr. Walsh and Mr. Sweet repeated much of what was presented at public presentations last year, when hospital officials and members of the hospital design team presented the factors that influenced the decision to build on the current site rather than an alternative location. The primary reason, they said, was cost.
Mr. Walsh said that building on a new site would cost approximately $70 million and require 20 acres. To build the proposed three-story 150,000-square-foot hospital on the current site would cost approximately $42 million.
Mr. Sweet said that "in a perfect world," he would love to build a hospital on a new site, but finding 20 acres on Martha's Vineyard is no easy task. "The more we looked, the more we saw that there was no place that was appropriate and adequate for us," he said.
Mr. Sweet stressed that the current design plans will give the Island a "a very good hospital, with room to expand in the future. I don't think we are compromised in the long-term by building on this site."
Mr. Sweet added that if anyone has any suggestions for a "viable and affordable" alternative site, the hospital board is all ears. However, he stressed that the hospital needs to finalize its plans soon so that it can begin the lengthy permitting process. Delays could push the already hefty price tag even higher, he said.
Selectman Kerry Scott said that she expects the debate on the issue of location to continue. "I think you will find that it will come up again, and again, and again," she said.
Selectman Roger Wey said that the issue had come up repeatedly in the past. He said that he supports the current plan to build on the current site, and said that he wants to see the permitting process begin. "There have been many, many public hearings on this already," he said. "We have to get started at some point. We need it."
The selectmen took no action on the presentation, but they praised Mr. Walsh and Mr. Sweet for their hard work over the last two years. "I really do commend you for the amount of work you have put into this," said Greg Coogan, chairman of the selectmen.
In other business, the selectmen voted to reopen the employment contract for Joseph Alosso, Oak Bluffs wastewater plant superintendent.
The Oak Bluffs wastewater commissioners, who are elected officials, had asked the selectmen to reopen the contract to consider a pay increase for Mr. Alosso. Wastewater commissioners, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said that they had recently conducted a performance evaluation of Mr. Alosso, who received top marks. They said that Mr. Alosso has not received a pay increase in the four years that he has worked for the town.
Ms. Scott was the only selectman to oppose reopening the contract. "It isn't about any one individual," she said. "It's about the way Oak Bluffs does business."
The other selectmen disagreed. "This is exactly how the process is supposed to work," said Michael Dutton, selectman.
The other selectmen, minus Ms. Scott, agreed and voted to reopen the contract. The wastewater commissioners said they would present the proposed contract changes to the selectmen for consideration at their next meeting.
An agenda item that drew no debate was a presentation on a "ten year energy action plan." Kate Warner of the Vineyard Energy Project (VEP) presented the plan, which includes a number of practical suggestions that would make the Island less dependent on increasingly expensive off-Island energy sources.
CT Donovan, an energy-planning firm from Stowe, Vt., working with a team of consultants, has completed the study and issued a 90-page report. Ms. Warner presented a two-page summary of the report to the selectmen. Ms. Warner has made similar presentations to the other Island boards of selectmen, town planning boards, and regional agencies.
The plan focuses on increasing efficiency in existing buildings and new construction, increasing solar-powered water-heating and electricity, increasing the use of wind power, using biomass resources, and controlling transportation energy use.
The selectmen took no action, but wrote down many of the suggestions that Ms. Warner made.