Few voters get job done in Edgartown
Unable to reach a quorum last week, Edgartown voters formed a crowd Monday, just big enough to satisfy the requirement, and the special town meeting participants marched crisply through the warrant, approving all 14 articles in less than an hour.
Only five percent of Edgartown's 2,971 registered voters attended the meeting. The town needed 149 voters to reach a quorum, and after some voter recruitment, the meeting was convened with 150 voters present.
Most of the warrant articles were financial housekeeping items that needed to be addressed before the end of the calendar year. All but one of the spending items was funded through the town's free cash reserves.
The largest spending item, $235,000 for work on an addition to the fire station on Pease's Point Way, was funded through the town's stabilization fund. The money will be added to $95,000 that was appropriated at the 2004 annual town meeting to construct the addition. The work includes two new bathrooms, new closet storage space, and an addition to the existing training/meeting room.
Among the other spending items, voters agreed to transfer $25,000 in free cash for the annual July 4 fireworks. In the past, the Edgartown Firemen's Association has paid for the fireworks, mostly through fundraising efforts. According to town officials, donations in recent years have dropped off, and this year, the association announced that it would not be able to fund next year's fireworks show.
In response, the recently reestablished Edgartown Board of Trade (EBT) agreed to take over the organization of the event. The EBT needed money for the fireworks before the end of the year in order to secure a fireworks company. The total cost of the event is about $50,000. The EBT said that it plans on fundraising efforts to cover the additional expenses.
Two spending articles were amended on the town meeting floor before they were passed.
Article one, which addressed the town's operating budget, was tripled from $25,000 to $75,000. Town officials said that the town needs to borrow the money to fund town operations until the annual tax bills go out later this month or next month.
Article three was amended from $50,000 to $95,000. The town wastewater commissioners had requested the original amount to pay for septage that Edgartown treated for the other Island towns in fiscal year 2005. The town received about $250,000 from the other towns to treat the wastewater. The extra $45,000, asked for on the town meeting floor, was for an odor-control device that needs to be replaced.
The other spending items that passed included: $20,000 for the conservation commission's property maintenance fund for work on the Katama Farm property; $9,965 to continue necessary work on the town's enhanced 911 system; $10,000 to cover the wages for additional traffic and special police officers hired last summer; $35,300 for a new unmarked police vehicle; and $32,872 to pay two unpaid bills.
Among the non-spending items, voters agreed to establish a town community preservation committee. Edgartown voters adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in the annual town election in April. The CPA is a state program designed to raise money for affordable housing, the preservation of open space, and historic preservation. Towns in the program adopt a three-percent surcharge on real estate taxes, which the state will match 100 percent.
The town will begin collecting money from the CPA after this year's tax bills go out. However, the town cannot spend the money until it adopts a CPA bylaw, which will create the community preservation committee. The seven-member committee will be responsible for assessing the town's community preservation needs and recommending articles for town meeting to spend the CPA funds.
Voters at Monday night's meeting also reconfirmed two votes taken at the annual town meeting in April 2003 regarding the Pennywise Path affordable housing project. Article 10 asked voters to reconfirm a vote that authorized the town to lift a conservation restriction on a small section of the Pennywise Preserve for a proposed access road into the development. Article 11 asked voters to reconfirm a vote that allowed the town to use a portion of the Pennywise Preserve for the house project, to install a road along the southern boundary of the preserve, and to add a conservation restriction to an adjacent frost pocket.
The measures required approval from the state legislature. However, the proposed bills never made it far enough in the process to receive bill numbers, and thus died at the end of the legislative session. State legislative counsel recommended that the town reconfirm its votes from 2003 to help the proposed bills gain support in the upcoming legislative session.