Double town meetings for West Tisbury
When West Tisbury voters convene for their annual town meeting on April 11, they will also consider five additional warrant articles in a special town meeting, called for the same evening.
Although it is not the usual way of doing business, occasionally towns run special town meetings concurrently with annual town meetings in order to consider proposals brought up too late to make the closing date for the annual warrant but in time for the selectmen to schedule a special.
In West Tisbury this year, the primary reason for the special is Article 1, which asks the town to spend $36,000 for architectural work to complete the estimating phase for a scaled-down version of the town hall renovation project. There are four other articles.
Article 2 asks voters to transfer from free cash $15,000 for assessors' legal expenses in future Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board cases. While there are cases tentatively scheduled for May, it is not likely that any hearings will take place before the ATB issues a ruling in the Graham case, and the request is only a precaution.
Article 3 asks for $20,000 for projects planned by the paths-by-the-roads committee. Article 4 would transfer previously appropriated funds to emergency management for use in disasters.
Article 5 would authorize the Tri-Town Ambulance committee to start charging for ambulance calls and depositing the proceeds in an account reserved for ambulance services.
Town hall project redux
The $36,000 request (Article 1 on the special warrant) was originally planned for the annual meeting, but it was overlooked in the ongoing debate among the selectmen over the future of the town hall project, currently on hold.
Before the Jan. 17 special town meeting, the selectmen authorized architect Deborah Durland to spend $12,000 of the $48,000 she told the town hall building committee it would cost to draw estimation plans for a greatly reduced version of the project. (The voters in November had refused to spend another $1.8 million on the project, approved earlier at $3.7 million.) The reduced version, it is hoped, could be built for what is left of the money already appropriated.
The selectmen's plan was to ask the voters whether or not to go ahead with the project, but that question was not on the Jan. 17 warrant. However, a non-binding resolution from the floor, introduced by citizen Les Cutler and passed by those in attendance, advised the selectmen not to go ahead. At this point the selectmen began to disagree.
On Feb.1, with chairman of selectman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter away, selectman Glenn Hearn proposed that the board authorize the remaining $36,000 for cost-estimating, so that voters at the annual town meeting could have the figures to decide whether or not to go ahead with a down-sized version of the project. Vice-chairman John Early voted no, saying that he didn't want to spend any money at all on the greatly changed project without first consulting the voters. After Mr. Hearn's motion failed (1 to 1), he and Mr. Early agreed to put a question about the future of the project on the warrant for the annual town meeting, and a place for such a question was reserved.
When Mr. Manter returned from vacation, he had a plan of his own - to turn the project over to the Preservation Trust (or a similar non-profit) and lease the building back from it. His plan was drafted as a warrant article, but when the time came to approve the warrant for the annual meeting, Mr. Hearn and Mr. Early voted to remove Mr. Manter's article, and neither Mr. Hearn nor anyone else thought to substitute a request for $36,000 to continue with the reduced project - until March 1, after the annual town meeting warrant had closed. According to town counsel Ron Rappaport, the only recourse by then was to call a special town meeting for the same evening, April 11.
The town hall project is also the subject of two citizens' petitions on the annual warrant. One, proposed by former selectman John Alley, would rescind the $3.7 million appropriation made in 2004. The other, identical in principle to Mr. Manter's, would give the building to a non-profit and lease it back.