Oak Bluffs' special takes up land swap, $3.2 million for wastewater plant
Prior to the start of the Oak Bluffs annual town meeting Tuesday, the town moderator will convene a special town meeting so voters can tackle issues that must be dealt with during the current 2006 fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
Topping the special town meeting warrant is a request for $3.2 million to make a variety of improvements to the Oak Bluffs wastewater treatment facility.
Also expected to generate considerable interest is a proposal for two land swaps in which the town would acquire parcels in the vicinity of the town hall.
The special town meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 pm in the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center followed by the annual town meeting.
Two days later, on April 13, Oak Bluffs voters go to the polls located at the new Oak Bluffs Library meeting room to elect town officers and take action on two non-binding ballot questions and one proposition 2.5 spending question.
The special town meeting warrant includes the largest spending request voters will decide on Tuesday night. The wastewater commission will ask voters to appropriate $3.2 million to pay costs for the planning, engineering, and construction of improvements to the town wastewater treatment facility that are intended to ultimately save the town money. Voters would also need to approve a corresponding ballot question to approve the borrowing needed to pay for the expense.
Joe Alosso, Oak Bluffs wastewater plant superintendent, said the money is needed to add equipment that would enable the plant to treat septage and sludge. Currently, sludge that homeowners have pumped out of their septic systems is dewatered at the Edgartown wastewater plant. Mr. Alosso, who is also the Edgartown plant superintendent, said that Edgartown charges 20 cents per gallon for the services. If Oak Bluffs adds its own dewatering equipment, he said it would cost about 10 cents per gallon.
"Edgartown was never meant to be the long-term solution for Oak Bluffs," said Mr. Alosso. "The plan all along has been to add this component to our facility, which will provide a savings to customers who currently pay 50 percent of our budget, but otherwise don't use the plant."
The wastewater commission is also proposing a sewer assessment bylaw that would create a formula and fee structure for homeowners and businesses that are tied into the wastewater plant.
The town currently charges a set betterment fee of $10,000 for private homeowners and $20,000 for businesses that tie into the wastewater system. Mr. Alosso said that by law, the town must charge a fee using a formula that is based on actual water usage.
Mr. Alosso said that the proposed formula would increase the fee to sites that use large volumes of water. For example, he said the Wesley Hotel would be charged approximately $100,000. Smaller users, particularly small businesses such as T-shirt shops, would likely see their fee reduced, he said.
The town would finance the one-time fee at a two percent interest rate, Mr. Alosso said.
Land swaps proposed
Town leaders will also ask voters to consider two separate land swaps.
Article 11 asks voters to swap approximately seven acres off of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road for the Catholic Church property across the street from the town hall on School Street. The Catholic Diocese of Fall River owns the property, and has expressed an interest in the land swap as a way to consolidate its interests on the Island.
Town leaders have identified that church property as a key component if the town decides to pursue a so-called "town campus" at the top of School Street. Uses for the building would not be decided until a future town meeting, but the selectmen have discussed turning the building into a new town hall and town offices.
The land that the town would trade for the church property is located behind the ice arena on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. The Oak Bluffs resident homesite committee currently owns the land.
Michael Dutton, selectman, said that the town would not necessarily lose affordable housing if the land swap is approved. He said the town could build affordable housing on the property behind the church. "It definitely opens up a lot of options," he said.
In the other land swap proposal, article 12 asks voters to trade the old Oak Bluffs Library building on Pennacook Avenue, plus a one-bedroom deed-restricted building lot, in exchange for the former BFI transfer station on Pacific Avenue. Frank Fenner, a Chilmark selectman who owns the Pacific Avenue land, proposed the deal in January.
The selectmen have not discussed possible uses for the former BFI site. In his letter to the selectmen proposing the deal, Mr. Fenner suggested that the property, which is just down the street from the town hall and the new Oak Bluffs Library, could be used to expand the town campus.
The special town meeting warrant includes a number of spending requests and bits of financial housekeeping.
Article 4 asks voters to transfer $10,000 from the town's free cash reserves for improvements to the Oak Bluffs Sailing Camp mainstay building.
Article 6 asks for a $14,597 transfer from free cash for an outstanding bill to DEP.
Article 8 asks voters to spend $40,000 from the town's stabilization fund for work on the Oak Bluffs senior center. The town planning board already committed money from another source for the project, but that money is not yet available. According to the warrant, the stabilization fund will be replenished when the money from the planning board is received.
Article 9 asks for $20,000 from the stabilization fund to purchase a new emergency generator for the Oak Bluffs fire department. The generator is needed to operate the lights and emergency radio system at the fire station during power outages.
Article 10 asks voters to appropriate anticipated revenue from the community preservation fund. The money is generated through the community preservation act (CPA). Towns in the CPA program adopt a three-percent surcharge on real estate taxes, which the state will match 100 percent. The program is designed to raise money for affordable housing, the preservation of open space, and historic preservation. In article 10, the Oak Bluffs community preservation committee recommended that the town set aside $36,732 each of the three areas, and $18,366 for the committee's administrative expenses.
According to the warrant, "It is anticipated that the community preservation reserve will total $238,758 after these deductions."