Joint Oak Bluffs meeting ends with no accord
A joint meeting between Oak Bluffs selectmen and the town board of health marked by disagreement and rancor ended in a question mark Tuesday.
Chairman of the board of selectmen Duncan Ross asked for the meeting between the two boards to resolve an apparent conflict between the board of health and Jerry Wiener, town building inspector arising from differing regulations pertaining to bedrooms and septic systems.
But before the issue that had spawned the meeting could be discussed, sparks began to fly.
Linda Marinelli, chairman of the board of health, accused the selectmen of overstepping their bounds and interfering in the board of health's political process. "Let the board of health handle their own business and we'll let you handle yours," she said, pointedly accusing Mr. Ross of interference.
Mr. Ross responded that the selectmen were only trying to help resolve a problem.
Mr. Wiener granted a 30-day temporary occupancy permit to the Barmakian family that allowed them to move into a new home in Oak Bluffs over July Fourth weekend.
But when health inspector Shirley Fauteux went to verify that the number of bedrooms corresponded with the stated size of the septic system, she determined that an upstairs room, which the occupants insisted was a game room, was in fact being used as a bedroom. Such use would mean that the occupants were not complying with the septic regulations.
According to the building department's interpretation, the room was not a bedroom. According to the board of health, it was. Once the discrepancy was revealed, Mr. Weiner recommended the board of health issue a cease and desist order that would have removed the family's ability to be in the house.
But the central issue for Ms. Marinelli, a former selectman who figured largely in the period of political unrest that led to the change from a three-member to a five-member board of selectmen, was angry that Mr. Ross had spoken to another committee member to schedule the meeting, when she is the chairman.
Board of health member Patricia Bergeron, who agreed to the meeting with Mr. Ross, said the meeting with the selectman was supposed to be helpful. "Trust me, I won't make that mistake again," she muttered toward the end of the meeting.
Pointing out that any joint meeting is always beneficial, selectman Greg Coogan said conversation among town boards is always welcome. "This meeting makes perfect sense just because of the discussion," he said. "Everyone that thinks we should go off in our own direction - come on, that's not a town."
Reflecting the existing dividing line among the board, Selectman Kerry Scott agreed with Mrs. Marinelli. "I'm not sure that this doesn't smack of interference by the board of selectmen," Ms. Scott said. "Why was it so important for Duncan and Casey [Sharpe, town administrator] to call this meeting? I'm not satisfied by this explanation."
Selectman Roger Wey sat quietly through most of the turmoil. "Look, we've been here almost 35 minutes and we keep going around and around," he said halfway through the meeting. "Is there a solution?"
But with no clear resolution in sight and the selectmen's stated purpose to find a resolution down the drain, the board of health decided to conduct a site visit and then vote on whether the room is in fact a bedroom or a game room.