Oak Bluffs special town meeting warrant totals $1.3 million in spending articles
Oak Bluffs voters will gather Tuesday to tackle a 13-article special town meeting warrant, totaling over $1.8 million in spending on various items and projects. Voters will be asked for the second time to approve the purchase of a new fire truck, and also to obtain land for wastewater expansion and secure funds so the police can take up temporary residence in the old town hall. The meeting will take place Tuesday at 7 pm at the Oak Bluffs School.
"It's all basically spending articles, which as of late we have been in a routine of doing after we get free cash certified," said town administrator Michael Dutton. "It's pretty dry. I don't foresee any big controversies. The biggest concern might be that we have a quorum."
Selectman chairman Duncan Ross said all the articles on the warrant are important to the town, especially since there were several items that were submitted but did not make it to the warrant. "That does not mean we are in favor of all the articles, but we're in favor of putting them before the voters," he said.
One of the most important articles, according to Mr. Dutton, is the purchase of a one-acre parcel of land off Pennsylvania Avenue for use as wastewater expansion property. Acquiring the parcel, which is currently owned by a reality trust, is only a small part of a long-term town and Island project to treat tainted water that is contaminating the Island estuaries. Mr. Dutton referred to The Massachusetts Estuaries Project, which is studying how rapid population growth on the Cape and Islands has created an abundance of nutrients - namely nitrogen and phosphorus - that seep into estuaries through surface water.
After much research, the project has concluded that these nutrients act as a fertilizer to aquatic plants, and the result is the "buildup of invasive weed and algal growth causing fish kills, closed beaches, destroyed productive shellfish areas and creating aesthetically displeasing waters that adversely affect the valuable tourist industry and coastal property values."
"We have an obligation over the long-term to figure out a way to reduce nitrogen content in the waste stream," Mr. Dutton said. "This article won't be the last the town will see about this issue."
Voters will be asked to purchase the land for $190,000 from the Wastewater Enterprise Fund.
The big-ticket item on this warrant will ask voters to purchase a $757,576 aerial ladder fire truck to replace the current 49-year-old vehicle. Mr. Dutton said the current truck is so old that new parts are no longer available when repairs are needed.
The question was put before voters at the annual town meeting last spring where they voted to purchase the truck, and now voter approval is needed to finance the purchase. If approved, the board would enter into a seven-year financing agreement to pay for the vehicle, which should be in operation by next spring.
One multipart article calls for the transfer of over $500,000 from free cash, the ambulance reserve fund, ferry fees and the wastewater retained account to various town departments for necessary items and projects.
Of that amount, $389,886 will come out of the ambulance reserve fund to pay for three cruiser replacements, a pickup truck for the shellfish department, a rescue ambulance, an ambulance re-chassis, and a new phone system for Emergency Medical Services.
Another $50,000 will be spent on a power pedestal replacement for the marina, and a temporary police station in the old town hall. That money will come from the ferry fees, which are accumulated through the $.50 embarkation fee attached to each one-way Steamship Authority (SSA) ticket. Mr. Dutton said the town normally collects around $200,000 a year from the SSA, and spends the money on projects and items that result from the impact of having the ferry service in the town.
Last year, Mr. Dutton said a portion of the money was used to pay for a police detail around the SSA terminal, and other traffic projects.
In the future, Mr. Dutton said the town will consider constructing a public safety building or permanent police station, but for now the board of selectmen has given the police approval to temporarily move their headquarters into the now vacant old town hall. In order to do that, new flooring and an updated electrical system must first be installed. Voters are asked to approve $25,000 for that expense.
Free cash to fund a new phone system at the Council on Aging, a small dump truck for the highway department and a lawnmower for the parks department, totaling nearly $65,000, also needs voter approval.
Additional warrant article spending requests include $7,533 for a harbor survey; $5,000 to purchase supplies and training materials for the Community Emergency Response Team; $4,000 in salary for additional hours for library aides; and the transfer of $25,000 from free cash to the stabilization fund.