West Tisbury votes funds for path, space needs plan
West Tisbury voters at a special town meeting Tuesday approved three articles worth $240,000 in all, but rejected a board of assessors request for an additional $9,000 for next year's revaluation.
Voters agreed to spend $190,000 for a new path along Edgartown Road, $20,000 for continued work by the Space Needs Committee, and $30,000 for resurfacing and maintaining the town library-Howes House parking lot. Those three items drew the most discussion and some opposition among the 144 voters at the West Tisbury Elementary School. The 10 others articles on the warrant passed with little discussion.
The assessors' request also drew little comment, but was rejected quickly on a voice vote. Assessor Cynthia Mitchell explained that the money is needed because the board received only one bid from Vision Appraisal of $56,000 for the 2007 revaluation, which has been appropriated. That bid was only for the real estate portion of the triennial revaluation, she said Wednesday. The extra money requested would cover the commercial personal property and utility portions of the revaluation, Ms. Mitchell said. Since $2,570 will be redirected from unspent funds, the assessors need $6,430 from the town's free cash.
Sharon Estrella, who voted against the appropriation on the finance committee (FinCom), was the only one to speak against the request. "It is an injustice to use Vision Appraisal," she said.
In written comments handed out with the FinCom recommendations, Ms. Estrella said Vision Appraisal was the only company that was sent and responded to the assessors' request for proposals. "It is my understanding that the voters at recent town meetings were opposed to retaining this firm for future reappraisals," she said. Principal assessor Jo-Ann Resendes said Wednesday the assessors are working with Tisbury and Oak Bluffs to get estimates for the two smaller portions of the revaluation. They believe that by working cooperatively they can get lower prices and find companies willing to come to the Vineyard, she said. West Tisbury has only 150 business personal property accounts.
Since the price is expected to be less than $10,000, Ms. Resendes said the assessors only need to get three telephone bids.
Ms. Mitchell said Wednesday the assessors will meet next Tuesday to consider options, which could include doing the work in tandem with the other towns or doing it themselves.
"We'll go back to the drawing board now and figure out what the Department of Revenue will require for the commercial personal property," she said.
The Space Needs Committee report and discussion took the first hour of the meeting, with chairman Chuck Hodgkinson summarizing the committee's plan. The committee has set priorities for expanding or renovating town buildings by determining immediate, moderate and long-term needs, he said. The plan includes four options for the town hall.
The voters rejected an expansion plan last year. All committee members sat in the front row and several answered residents' questions about the newest plan.
Mr. Hodgkinson explained that the committee wants to satisfy the town's space needs while avoiding significant spikes in annual debt service payments and real estate taxes. The town's $1 million a year annual debt service will be retired in 10 years and will start to decline significantly in the next two years, he said.
"As the town retires debt, we will add some new debt without raising real estate taxes," Mr. Hodgkinson said. "Nothing will happen without voter feedback every step of the way." The first meeting for public comment on the proposals will be Dec. 13.
The $20,000 allocation sought by the space needs committee would pay for a professional estimator and continued committee work, including mailings. When asked about using an off-Island estimator company, Mr. Hodgkinson said the committee wants to use a company that has more experience with municipal projects and building codes.
Joe Eldredge, the committee's adviser, explained that the committee would like to use Island contractors, but state law has changed so that few Island contractors can get bonded. "The estimators are used to the off-Island glitz," he added.
The committee will prepare a final plan for consideration at the spring annual town meeting.
The proposed 4,920-foot path, which will run between the police station and the east side of the Manter Youth Hostel, drew both support and criticism. The finance committee was divided on the issue, with a 2-2 vote and one abstention. Opponents complained that abutters should be given notice before the funding is approved. They also said since the amount is large, it will raise the tax rate and a vote should be delayed until the annual town meeting.
Other objections to the path included the use of town funds instead of Conservation Preservation Act funds, the use of paving and the fact the path is not a regulation bike path.
William Haynes, paths committee chairman, explained that the committee cannot access CPA funds because CPA regulations require that no funds can be spent on a project before applying for its funding. The committee has already spent time and money on the project, he said. CPA funds would not be available until 2008.
Mr. Haynes said paving is required by the state and the entire path would be on state property. He said the four-foot-wide path is considered a walking path and would be tied into the eight-foot-wide bike path. "It's not a bike path, but bikes are allowed," he said.
Several residents supported the proposal, including path abutter Ruth Kirchmeier, who said the heavily traveled Edgartown Road is "very perilous for walkers and bikers." She said, "I support the path. It's a really good idea for the community."
Other residents praised the newest path the committee had built along State Road in North Tisbury, saying that many people are using it.
The finance committee proposed an amendment to the last item on the warrant, the West Tisbury Library-Howes House parking lot, asking that the $30,000 request be reduced to no more than $10,000. The committee, on a 4-1 vote, objected to using experimental paving material and recommended conventional materials instead. The proposed amendment failed, and the entire amount was voted.
The FinCom members also noted that the land was given by the Jones family with the proviso that the lot be free of excessive paving. They urged better maintenance of the lot.
Selectman Glenn Hearn spoke in favor of the paving proposal, saying the lot is "in terrible shape." He said the plan calls for a combination of pervious cement that allows water to flow through and blue stone hardener. The newer material will be used on the semi-circular book drop-off area in front of the library while the rest of the lot would be paved with the blue stone.
The rest of the money would be used for drainage and ongoing maintenance, Mr. Hearn said. "It's a reasonable product at this time," he said, noting he had checked other places that had used the cement successfully.
Civil engineer Kent Healy, who designed the parking lot plan, also recommended the pervious concrete, saying it is not as strong as regular concrete, but meets the trust's requirements. If it works well, he said the rest of the product could be used in the rest of the drive areas at a later time.
Library board chairman Hermine Hull supported the proposal, saying, "The potholes keep coming back. I hope this is going to work."
All other items on the warrant passed. The largest items included $22,774 for road reconstruction, which will be reimbursed by the state, and $10,000 for cemetery maintenance and surveying.