West Tisbury selectmen learn they've broken a rule
West Tisbury selectmen learned last week that by failing to submit all major projects to the town's capital improvement planning committee for review before being proposed to voters on a town meeting warrant, they hadn't been following the town's bylaws for as long as 20 years.
Town treasurer Katherine Logue and members of the capital improvement committee, Bruce Stone and Al DeVito, brought the problem to the board's attention, recommending a moratorium on all capital improvement items this year that do not involve public safety issues, and that the committee had not reviewed.
"There is a bylaw in place, but you haven't been adhering to it," Ms. Logue told the selectmen. "For fiscal prudence reasons, we can't continue to operate this way."
The committee asked the selectmen to follow the bylaws in the future, Ms. Logue said, "so one board is looking at all requests and seeing the big picture and how it fits into the capital plan for six years."
The bylaw requires the committee to study proposed long-term capital outlays, projects, and improvements for projects that cost more than $10,000 and extend at least five years. Under the bylaw, all town officers, boards and committees, including the selectmen and the school committee, must annually give the committee information concerning all anticipated projects requiring town meeting action during the ensuing six years. The committee then reviews each submission in terms of need, impact, timing and cost.
The bylaw further requires: "No appropriation shall be voted for the capital improvement requested by a department, board, or commission unless the proposed capital improvement is considered in the committee's report, or the committee shall first have submitted a report to the board of selectmen explaining the omission."
After hearing the committee's request, Glenn Hearn and John Early, the two selectmen present last Wednesday, agreed the board should get in step with the requirements.
"It's obvious we haven't been following the procedure," Mr. Hearn said. "It's a good idea to start."
However, he noted there might be a problem with the deadline of three weeks for submitting items for this spring's town meeting. Specifically, he referred to two possible capital items.
He said he didn't expect the paths committee to submit any requests for the town warrant, but he acknowledged a recent directive by the selectmen to put initial permitting on Mill Pond dredging on the town warrant ought to have been discussed with the capital improvement committee because it could lead eventually to a larger amount. The permitting process for the pond has been estimated to cost between $2,500 and $3,000, but the overall dredging project has been estimated at between $400,000 and $600,000.
"The board needs to acknowledge we've been out of compliance with the regulation, and we need to comply," Mr. Early said. The selectmen voted to comply with the bylaws in question.
The committee recommended a moratorium on any capital item not related to public safety, because of the short time until the warrant deadline.
"We won't be doing any capital articles this year," Ms. Logue said, "and we'll get things in order for next year."
The selectmen also agreed to the committee's recommendation to add two at-large members, preferably people with planning and financial experience to their membership.