Tisbury votes $471,500 in new spending
After rustling up a quorum by rousting friends and neighbors from their winter hibernation, Tisbury voters approved 20 of 22 warrant articles totaling $471,500 at a special town meeting Tuesday night.
A total of 109 voters, about 4.25 percent of Tisbury's 2,562 registered voters, turned out after a slow start. At the urging of town moderator Deborah Medders, the 40 or so voters present at 7:30 pm, the meeting's starting time, made calls on their cell phones to cajole others into performing their civic duty.
Ms. Medders repeated her request several times as the clock ticked towards 8, and with each round of calls, a few more voters trickled in. Although no one was certain exactly which member of the last arrivals hit the magic "100" number needed for a quorum, James and Susan Murphy walked through the door at 8 pm sharp to the sound of applause and sighs of relief.
Although Tisbury's special town meeting traditionally addresses non-appropriating articles, this year's warrant included a mix, with seven appropriating articles. Discussion about the Water Street parking lot, the evening's big ticket spending item, took up about an hour of the two-and-a-half hour meeting.
Voters agreed to a motion from the selectmen to separate out and take up the non-appropriating articles first. The first article taken up under Tisbury's lottery system turned out to be a non-contender.
Tisbury's Finance and Advisory Committee (FinCom) chairman Muriel Mill asked that article seven be dropped. The article would have authorized the selectmen to approve a program for persons over age 60 to provide volunteer services to the town in exchange for a reduction in their real property tax bill, under the provisions of a state law. Ms. Mill explained that in reviewing the demands the program would place on the selectmen and weighing the costs versus benefits to the town, the FinCom thought the idea needed more study. Voters agreed.
Turning to other non-appropriating articles, voters rejected one under which the town would adopt a state law allowing members of a town board, committee, or commission to miss one session of a public hearing and be allowed to vote on the outcome, provided they viewed a videotape and/or read meeting minutes.
Town officials offered different viewpoints. Selectman chairman Tristan Israel spoke against it because he thinks nothing substitutes for actually attending a hearing. Planning board chairman Tony Peak said that while he understood the principles involved, sometimes it is difficult to complete a public hearing due to absences by board members, which increases the applicant's costs in time and money.
A request by the owners of the Belushi Pisano Gallery, located at 18 State Road, to be added to the town's centralized sewer system raised some concerns about town growth and the system's capacity. The gallery owners requested a sewer hook-up because they want to add an additional small building on the property for office space and a workshop. They cannot upgrade the existing septic system because of archeological restrictions against digging on the property due to the possible location of native American artifacts.
John Best, a Tisbury real estate agent and former Martha's Vineyard Commission member, warned that the sewer system was not designed for growth in the downtown area. James Rogers said Mr. Best's comments confirmed one of the fears he had when the sewer system went in, that "people would attempt to use it as a zoning tool."
Mr. Rogers said the gallery owners should have the right to expand and make improvements on their private property, especially since the sewer flow review board said the system could handle it. Voters approved the hook-up.
Tisbury's harbormaster, fire chief, ambulance director, and DPW director can do some spring cleaning soon, as voters approved disposing of some old vehicles and equipment, including a 1982 pumper truck and 1988 cut-van ambulance.
Voters also approved authorizing an easement request for town-owned Manter Trust property over the old Holmes Hole Road as previously agreed to by Tisbury selectmen in 1994.
With a shift to spending articles, resident Margaret Goodale raised the question, "What will we have left in the unreserved fund balance if we vote for everything?" Tisbury treasurer and tax collector Tim McLean told her $1.2 million would remain for consideration at annual town meeting.
Two appropriating articles addressed proposed improvements to the Water Street parking lot. One requested $150,000 from Steamship Authority embarkation fee funds and $100,000 from free cash for repaving the lot, installing a new drainage system, and constructing new curbs. The other, requesting $80,000 from free cash, would fund underground ductwork for future use for utilities and lighting.
Landscape architect David O'Connor of the Cecil Group provided a power-point presentation showing the proposed plans, which call for changing the lot's configuration by rotating the existing three bays of parking spaces ninety-degrees and adding landscaping to islands between the bays. A fence with vines will be added in front of the Stop and Shop Supermarket wall facing the parking lot, as well. Sidewalks and granite curbing will match that on Main Street.
Peter Cabana, Tisbury's MVC commissioner, questioned whether the new configuration would result in a loss of parking spaces. Mr. O'Connor estimated a loss of six to nine.
Kay Mayhew quipped, "People can go to Polly Hill for pretty scenery - don't take away my parking spaces."
Ambulance coordinator Jeff Pratt expressed concerns about whether allowing two-way traffic in the lane nearest the Police Department will block ambulances from exiting quickly.
Most of the discussion focused on costs. Retaining the current configuration and redoing the lot would cost about $100,000, versus almost $400,000 for the Cecil Group plan. "Frugal but not foolish," admonished Meverell Good, former chairman and long-time member of Tisbury's FinCom.
Mr. Bugbee said the town appropriated $90,000 in embarkation fee funds last year toward beautification, which could be applied to landscaping in the Water Street lot.
As selectman Tom Pachico pointed out, what started out as a repaving project grew into an "aesthetics and what if" project. "This town is more than a parking lot," declared Charles Frankenhoff, who spoke in favor of beautification efforts. In the end, beauty won out over utility, as voters approved funding the Water Street improvements.
The idea of spending $47,500 for spraying town trees this spring for caterpillars produced the only hard-to-call vote of the evening. Ms. Medders called for count, revealing 69 in favor and 23 against.
Voters also approved the expenditure of $80,000 from unreserved cash to finish the sidewalk replacement and lighting work in front of Bowl and Board on Main Street and from Spring to Centre Streets.