Few in Tisbury attend hearing on ESF building
Despite a $1.75 million price tag for the proposed purchase of property and site improvements for a new emergency services facility (ESF), only a few Tisbury voters attended a public hearing about it during the selectmen's meeting Tuesday night.
The site recommended by the ESF committee for a new building to house the fire department, ambulance service, and emergency management services is located adjacent to the Oak Grove cemetery off State Road and Surveyor's Lane. In addition to occupying a quadrant of cemetery land owned by the department of public works (DPW), the siting of the new facility would require the town to purchase five adjoining privately owned parcels totaling about 1.5 acres on DeBettencourt Way.
A view from the intersection of Pine Tree Lane and State Road shows the location of the proposed site for a new emergency services facility beyond the stone wall, where buildings are seen in the photo. Photo by Ralph Stewart
At Tisbury's annual town meeting on April 10, voters will be asked to approve a proposition 2.5 override spending request for the purchase of the five parcels, totaling $1,650,000. In addition, the Tisbury department of public works (DPW) added requests for $35,000 to relocate an old DPW building on the cemetery property and $70,000 to construct a new stone wall similar to the existing one at the cemetery to redefine its property line and maintain its sanctity.
That brings the cost to taxpayers up to $1.75 million, before adding the projected cost of $3.3 to $4.8 million for the emergency services building. On behalf of his fellow taxpayers who weren't at Tuesday night's hearing, Tisbury resident Peter Duart asked the million dollar question: "What's the cost going to do to my property taxes - the bottom line for me is, how much more will my taxes be?"
Tax collector Tim McLean estimated that on an average home valued at $800,000, taxes would increase by $180 in the first year, then decrease slightly over the 20-year life of the bond.
Most of the public hearing consisted of a presentation by Fire Chief John Schilling, who outlined the present fire station building's conditions, possible site choices, and the ESF committee's rationale for choosing the State Road location, using a power-point presentation put together by committee member and planning board representative Henry Stephenson.
The proposed site plan includes two entrances on State Road, to handle exiting fire trucks and ambulances from the building's drive-through bays. The facility will be sited so that the administrative offices face the road and the parking lot located in back, to lessen the visual impact. Illustration by Henry Stephenson
Deciding what kind of facility would suit Tisbury's needs and finding an appropriate site took the ESF committee almost four years, Chief Schilling said. He characterized the existing fire station on Beach Road, built in 1955, as "a slab built on a swamp." Located near Five Corners, one of the Island's most congested traffic areas, the station is too small, in bad condition, and beyond repair, Chief Schilling said.
The ESF committee, made up of representatives from the community, board of selectmen, finance and advisory committee, capital committee, department of public works, town administrative, and police, fire and ambulance departments looked at ESF requirements and site possibilities.
Initially, the town's selectmen charged the committee with finding a site that could accommodate a facility for all of the town's emergency services, including the police department. The committee divided Tisbury into four quadrants, Chief Schilling said, looking for town-owned property located away from traffic congestion yet near a major road, within distance of most Tisbury locations within a maximum six-minute response time.
With limited choices of available property, the committee concluded it would not be possible to find a site large enough for both the police and fire departments. "The amount of property we'd need was unavailable, so we refocused on just the fire and ambulance departments," Mr. Schilling explained. "There would have to be two buildings in excess of 10,000 feet, requiring an acre and a half plus."
The committee narrowed its choices down to four sites, including the State Road site, and three others, High Point Lane, Lyle Lane, and Evelyn Way. The committee chose the State Road site after eliminating the other ones based on grading issues, high purchase costs, eminent domain issues, and lack of egress, Mr. Schilling said.
In addition to the site recommendation, the ESF committee advised that the town should conduct a municipal facilities needs analysis before deciding to sell any town-owned properties. If voters approve the site purchase and subsequently a new ESF, Mr. Schilling concluded, the town will need to look at life-cycle cost estimates in considering whether to incorporate energy savings through green construction techniques and systems in the building.
In other business before and after the hearing, in the absence of selectman Tom Pachico, selectmen Denys Wortman and Tristan Israel okayed a new three-year town audit contract with CPA Tom Scanlon for $21,000 the first two years and $21,500 the third year. They also approved the Dredge Committee's recommendation for a contract award for the Tashmoo Channel Dredge Study, provided town administrator John Bugbee checks the details. A grant for the work stipulates funds must be spent by June 30.
Mr. Israel said he wrote a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick protesting the state's school funding formula, and received a letter from the governor referring him back to the department of education. Mr. Israel said he will continue to pursue the issue and will follow up with the governor's aide.
In town department reports, Mr. McLean announced that Standard and Poor's, a leading provider of independent credit ratings, recently upgraded Tisbury's bond rating to an "A" from an "A-minus."
DPW director Fred LaPiana said the installation of utility conduits in the Water Street parking lot and Main Street sidewalk construction should be completed by the end of this week, with the exception of a sidewalk in front of Bowl and Board.
The selectmen rescheduled a meeting date with the Oak Bluffs selectmen and the DPW regarding refuse issues to April 17 at 4 pm in the Katharine Cornell Theatre.