Edgartown may stall district land purchase
The failure to achieve a quorum at the Edgartown special town meeting June 28 and the lack of endorsement by Edgartown selectmen may stall the regional refuse district's proposed land purchase.
"It's in the interest of all of us not to go ahead without a town vote," selectman Art Smadbeck said at Monday afternoon's selectmen's meeting.
Don Hatch, manager of the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District, who was invited to the meeting, agreed. "I would like to see a town vote," he said, and added that a bonding company probably wouldn't approve the purchase without it.
The selectmen invited town finance committee members and the refuse district board and manager to the meeting to clarify the status of the district's proposal, as a result of the aborted town meeting. All four member towns, Aquinnah, Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Edgartown were asked to approve the district's borrowing of $1.5 million for the purpose of buying 11 acres adjacent to the disposal district site in Edgartown.
Chilmark and West Tisbury approved the proposal at town meetings, Aquinnah meets on the question in August, and Edgartown failed to get a quorum for its June 28 special town meeting, when the article was on the warrant.
The Edgartown selectmen made it clear Monday that, despite the lack of a town vote and an opinion from town counsel Ronald Rappaport, they will not support the purchase without more discussion with the district board.
Mr. Rappaport's written opinion concluded that the town's lack of action on the matter signified approval, because a 45-day time period for action had lapsed, town administrator Pamela Dolby said. Everyone at the meeting expressed confusion over the opinion, since the proposal was on the town meeting warrant.
Margaret Serpa, chairman of the selectmen, said the selectmen left a previous FinCom meeting with the understanding the purchase proposal would be withdrawn. She said the selectmen never got an explanation of why the same piece of land was sold a year ago for $1 million and was now being offered to the refuse district for $1.5 million. Selectman Michael Donaroma also said he believed the land is overpriced.
Mr. Smadbeck addressed Mr. Hatch regarding the land purchase: "I thought we agreed to talk about this some more. It would be terrible for all of us to have it forced on us. There needs to be a consensus."
Mr. Hatch agreed, although he said he could not speak for the district board. "We would be foolish to move ahead without Edgartown," he said. "If we're not going to get Edgartown to buy in, it would be a difficult situation." He said the absence of Edgartown on the proposal would compromise the future of the district.
Mr. Hatch said the district's purchase agreement for the land allows it to withdraw by Aug. 31. The district also has the option of paying $8,000 a month toward the purchase until Dec. 31, to keep the purchase agreement in force. Its $40,000 deposit on the land is refundable until Aug. 31, he said.
Mr. Hatch also clarified that the land purchase is not for immediate expansion of the disposal facility, but to allow for the Island's needs 10 to 20 years from now. The new land would provide an additional buffer to adjacent properties, he said.
Larry Mercier, a FinCom member as well as the town's representative on the refuse district board, said the 1982 regional refuse district agreement requires that for the district to incur debt, approval of all the district towns is required. Then, all six Island towns were members. Mr. Mercier acknowledged that the agreement was a "bit ambiguous." He suggested the town hold another town meeting.
Fred Condon of the FinCom said he believed the purchase proposal would be difficult to get through town meeting, because the price amounted to a 50 percent profit on the land in less than a year. He recommended the district withdraw from the purchase agreement.
"Let's get back to zero and start anew," Mr. Condon said.
Mr. Smadbeck said one of the reasons for Edgartown's reluctance to approve the land purchase is that the town's portion of the cost would be 70 percent. "We think that's too high," he said. Another issue, he said, is deciding what to do with the land. "I don't think we'll have an answer in the next two months."
At the end of the meeting, the selectmen and FinCom members agreed to attend the next meeting of the refuse district board on July 19, to discuss the land purchase. The three selectmen will send a letter to the district board in advance of that meeting, making their opinions clear.