Cautious on spending
Edgartown's approach to a proposal by the four-town regional refuse district to add 11 acres to its facility south of the airport has all the hallmarks of thoughtful decision making. Indeed, cautious, thoughtful decision making is a hallmark of Edgartown government. Edgartown is a big, rich, growing town that is home to a wide-ranging economic cross-section of Islanders, more diverse, in fact, than in any other Vineyard community. This is true largely because Edgartown accounts for the largest share of the Island real estate market, including the largest stock of small lots at one end of the spectrum and ultra-high-priced properties at the other.
Large as it is and aware of the real estate tax burden on both the well-to-do and the modestly endowed, Edgartown needs to be thoughtful about its spending decisions. In this case, caution and some hard bargaining are certainly called for, because Edgartown will bear 70 percent of the cost of the additional land. And, that's without calling into question the wisdom of the proposal. Edgartown's large share of the burden gives Edgartown the leverage it needs to press for a thorough review of the plans behind this land purchase.
The selectmen, the finance committee, and the town's representative to the refuse district all have questions about the land purchase. They have persisted in raising those questions and have been in no hurry to put the matter before town voters, although the matter might have been settled, and perhaps rejected, had there been a quorum at a recently planned town meeting. The selectmen have also made it clear, and the district manager wisely agrees, that voter approval of Edgartown's participation in the purchase is a must.
"We would be foolish to move ahead without Edgartown," Don Hatch, the refuse district manager told the selectmen. "If we're not going to get Edgartown to buy in, it would be a difficult situation." Mr. Hatch also said the absence of Edgartown's support of the proposal would compromise the future of the district.
What are the issues? There's the price, $1.5 million to the refuse district, although the property was sold a year ago for $1 million. There's the intended use, which, Mr. Hatch told the selectmen, is for future expansion and to buffer neighboring property owners from the refuse facility. Some Edgartown leaders would like to know more about near- and medium-term plans for the 11 acres. These are all good questions, in need of thorough exploration before voters are asked to agree to the purchase.
Because of its leverage and its financial judiciousness, and despite the great resources the Island's richest town possesses and the relatively modest expenditure that is in question, Edgartown officials and district members will meet later this month for further discussions. Here's a model of good, tough municipal leadership.