County commissioners search for purpose
The Dukes County commissioners this week began a round of appearances before town selectmen. The visits are intended to solicit ideas from town officials about how the county might meet regional needs. The county's latest effort to find ways it might be more useful to Island taxpayers comes 15 years and four county managers after the birth of the county manager form of government.
The commissioners will offer a slate of ideas, some new but most not so new, of ways the Island towns might cooperate. These include a central dog pound, shared inspectors and tax assessors, joint purchasing, and regional waste services.
To generate additional money for the county, on top of what the taxpayers now provide in the form of an annual assessment, the county commissioners are also interested in what town leaders think about an additional two-percent rooms excise tax and a two-percent deeds excise tax.
By way of a prelude, Jennifer Randolph, executive assistant to the county manager, distributed a loose-leaf binder to the selectmen. In it are copies of letters and documents that are used to support one notion or another.
For example, among the ideas the county will present is the creation of a formal agricultural commission. A separate section contains copies of letters written by local farmers and supporters of the Island Grown Initiative in favor of the idea.
A section on waste management contains a letter from the Vineyard Conservation Society urging adoption of a comprehensive approach to waste management.
An introductory letter included in the binder, dated Oct. 12, reads, "A topic generating a lot of discussion on the agenda of recent county commissioners' meetings has been regional needs and how they might be met. The commissioners would like the input of the boards of selectmen as well as any other entities in your town you would like to include. Once you have had the chance to review the following ideas we would appreciate the opportunity to attend one of your meetings to have a dialogue regarding your town's current and future needs."
A pair of county commissioners attended meetings of the Chilmark and Aquinnah selectmen Nov. 6. Commissioners are scheduled to attend the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs selectmen's meetings Nov. 13. No Edgartown meeting is currently scheduled.
According to Ms. Randolph, the idea to meet with selectmen grew out of the county budget discussions, including an examination of county services and county revenue.
Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs, county commission chairman, said these meetings are an effort to begin to communicate with the selectmen. He said it is possible the selectmen will look at the list of possibilities and decide that all, some, or none make sense. Regardless of the reaction, he said, better interaction between county and town officials is long overdue.