Edgartown voters turned out in force despite Tuesday evening's frigid weather, and made short work of 19 articles on the special town meeting warrant.
A total of 173 registered voters attended, more than the 148 necessary for a quorum.
The quorum bylaw itself sparked the most vigorous discussion of the evening.
After the scheduled June special town meeting failed to reach a quorum, the town clerk and the board of selectmen submitted a request to change the voting bylaw so that only 100 registered voters are required to begin a town meeting. The current law requires five percent of registered voters for a quorum. A similar measure was defeated at the 2006 annual town meeting. The sentiment was clear Tuesday. Voters still want to keep the current bylaw unchanged.
"The last time I stood up to oppose this, I was asked if I would show up at the special town meetings, which were generally poorly attended," said one voter. "I see we have enough here tonight to form a quorum without this article. I think it's in the best interests of democracy that we maintain a five percent quorum. By using a fixed number, as the town grows, we actually are putting ourselves in position where fewer and fewer people have a say in how we live."
"As I look around, I don't think we have ten voters here under 40 years old," added another voter. "I think we should be putting more effort into the civics training in our school so that younger folks understand the importance of town meeting, and democracy."
The article lowering the quorum requirements was soundly rejected. "You know they put that article in here so you'd all come and vote for the other stuff, you know that," said moderator Philip "Jeff" Norton Jr., to a round of hearty laughter.
Voters then approved spending and transfers in rapid-fire order, with some explanation, but little debate.
Selectman Arthur Smadbeck answered questions about an $86,000 appropriation for Edgartown's share of educating students at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). That amount has already been awarded to the town in the form of a state "pothole" grant. The funds are earmarked to cover a hike in education costs that resulted from a change in the way Island towns are assessed for their share of the MVRHS budget.
One voter wanted to know if "pothole" money would be available next year. "The answer is maybe, but it's too early to tell," said Mr. Smadbeck. "If the state funds the pothole fund, you still have to apply, and it depends on how many towns apply, and that determines through various formulas how much money you get."
Like several voters, Mr. Norton questioned the slang term for the state grant. "Why do they call it pothole," he asked. "Why don't they just call it slush fund?"
Assessor Alan Gowell was greeted with murmurs of approval when he asked to amend an article asking for $75,000 to finish residential property tax valuation.
"On behalf of the board of assessors, I would move to amend that amount to $50,000," said Mr. Gowell. The amendment, and the article were quickly approved.
"They did that on purpose, too," said Mr. Norton, with a mock scowl.
Voters appropriated $35,112 to increase the hours of paramedic coverage. The extra money means Edgartown will have emergency medical response available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Part of the coverage is provided through a mutual aid agreement with the town of Oak Bluffs.
In other business, voters approved $75,000 to repair the roof of the Edgartown School gymnasium, $22,000 to contract with an application service provider to maintain the MUNIS governmental computer system installed last year, and $21,000 for new copying machines at town hall.
The town meeting approved a total of $283,227 worth of spending from the town's free cash fund. That fund totaled $1,626,566 on July 1.