Oak Bluffs voters, with virtually no dissent, approved 16 articles on the special town meeting warrant Tuesday evening, including new affordable housing, funding for two engineering studies of the town's shorefront, repairs to the kitchen at the Sailing Park, and raises for two town employees.
Voters authorized expenditures from the town's free cash fund totaling $245,146. Before Tuesday's actions, the town's free cash fund was certified at $513,237.
Also authorized was a transfer of $200,000 from the free cash fund to the town's stabilization, or "rainy day," fund.
The first three articles on the warrant signaled a mood of general agreement among the 112 registered voters who attended. "I don't think we've ever had three unanimous votes in a row," said town moderator David Richardson.
Approved on the recommendation of the community preservation committee, was $176,000 to convert the old town library into usable space. Planners envision three affordable housing units, and retail space for a pharmacy. The money will come from Community Preservation Act funds, which are collected from a property tax surcharge, and matched by state funds.
The town meeting gave a green light to two separate studies of the town beach area. At a cost of $65,000, engineers will survey the beach with an eye toward what is known in federal bureaucratese as "pre-disaster mitigation." Equipped with the engineering study, the town's conservation commission believes it will be able to acquire state and federal funds to shore up the seawall and erosion banks so the shorefront could withstand a large ocean storm. "We're assuming 100 percent will come from state and federal funds," said conservation committee chairman Joan Hughes.
The engineering study will also examine why the beach is losing sand. Ms. Hughes said the state replenished the sand last summer, but warned that won't be possible if the same problem emerges next summer. "They slapped our hand, and told us it was a one time only event," said Ms. Hughes.
A separate cost of $46,200 was approved to fund an engineering study and architectural drawings for replacement of crumbling sidewalks and broken railings along Sea View Avenue. The study will allow the town to seek state and federal funding for the Sea View Ave. revitalization plan, projected at a cost of $2.7 million.
The kitchen at the town-owned Sailing Camp will get $44,000 worth of improvements, including a new stove, ventilation, and refrigeration equipment, in order to comply with building codes.
The town meeting voted to spend $40,000 for a new heating and ventilation system for the police station.
Voters also approved spending to cover purchase of a new four-wheel-drive vehicle for the police department, refurbishing of a police department vehicle for use in the fire department, and purchase of protective helmets, vests and "less lethal munitions" for police vehicles. In response to a voter's question, police chief Erik Blake explained he wants to purchase "bean bag" ammunition for situations where a subject needs to be temporarily disabled, and when lethal force is not justified. The small "bean bags" are packed into a conventional shotgun shell. They are designed to cause debilitating pain and bruising, but not to penetrate the body.
Withdrawn was a request to transfer $1,400 from the ambulance reserve fund to purchase weapons for the Oak Bluffs public safety patrol boat. The arms would be used to insure security for ferries and cruise ships during times of heightened alerts, when local Coast Guard crews may have other duties. Police requested the article be withdrawn because they are still working out details of the arrangement with the Coast Guard.
The Oak Bluffs town accountant and information technology manager will be getting raises, effective January 1. Voters authorized the pay hikes after the recently completed Classification and Compensation study revealed those people were being paid substantially below the average compensation of their counterparts in comparable towns.