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West Tisbury selectmen

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Agreement with abutters to old police station building is reached.

West Tisbury's solar panel array is poised to begin drawing power from the sun. (Photo by Susie Safford) — Susie Safford

The West Tisbury solar voltaic panel project at the old town dump is nearing completion and is awaiting NSTAR to plug it in, town administrator Jennifer Rand said at the selectmen’s meeting on Wednesday, August 27.

“We are now going to enter a holding pattern waiting for NSTAR,” she said. “It can take as long as NSTAR feels like taking.” Ms. Rand said there is a deadline NSTAR is supposed to meet that she thinks is about 60 days, and she hopes the connection will happen in that time frame.

Selectman Richard Knabel expressed frustration over the length of time it has taken to complete the project. A change in electrical contractors was required after the first contractor hired went out of business.

“Theoretically this should have been on line on July 1,” he said. “So we are losing revenue while they take their time.”

Ms. Rand agreed but said, “It is all moving forward, and it is very exciting.”

In other town business, selectmen agreed unanimously to changes Peter and Beatrice Nessen proposed to an agreement under which the town now maintains a septic system for the old police station, which was built on a lot so small and so close to the Mill Pond, that the septic system was sited on an adjacent residential lot owned by the Nessens with the condition that the lot would only be used for the police station.

Police vacated the small, 1,000 square foot building, their home since 1974, when they moved into a new $2.5 million, 5,600-square-foot headquarters at 454 State Road in North Tisbury, behind the Public Safety Building, in March.

An agreement to change the name of the building from the police station was first on the list.

“Building by the Mill Pond,” suggested chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, a police sergeant. That name was quickly dismissed by his two associates. No decision on a new name was reached.

The amended agreement includes a requirement to provide an annual report of water flow to insure that flow to the septic system stays below a limit now set at 45 gallons a day, and a reevaluation of the 45 gallon limit to determine if it is a reasonable limit that does not strain the septic or adversely affect the Nessens’ property. The agreement also limits parking on the town-owned lot to three cars.

The selectmen plan to issue a request for proposal (RFP) to rent the old police station after the new agreement is finalized and several other issues are ironed out.

One concern is whether to replace the furnace, another is to decide on the rental conditions. Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said that it is important to establish conditions that are in the best interests of the town. Last month, a committee appointed by the selectmen to study the building’s use recommended that the building be leased to a nonprofit group.

Two soundproofing issues were also on the Wednesday night agenda. Ms. Rand reported that she had received an approximate price of $20,000 to install two-inch-thick sound-damping panels in the town hall to help reduce the level of distracting noise generated in the offices, an expenditure that she said would have to go before the town at town meeting. Selectmen decided to address the issue more thoroughly at the next meeting.

Also sound-related, Ms. Rand said that Animal Health Care had reported that it had completed the installation of soundproofing designed to help reduce the noise of barking dogs in the facility’s kennel adjacent to Martha’s Vineyard Airport. The dog noise had generated complaints from residents of a nearby subdivision who brought their complaints to the selectmen and asked for relief.

The meeting ended with what has become an annual seasonal event. Mr. Manter presented Mr. Knabel, who was unable to attend the Fair for the second straight year, with an Ag Fair tee-shirt he had purchased for his fellow selectman. Mr. Knabel expressed surprise that the shirt was the correct size.

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The special election will fill the post left vacant by the murder of Pat Gregory.

West Tisbury selectmen are mulling the future use of the town's former police station. — File photo by Michael Cummo

West Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously at their weekly meeting on July 30 to choose a new town moderator at a special election held in conjunction with state and federal elections on November 4. Voters will be asked to choose a replacement for longtime moderator Francis “Pat” Gregory, who was murdered while hiking in northern California in May.

Mr. Gregory was found dead of a gunshot wound on May 16 on the Iron Canyon Trail off Highway 36E, north of Red Bluff, Calif. A companion who was hiking with him was wounded. They were robbed before being shot. Police continue to search for the murderer.

In other action Wednesday, selectmen discussed the use of the old police station building next to the Mill Pond, vacated when police moved into their new station on State Road this spring.

The 1,000-square-foot building is on a small lot and comes with a parking restriction of three vehicles. The lot is so small and so close to the Mill Pond that the septic system was sited on a neighboring residential lot owned by Peter and Beatrice Nessen with the condition that the lot would only be used for the police station.

Selectman Richard Knabel said that any change of use could invalidate the terms of the septic agreement and would give the Nessens the option of disconnecting the system. Chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said the Nessens have indicated that they would be willing to consider new tenants for the building.

Last month, a committee appointed by the selectmen to study the building’s use recommended that the building be leased to a nonprofit group but was not more specific.

Town administrator Jennifer Rand said that in order to meet state guidelines for the rental of municipal property at less than the best price, a request for proposals (RFP) would would have to identify specific public benefits as determined by the selectmen.

“The state is quite clear that if it is to be disposed of, and a lease is considered disposed of, for less than fair market value, a valid public purpose must be defined,” Ms. Rand said. “The primary purpose must be to promote the public welfare with a fair and open disposition.”

She said the board would have to determine what their goals are. She said that she will keep the Nessens informed of the town’s decisions.

Mr. Manter asked that the issue be put on the agenda for the next selectmen’s meeting, on August 6.

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Selectman Manter abstained and questioned the costs involved.

Dukes County manager Martina Thornton appeared before West Tisbury selectmen last week with a proposal that all the Island’s towns cooperate to purchase the old Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA) building on Breakdown Lane in Vineyard Haven off of Old Holmes Hole Road for use by the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living.

Meeting on Wednesday, May 14, West Tisbury selectmen Richard Knabel and Cynthia Mitchell voted to recommend that Dukes County pursue the necessary legislation to enable a purchase. Chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter abstained, saying he would like to see other purchase options considered.

The county would seek legislation to allow the county to assume the debt burden on the building. Ms. Thornton said this could take up to six months during which time the opportunity to purchase the building might be lost.

Ms. Thornton estimated the cost of the building and renovations at approximately $1.6 million.

She said the building’s nearly 7,500 square feet of space exceeds the current space needs of the Center for Living and that some of the space could be rented to offset the cost of operations, and still leave room for the organization to expand as the aging population grows in the coming years.

The seller is the Edgartown National Bank, which took back the mortgage after the VNA ended operations on March 11.

“I think this is a great opportunity and it would be a shame if we couldn’t create something here for the Center,” Mr. Knabel said. “The needs of that program are great.” He said that the Island’s demographics indicate an aging population that will put additional demands on the Center.

Ms. Thornton said the building had not been appraised.

“It would be important to me to know what the building is worth,” Mr. Manter said. He said that he was concerned about buying a building that is twice the size needed that would require more maintenance and cost more for utilities. He said the county has had difficulty funding building maintenance in the past and suggested a better solution would be for the towns to collaborate or for one town to buy the building and the other Island towns pay rent rather than having the county own the building.

“I like the idea of the Center for Living having a home there.” Ms. Mitchell said. “I am a little confused about why the county wants to get involved. I believe the county advisory board wanted to get out of those programs, not into them.”

“It’s not like it’s going to be a county program,” Ms. Thornton said.

She said the county does not want to run the program; it only wants to help facilitate the purchase of the building which would be leased to the Center.

The Center for Living is funded by the Island towns and provides services or the elderly of the Vineyard. The organization currently provides most services on a reduced schedule of four days per week, using existing senior center facilities in Edgartown and Tisbury.

Ms. Thornton pitched the purchase idea to receptive Edgartown selectmen at their regular meeting the previous Monday.

In other town business, Mr. Knabel addressed the increased custodian needs for town buildings in addition to cleaning. He said the town’s needs have increased with the town hall, the enlarged library, the new police station and the Field Gallery all needing care.

“We have absolutely no custodial services,” he said. “I don’t know what we do when there are things like the light bulb that has been out for two months in the elevator.”

Town administrator Jennifer Rand said that Joe Tierney would be taking on the responsibilities of town facilities manager when he takes over as building inspector. His title now is local inspector. Mr. Tierney said that he expects to complete the requirements to qualify as building inspector in August and that he has already begun to learn about the operational needs of some of the town’s buildings.

Increases from $50 to $60 in plumbing, electrical, and gas inspection fees were approved by a unanimous vote. Permit fees will remain $50. Mr. Tierney said that the increased complexities and size of some of the new construction projects in town require more inspection time. As an aside he said that building permits have doubled in town over the last year, from 47 to 94.

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Selectmen will decide whether to replace the existing West Tisbury "admiral hat" streetlights (right) with new energy efficient LED fixtures. — Cape Light Compact

Lambert’s Cove resident David Stanwood expressed concern about the planned replacement of the current admiral’s hat light fixtures on the town’s streetlights with modern looking fixtures at Wednesday night’s meeting of the West Tisbury selectmen. He said he prefers the historic look of the old fixtures.

The selectmen voted on April 16 to purchase the 53 streetlights from the previous owner, NSTAR, for one dollar and have contracted with the Cape Light Compact (CLC) to become part of the CLC Municipal LED Street Light Retrofit Project to replace the fixtures with energy efficient light emitting diode (LED) fixtures.

The new fixtures will save the town 70 percent in operating costs, according to CLC program manager Kevin Galligan. CLC estimates that the town’s electrical bill will go from about $5,500 a year to $1,600 – a savings of around $3,900. And it will save approximately $700 in annualized maintenance costs due to the longer life of the LEDs.

Mr. Galligan said the intensity and the coverage area of the new fixtures are adjustable and provide much improved road way lighting. He said the only cost to the town for the replacements would be the expense of police details to manage traffic if they are needed.

There are several types of new fixtures that could be used that would provide the energy savings, Mr. Galligan said, but none that replicate the old style look. He said the old fixtures are not wet-rated, a requirement of new fixtures that insures a longer life.

He said the CLC will respect the wishes of the towns. “We don’t want to put up anything the town does not approve,” he said. “And if the town would like to keep some of the old lights we can do that.” He added that out of the 12,000 fixtures the program has installed to date, including lights in Edgartown, Woods Hole is the only town that has expressed concern about the look of the new lights.

“We do not encourage towns to keep the old lights. They do not light the roads well and they are more costly,” he said. Mr. Galligan said he would be happy to meet with town officials at most anytime to discuss the options. He expects the installation to take place in less than two days sometime in October.

The replacement program is paid for by CLC through its energy efficiency program on behalf of the participating Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard towns.

Selectman Richard Knabel said the fixtures in the historic district will have to be approved by the historic commission before they are replaced.

Also Wednesday, West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand said that construction materials for the town’s solar voltaic project at the old dump were delivered on Tuesday signaling the continuation of a project that was delayed when the solar panel’s previous contractor went out of business.

West Tisbury selectmen approved 85 appointments to various town committees and jobs at their weekly meeting on Wednesday. Selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, a sergeant on the West Tisbury police force abstained on the police appointments. All appointments were approved unanimously.

A full list of appointments can be found here.