West Tisbury housing question for special meeting warrant


West Tisbury selectmen last week approved five articles to appear on the warrant for a special town meeting, at 7 pm, Tuesday, June 8, at the West Tisbury School.

Voters will be asked to spend $9,000 to cover additional fiscal year 2011 payroll requirements, associated with the creation of a new position in town hall described by town administrator Jennifer Rand as a “floater” — that is, a person who would be able to fill in for other staff members on vacation and lend extra assistance during short-term, rush assignments.

Building inspector Ernie Mendenhall and town accountant Bruce Stone told the selectmen that the position is needed.

“I am very much in favor,” Mr. Stone said, “especially because of the way the new town hall is set up. It is very different than the old town hall, and it needs to be perceived as user-friendly to the public. I think it is really important to have someone on the first floor who can do rudimentary information giving, hand out forms and provide information.”

Ms. Rand told the selectmen that although this new position must be advertised, there is a “strong internal candidate,” because of plans to reduce the assessor’s office by one position. Selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter asked if the position would require 20 or 25 hours a week.

“We have been talking about this position for ten years,” Mr. Manter said. “Creating this job is the friendly thing to do as the public comes into the building.” Newly elected selectman Cynthia Mitchell asked Ms. Rand to determine how many hours a week the employee would work.

Two articles on the warrant pertain to the Bailey Park Road affordable housing project. Because the town obtained the property through tax title foreclosures, the proposed articles would give the selectmen the authority to sell the property to a selected developer or otherwise dispose of it for affordable housing purposes.

“We need to have a special town meeting because the selectmen are the only ones who can dispose of the property and only after a town meeting has approved of the sale,” chairman Richard Knabel told The Times. “That has never happened.”

The selectmen also unanimously approved amending the language of the request for proposal (RFP) to be issued seeking a developer for the Bailey Park Road project. Mr. Knabel said that the RFP, as currently written, provides that the town affordable housing committee could enter into a property ground lease with a developer, although, the selectman said, the committee does not have that authority. Mr. Manter made a motion to amend the RFP language so that both the committee and the selectmen would have to approve any lease agreement.

Ms. Rand told the selectmen the town plans to advertise for the position of shellfish constable. She had suggested waiting to fill the position until new regulations were developed, but she now told the selectmen that the position needs to be filled soon. The new constable will not be permitted to be a commercial shellfisherman.

In other business, selectmen approved the shellfish committee’s recommendation that Tisbury Great Pond be closed to all oyster fishing for six weeks, following which a smaller portion of the pond will be closed to oyster fishing until September 15.

During the next six weeks, oysters located at the northern end of the pond in turbid water will be relocated to the main body of the pond to the south where the water is clean, according to assistant shellfish constable Ray Gale. Buoys will indicate the smaller area to be closed until mid-September, when, Mr. Gale said, he hopes the relocated oysters will successfully adjust to the new environment. The commercial oyster season is closed so that only recreational fishermen will be affected by the selectmen’s decision.

The selectmen also accepted with regrets the resignations of Ann Maley from the cultural council and Dan Pace from the conservation commission, both due to illnesses. Ms. Rand will advertise for a volunteer to fill the vacancy on the cultural council. An associate member of the conservation commission will become a full member.

Selectmen also unanimously approved a request by West Tisbury Free Public Library trustee Linda Hearn to reappoint Fan Ogilvie as town poet laureate. A retirement party for former police Chief Beth Toomey will be held at the Ag Hall, Saturday, May 8, from 6-10 pm. Food and beverages will be provided, but desserts are welcome.