Aquinnah completed two special town meetings in one night

— File photo by Tim Johnson

Aquinnah voters on Tuesday powered through two special meetings in less than one hour. Along the way they approved additional funds for the Tri-Town ambulance and money to hire a professional to settle lingering tax title issues.

All warrant articles passed easily and without major dissent. The biggest question of the evening was whether the required number of voters would show up to form a quorum.

The start was delayed 15 minutes due to a lack of a quorum, but after the required 39 voters took their seats, former longtime moderator Walter Delaney, filling in for moderator Michael Hebert who could not attend, opened the meeting.

“Did you remember to bring your gavel?” someone in the crowd asked? He obliged by pulling his gavel from his bag.

The first order of business was an article to appropriate $25,909 to complete the town’s one-third share of the fiscal year 2012 Tri-Town ambulance budget.

The article was made necessary after a decision by the selectmen at the annual town meeting in May to cut $25,909 from the town’s assessment for the Tri-Town budget.

The Tri-Town agreement between the three towns requires each member town to pay a one-third share for the service, without exception. Selectmen in the member towns are discussing the possibility of changing the assessment formula so that Aquinnah pays a smaller share but for now the bill is due.

Selectman Jim Newman spoke and at first described the $25,909 shortfall in the Tri-Town assessment as an accounting error.

Town accountant Margie Spitz disagreed. “It was no accounting error . . . there was discussion on the floor about the decision by the selectmen [to reduce the assessment],” she said.

“I stand corrected,” Mr. Newman replied.

Voters also appropriated $20,800 for the town’s share of the FY 2012 Medicare and social security payments. Ms. Spitz said the funding for social security was accidentally left out of the budget at the annual town meeting.

“This time it was an accounting error,” she said.

In other business, voters agreed to spend $2,700 for the town’s share of an Island-wide affordable housing needs assessment study, to be administered by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

Voters also agreed to appropriate $14,000 to contract a qualified professional to assist the town in tax title takings. Town treasurer Judy Jardin said it would be a temporary position to help the tax collector’s office catch up.

“We had a big transition in the tax collector’s office recently, and there is a backlog of issue . . . the selectmen have no interest in getting into the real estate business. We are just trying to project the town’s interest,” she said.

“I think it’s a long time overdue,” June Manning said.