Happy with interim administrator, Oak Bluffs would speed search

— File photo by Mae Deary

Oak Bluffs selectman Mike Santoro Tuesday strongly endorsed interim town administrator Bob Whritenour and questioned the need to go ahead with a broad search to find a permanent town administrator. Last week, the board agreed to appoint a search committee to screen candidates, with a target date of December 13 to make a decision. Tuesday, the board was prepared to implement that plan, when Mr. Santoro asked a pointed question.

“I think we have someone here already who can do the job,” Mr. Santoro said. “I’m wondering why we’re even going through the process.”

Mr. Whritenour has indicated that he is interested in the full-time job. In his brief tenure in the interim job, he has won many supporters. On Tuesday selectmen, town employees, and the public sang his praises.

“We’re making great strides, we’re moving forward,” Mr. Santoro said. “I think we’re going to have to interrupt the whole process. He could get an offer tomorrow to go back to the Cape for a whole lot more money.”

Chairman Kathy Burton described Mr. Whritenour as a “knight in shining armor,” who spent his first three weeks getting to the bottom of the town’s financial crisis.

However, she and the other selectmen were not inclined to abandon the search process.

“I think it’s important to open it up,” selectman Gail Barmakian said. “We need to, out of fairness. I don’t think that will hurt what we’re doing.”

“I do think it’s our responsibility to cover all the bases,” selectman Walter Vail said. “It would be great to take a shortcut, but I don’t think that’s the way to go.”

“I would support streamlining the process,” selectman Greg Coogan said. “See if somebody comes out of the woodwork that has even more armor that shines.”

By consensus, selectmen settled on a strategy of limiting the search committee to five people, advertising the job but noting that there is already a strong in-house candidate and speeding up the target date for a decision to before Thanksgiving.

Other action

Also Tuesday, selectmen rejected an application for a special permit to store trucks and landscaping materials at 28 Leslies Lane, the home of Edno Carlos Miller. Selectmen had one letter in support of the special permit and more than 16 opposing it.

“There’s obviously overwhelming opposition,” Ms. Barmakian said. “I don’t think any of us would like to live next to that.”

For Jules Ben David, who owns an abutting property, part of objection was about land values.

“I’ve just subdivided my property,” he told selectmen. “I need to sell my property. I try to sell my property and people come out and see trucks there.”

Maria Sercander also spoke in opposition.

“I can hear the work going on all day long,” Ms. Sercander said. “I’m also a landscaper. I don’t keep any equipment at my house.”

In other business, selectmen granted an exemption to state ethics regulations for plumber John Rose, who was the only bidder on a request for proposals to do the town’s plumbing work. Mr. Rose is the Oak Bluffs ambulance chief, a full-time employee of the town. He has been doing plumbing work for the town for more than 10 years.

The state ethics commission advised the board they could award the contract if Mr. Rose disclosed his financial interest in writing and if the board certified there was no town employee who could do the work as part of his or her duties.

The vote to grant the exemption, and a separate vote to award the contract, were unanimous.

On the recommendation of its shellfish committee, the board set dates for the bay scallop season.

Sengekontacket Pond will open to recreational permit holders on October 1, and commercial fishermen on October 10.

Outside waters will open for recreational scallop harvest October 15, and commercial fishing October 17.

Lagoon Pond will open for recreational permits on October 29, and commercial permits on October 31.

Oak Bluffs harbor will open for soft shell and hard shell clam harvest December 10 for recreational permits, and December 12 for commercial permits.

At the beginning of the meeting, council on aging director Roger Wey told selectmen he would comply with the selectmen’s directive against non-essential travel and training. Mr. Wey said he cancelled a conference trip for himself and another town employee, even though the cost was covered by a grant and not part of the town’s operating budget.

“Bob [Whritenour] and I had a long discussion,” Mr. Wey said. “We will not go to the meeting.”

Mr. Wey said he will request the grant money be used for something else.

Also Tuesday, the board set November 8 as the date for a special town meeting to deal with cuts to the current year’s budget.