Chilmark selectmen met Tuesday night and approved a request for $20,000 from the Squibnocket committee, $15,000 of which will be used to pay for an environmental study intended to help bridge the two entrenched and opposed positions on how best to restore Squibnocket Beach and provide access to the Squibnocket Farms subdivision.
Selectman Warren Doty reacted with sticker shock to the $15,000, saying it was “significantly higher” than he had anticipated.
“It’s an item that we cannot not approve,” said chairman Bill Rossi, touching off a heated discussion. The suggestion of a one article special town meeting prompted a laugh from Mr. Doty and a scolding from Squibnocket committee member Jane Slater.
“I just have to declare that the committee is taking this very seriously and we are working very hard,” she said. “We’re listening to a lot of people, we’re talking to people who are explaining things to us that we’ve never heard of before, we’re trying to understand, and we’re coming back to you with recommendations. I mean, I can’t believe you three guys can sit there and laugh at us over $15,000 when we have gone out on a limb asking these people if they would consider giving us a scientific opinion.”
Chairman Rossi said, “We’re not laughing at you, we’re trying to figure out how to pay for it.” Selectman Jonathan Mayhew agreed.
Mr. Doty explained himself. “My cynicism is not about the committee, it’s that we have two entrenched camps and I don’t see how we can find a compromise between these two camps, but perhaps there is a way,” he said. Immediately, Mr. Doty made a motion to approve the $20,000 request for the Squibnocket expenses as outlined and the motion was approved.
A second emotional, tense, and long discussion ensued between the selectmen and members of the human resources board over wage scales, in particular, how Chilmark salaries compare to other Island towns.
During the nearly hour-long discussion, police chief Brian Cioffi told selectmen that 15 years ago Chilmark police were on the higher end of the wage scale but are now on the lower end. “I know right now that a first-year patrolman out of the police academy makes $81,000 in Edgartown,” he said. “We’re not making $81,000.”
Chief Cioffi said that comparative pay helps with retention. “I for one was here when we did the last (independent wage study) 15 years ago and I haven’t seen one since,” he said.
Chairman Rossi flatly retorted that in essence this was about public workers attempting to get a raise through manipulation of the pay scales.
The Human Resources Board agreed to focus on examining non-seasonal benefited employees who work more than 20 hours a week and compare wages and duties and defer the big question of whether to engage an outside consultant. The board will meet again on October 16.