Chilmark voters waste no time at special town meeting

Chilmark town hall. —MV Times File Photo

Chilmark voters moved efficiently Monday night, disposing of 10 warrant articles on the special town meeting warrant in 35 minutes at the Chilmark community center. All articles passed, most with little voter discussion.

A total of 86 voters were officially counted by the start of the meeting, representing 9 percent of the town’s 939 registered voters.

Voters approved a Martha’s Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District request to borrow $2.5 million. This money would be used to restructure the traffic flow and residential drop-off at the Edgartown transfer station.

Chilmark’s share would be up to $300,000, or 12 percent of the total. Chilmark is the first of four towns to vote in favor on the project. Aquinnah will vote this fall and Edgartown and West Tisbury will vote in the spring. All four towns must vote in favor of this project at their respective special town meetings. Oak Bluffs and Tisbury use a separate refuse transfer station.

One voter thought the $2.5 million price tag was “ridiculous.” Selectman Bill Rossi explained that the high cost is related to the future uncertainty of petroleum and asphalt costs, as this project may not commence for two years and these types of costs will increase over time.

A request for $17,000 to hire a boom mower to cut brush along town roads generated some discussion. One voter questioned if this was the type of machine that destroyed everything in its path and left piles of branches in its wake to mar the scenery.

Selectman Warren Doty said that Mark Clements of Mark Clements Tree Service is doing the work using a flail mower, which has more aesthetically pleasing results.

A request to appropriate $600,000 for the repair, reconstruction, and paving of town roads also generated questions and comments. The article required a two-thirds vote as it involved borrowing.

Mr. Rossi said, “We are just trying to keep our tax rates down and stretch it out over time like a mortgage.”

Voter Rob Doyle questioned the wisdom of borrowing the money. “It’s like taking a mortgage out to pay your utility bill,” he said. “Why are we going long term for what should be in the operating budget. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Selectmen Doty addressed the question. “You’re making a good point. This is the first time we’ve ever borrowed money to repair our roads,” he said. “We have an opportunity to refinance a bond issued six years ago, which gives us an opportunity to add an additional amount of $600,000.” He added that a mile of road costs a half million dollars.

One voter asked if there had been any thought given to widening the roads to make them safer for cyclists.

“We haven’t really considered that although I think it’s a very valid point,” said selectmen Jonathan Mayhew. “That is maybe something we can talk about next year.”

The article passed by a count of 60-5.

At the close of the meeting, Jim Malkin, chairman of the Squibnocket Committee, updated voters on the work of the committee to find a solution to continuing erosion that threatens the popular beach parking lot and subdivision access road. He first commended the committee members on their hard work while leading “full-time lives,” to which the audience clapped in approval.

Mr. Malkin updated the voters on the main issues covered during the 13 meetings held since mid-June. He said there were two primary concerns: to assist Squibnocket Farms to develop alternative access to Squibnocket Point and to improve access to beach resources for Chilmark residents. Mr. Malkin reported that all groups involved agree that the priority is preservation.

A motion was made for a non-binding vote on whether or not the committee should move rapidly in order to prepare a recommendation on a course of action in time for the town to make use of a $280,000 state grant before it expires at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Voters said the committee should move forward rapidly.

Voters also approved $4,600 to fund the purchase of large diameter hose fittings for the new fire tanker; $13,260 to fund the hiring of a tree truck and police detail to cut trees down along town roads; $9,556 for the purchase of hardware, software, and licenses at town hall; $150 for a rented port-a-potty; $50,000 from the Community Preservation Affordable Housing Reserve to fund the year-round rental conversion program; and $65,000 from the Community Preservation Historic Resources Reserve to partially fund the external renovation of the town hall building.