Tisbury selectmen support concept of Island roads manual

The Tisbury Vision Council will host a meeting to review the annual and special town meeting warrant articles. – File photo by Michael Cummo

The Tisbury selectmen breezed through a relatively short meeting Tuesday night, after keeping the public and department heads waiting while they met in executive session for 75 minutes beforehand.

They began their regular meeting with an update from Craig Whitaker, a New York City architect and urban planner who lives part-time in Tisbury, on plans by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s (MVC) Island Roads Committee to create a “highway manual,” a document that would guide future road projects on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as guide improvements and maintenance on current public roadways.

The highway manual would govern road features such as lane width, shoulders, barriers, drainage, utilities, lighting, vegetation, and maintenance, Mr. Whitaker said.

“I like the idea of us being empowered to do our own work,” he said. “It clearly has a number of attributes, one of which is the Island economy depends on the way it looks, and people come here because it’s different. And to the extent that sense of being special erodes, it becomes less special.”

Mr. Whitaker said another reason to pursue the manual is the possibility of saving money. “I heard for the first time the other day the words that MassDOT uses, that are having roads ‘go on a diet,’” he said.

In addition to suggesting that making roads smaller could reduce the Island’s carbon footprint, Mr. Whitaker said, “I think in political terms, it also means that this is very likely the kind of project which would attract national attention, because as you may know in following the newspapers, the current transportation act has nearly expired, and it will be a new Congress that will write the next one.”

Mr. Whitaker said preliminary consultation work on the manual concept got underway last year, funded by $5,000 from the MVC and $5,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Representatives from the consulting firm of McCormick Taylor will visit and tour Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday before attending the Island Roads Committee’s meeting at the MVC at 4 pm, he said.

Mr. Whitaker estimated that the manual would cost about $150,000, depending on consultation fees, and that funding sources are the question right now.

After further discussion, the selectmen voted to ask the MVC to support and put together the Island roads manual initiative it had already approved and to help find the funding, and also to engage a consultant as soon as possible in order to develop a scope and budget for the manual.

In other business, the selectmen approved Police Chief Dan Hanavan’s request to seek a reserve fund transfer of $12,000 through the Finance and Advisory Committee for uniforms and equipment for new police officers. At FinCom chairman Larry Gomez’s recommendation, the selectmen advised Chief Hanavan to look for funds within his operational budget first to cover the overage, before tapping the town’s reserve funds.

As suggested by finance director Tim McLean, the selectmen voted to schedule next year’s special and annual town meetings on April 14, followed by town elections on April 28, in order to avoid conflicts with the Passover holiday and spring school vacation.

The selectmen also approved beer and wine license renewal applications for the Black Dog Tavern, Black Dog Bakery/Cafe, Little House Cafe, Rocco’s Pizzeria, and Copper Wok.

Tuesday night’s meeting was the third in a row at which the selectmen met in executive session before, instead of after, their regular, public session. The agenda stated the executive session included a step two department of public works grievance hearing, collective bargaining strategy discussions, and real estate, litigation and contract negotiations.

Before a vote to adjourn at 7:30 pm and reconvene in executive session, chairman Jon Snyder said he would ask that executive sessions be scheduled after the regular meeting sessions on future agendas.

The selectmen will meet again at 5:30 pm on December 9 for a tax classification hearing and other miscellaneous business.