Oak Bluffs selectmen call for additional special town meeting

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Slightly tardy when compared with the three other down-Island towns, on Thursday, April 30, Oak Bluffs voters will be asked to vote on a request to help fund the construction of a new administration building for the Martha’s Vineyard public schools.

Selectmen at their regular meeting on Tuesday voted 5-0 to hold a supplemental special town meeting to decide whether or not to authorize a 20-year bond that has been approved by the regional school district committee. Four towns must approve the bond for it to be approved. Although the warrant article doesn’t give a specific total for constructing and equipping the new building, the total is estimated at $3.9 million.
“It might be helpful to keep in mind that the first debt payment isn’t due until January 1, 2017,” school superintendent James Weiss told selectmen Tuesday.

Town payment on the bond would be $98,812 in 2017, and would decline steadily to $60,159 in 2037.
The article was not on the annual town meeting warrant because of an administrative disconnect between the school administration office and town hall. On March 4, Mr. Weiss sent a registered letter to town hall, informing Chairman of the Selectmen Greg Coogan that the MVRHS district committee had approved the bond issue. However, the letter was stamped “received” by the selectmen’s office on March 16, four days after the deadline for selectmen to approve and forward ballot measures to the town clerk.

If Edgartown, Tisbury, and West Tisbury, which vote April 16, and Chilmark, which votes April 29, approve the article, it will pass regardless of the Oak Bluffs vote on April 30, leaving the possibility that the supplemental special town meeting will have no bearing on the outcome. However, selectmen agreed that the town should proceed, regardless.

“The finance committee will be vetting it this week,” Selectman Kathy Burton said. “I definitely think the voters should have a crack at it.”

“If we don’t do anything, we’re essentially saying yes, so we’re saying let’s go in front of the voters to make sure they are informed,” Chairman Greg Coogan said. Mr. Coogan said if the project moves forward, a debt exclusion would be the most sensible way to pay the town’s share. That decision will not have to be made until town election 2016.

Town clerk Laura Johnston estimates that the special town meeting needed to cement the deal would cost the town less than $300.

Fire station on track
In other business, Selectman Walter Vail told selectmen that construction of the new fire station is still on schedule, despite the arctic winter. The steel frame construction is ahead of schedule, and the station is on track to be operational by late September.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted town clerk Laura Johnston that a special town election would cost less than $300.  Ms. Johnston said a special town meeting would cost less than $300.