West Tisbury fails to reach quorum on second pass at annual

Unfinished business required a return meeting on a second night. However with no quorum the meeting was rescheduled to April 28.

West Tisbury voters were asked to return a second night. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 9:30 pm, Wednesday

West Tisbury voters met Tuesday night in the annual town meeting, and passed a record-breaking $17 million operating budget, but found after four and one-half hours that there was still work to be done.

The meeting adjourned at 11:25 pm with seven warrant articles left on the town meeting floor. Voters returned Wednesday night to complete their work. However, at 7:20 pm moderator Dan Waters announced with regret that a quorum had not been reached. Only 100 voters were present. The meeting has been rescheduled for Tues., April 28, 7 pm.

There are still 7 articles from the 48-article warrant awaiting action.

Despite the inconclusive evening, the small crowd gave the new moderator a warm round of applause, just as they had the night before .

Polls are open Thursday from 7 am until 8 pm at the Public Safety Building for the annual town election.

The town election and override votes will be held Thursday from 7 am until 8 pm at the public safety building. Results will be posted to mvtimes.com.

Tuesday night the meeting was both buoyed and saddened by the memory of longtime town moderator Francis “Pat” Gregory, murdered last May while hiking in California. Town poet laureate Justen Ahren began the meeting with a sonnet he composed for the occasion to honor the well-loved man.

Newly elected moderator Dan Waters, presiding over his first town meeting, ended his own short tribute to Mr. Gregory with a request: “I am hoping we can keep something of Pat alive tonight in the way we talk to each other and listen to each other. I know he would be happy to know we kept the conversation going in his spirit. Let’s do it.”

A unanimous vote to approve an article to dedicate the lobby of the town library to Mr. Gregory was followed by applause. The dedication ceremony will be held at 3 pm, Sunday, May 3, in the library.

As the meeting progressed under the careful, studied attention of Mr. Waters, he did not hesitate to retreat when longtime town counsel Ronald Rappaport stepped to the lectern to correct a misinterpreted point of law, or elaborate on a point of procedure. Mr. Rappaport, town counsel for four towns, would normally have been in Edgartown, but in memory of Mr. Gregory chose to be in West Tisbury.

The school gym was full but not packed by the time 286 voters, out of 2,479 registered, were ready to get down to business at 7 pm.

Budget was up

Earlier this month, for the first time in 15 years, the FinCom rejected the proposed operating budget. The $16.95 million price tag was up $1 million, or 9.6 percent over last year. The increase, driven primarily by school cost increases totaling almost $800,000, met with little opposition on the floor after an amendment to cut $68,448 from the $7.1 million Up-Island Regional School District (UPIRSD) line item was proposed by the district’s school committee chairman, Michael Marcus. The finance committee had recommended a $100,000 cut.

FinCom chairman Katherine Triantafillou said, “We will not look a gift horse in the mouth. This budget needs to go down. If you are willing to take it down $68,000, that’s fantastic. We need to bring those costs in line.” The amendment passed unanimously after a 20-minute discussion covering particulars of the education budget. The entire budget passed within 10 more minutes, by a majority vote.

But it was not all clear sailing for school costs. Later in the night voters rejected an article to share in the cost of a new $3.9 million administration building for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional School District.

Articles to purchase a new fire truck and a new police car to replace an aging car were passed by large majorities. An article to increase the wages of town employees 1.6 percent passed unanimously.

A protracted discussion preceded a majority vote to approve $50,000 for the planning and design of a new highway department building on the site of the present fire and police stations.

An article to approve a county plan to help fund the purchase of the former VNA headquarters building in Tisbury for use by the Center for Living required the evening’s first hand-count vote after a long discussion that included questions about the efficacy of another county-run program. The article passed 130 to 125.

A majority voted to approve the refuse district’s request to borrow $2.5 million to fund capital improvements to the transfer station, after another long discussion in which perennial anti-spending gadfly Nick Van Ness reminded voters that it is just a dump.

A request for $25,000 was approved for the purchase of a removable walkway to facilitate access to the town’s Lambert’s Cove Beach; it passed with a show of hands.

The UIRSC pulled an article asking for $80,000 to renovate the West Tisbury school playground. Mr. Marcus said the committee hopes private money will be available to fund the project.

A half-dozen Community Preservation Committee articles passed, totaling $355,500, including $50,000 for a new roof for the Marine Hospital building, the future home of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, $45,000 for work on a track and field facility at the high school, and almost $200,000 for affordable housing projects.

As the night wore on without a break, voters began to drift home. Those left moderated their free-spending ways. The remaining voters rejected an article to spend $43,000 for the installation of sound-damping material in the town hall, but approved $7,500 to renovate the town hall bathrooms.

They also voted to rescind a 2014 town meeting decision to spend $75,000 to rebuild the town cemetery fence, reacting during the course of a lengthy discussion to a request for a change in wording of the 2014 article to allow for restoring rather than replacing the fence.

At 11:25 pm, with more than half of the original voters remaining, town clerk Tara Whiting said she had kept an eye on the numbers to insure that the quorum requirement of 124, or 5 percent of registered voters, remained. Still, Mr. Waters decided the voters had had enough, and proposed to continue the next evening. The voters agreed.

Left undone were a zoning change related to the size of guest houses and accessory apartments, designation of special ways, and other issues.