Chilmark selectmen will look to voters for $1.2 million to cover new public safety building

Special town meeting announced for Jan. 11 to address the topic.

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From left, William Rossi, Jonathan Mayhew, Warren Doty, and executive secretary Tim Carroll discuss driveway changes at the police station with Chief Brian Ciofi. — Photo by Edie Prescott

Chilmark selectmen discussed a proposed public safety building project at a lightly attended meeting Tuesday evening. Selectmen announced that a special town meeting will be held Jan. 11 to cover (so far) two warrant articles: one to ask voters for $975,000 to purchase the land for the project, and a second to ask voters for about $260,000 for its design and engineering.

The proposed land to be acquired is behind the Chilmark town hall. The town had bid on the Santander Bank parcel, but lost its bid to another bank, which paid over $1 million for 0.9 acres.

“This is one-point-some-odd acres for $975,000,” executive secretary Tim Carroll told The Times. “So we’re getting more acreage for less money, and it’s large enough to actually fit something on it.” A successful purchase of the Santander bank property would have necessitated the purchase of additional land behind that parcel to make it large enough for the project.

The Public Safety Building Site committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday, Dec. 2, to discuss options so that a plan could be ready for the January special town meeting. What to do with the current North Street station will be up for discussion. It may be used for another purpose, or renovated. Also up for discussion at the Wednesday meeting was whether to have EMS and the fire department in one building or two buildings, and also whether to have one committee for both EMS and fire, or two committees (one for each). Selectman Jonathan Mayhew said at Tuesday’s meeting that he was against having two separate committees.

Selectmen spent a great deal of time discussing how extensively the Chilmark Community Center should be used for commercial purposes, such as the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, and if so, what the charges should be going forward. The selectmen had formed a Committee on Utilization of Town-Owned Facilities to review usage and pricing. One concern of the committee was that off-Island event planners and promoters had been using the Community Center at extremely low rates, compared with other venues on the Island. One of the committee’s suggestions was that the town charge a percent of the “gate” — between 10 and 20 percent — for large commercial events, instead of the current flat fee. Chairman Bill Rossi said he believed that “10 to 15 percent would be more reasonable” than 20 percent.

“It seemed to the committee that in the case of something that is commercial or a large venture, that the town should be compensated for the use of its facility rather than being the cheapest place to go and have your event,” said committee member Jim Malkin.

Selectman Warren Doty said he thought the Community Center should be preserved for its original purpose. “We need to be stricter about commercial uses at the community center. I’m very open and happy to have community events such as last Saturday night with the music jam potluck. It was free of charge, and there must have been 20 musicians. Those types of events are what the Community Center is for.”

Police Chief Brian Cioffi was on hand to help appoint William Fielder as a full-time patrolman and to submit a request that the town pay to send him to the police academy. This request was approved by selectmen. “He’s so tall I’ll say yes to anything he asks for,” joked Mr. Rossi after Chief Cioffi introduced the exceptionally tall Mr. Fielder.

Chief Cioffi also discussed police station parking and driveway changes involving paving and grass planting, which were also approved by selectmen.

Lastly, there will be a meeting for comfort station stakeholders on Dec. 22 at 6 pm.