Tisbury building inspector may oversee neighbor’s renovations

Museum project needs a permit, and town doesn’t have a backup inspector.

Tisbury building inspector Ken Barwick may be able to review inspections for the Martha's Vineyard Museum if the town and ethics commission accept his disclosure. — Stacey Rupolo

Tisbury building inspector Ken Barwick lives in the same neighborhood as the future home of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

In May, he told the board of selectmen he was advised by the state Ethics Commission not to do the permitting and inspections for the museum, which is being proposed at the former Marine Hospital on Lagoon Pond Road.

But after being told by Edgartown building inspector Lenny Jason, who also provides inspectional services for up-Island towns, that Mr. Jason couldn’t handle the full load of the museum project, Tisbury officials began looking for a new solution.

After consulting with the state right up until Tuesday night’s meeting, town administrator Jay Grande told selectmen the best approach would be for Mr. Barwick to file a disclosure and do the job.

“You as a municipal employer would have the ability to grant disclosure,” Mr. Grande told selectmen. “That would be the most desirable outcome.”

Desirable because it wouldn’t hold up the project, which has already filed for a building permit, and because the town wouldn’t have to try to find a backup with the specific credentials that a building inspector requires.

For perspective, the town of Oak Bluffs recently hired contractor John Jones as a new building inspector after using two retired off-Island building inspectors to fill in. Oak Bluffs is having those retirees work with Mr. Jones while he gets his certification.

Mr. Barwick’s disclosure is in the hands of the state Ethics Commission for review, but without seeing the document, selectmen were unwilling to give conditional consent to Mr. Barwick’s overseeing the project.

Selectman Melinda Loberg said she wants time to review the document, which will likely be back before the board next Tuesday.

The state fire marshal’s office is reviewing the fire-suppression system proposed for the museum.

“There’s some time, but not a lot,” Mr. Grande said.

During a conversation with The Times Monday, Mr. Barwick said the situation was fluid. He was scheduled to meet with Mr. Grande, and contemplating the idea of filing a disclosure to work on the project.

“I was told if I was with a 300-foot radius of the project, not to issue permits or do inspections,” said Mr. Barwick, who has been with the town for 34 years.

The ethics official reached out to him, he said; “I don’t know who went to the ethics commission.”

The museum job, which is a $24 million renovation and expansion of the building, is a big job requiring a lot of inspections, Mr. Barwick said. That’s why Mr. Jason bowed out, he said.

Mr. Barwick describes himself as an abutter to an abutter. Asked what his position is on the project, he called that a difficult question. “I don’t want to say one way or the other,” he said. “I typically don’t take positions on projects.”

Katy Fuller, a spokesman for the museum, wrote in an email to The Times that M.V. Museum officials have no preference on how the town handles the permits and inspections. “We’re looking forward to seeing shovels in the ground and the start of construction in the next few weeks after a busy summer of sitework, demolition, and hazardous material abatement,” Ms. Fuller wrote. “We know the town has been working diligently to secure a building inspector, and we’re happy to work with whoever is assigned to the project.”

Mr. Barwick said it might be time for the town to consider an assistant building inspector.

At Tuesday’s meeting, selectman Tristan Israel said the issue of building inspectors on the Island and their specialized field is ripe for discussion about a regional solution for helping to fill in when situations like this one arise. “This issue can’t be unique to Tisbury,” he said.


Parking, pickleball, and animals

The board has approved holding public hearings on new parking regulations and new fee increases for common victuallers’ licenses.

On parking regulations, the town will double the rate for oversize vehicles at the park and ride lot, and will consider limiting parking on several streets and public parking lots. The board will not consider paid parking at the former fire station. Selectman Tristan Israel said he wants a traffic study done, saying he believes adding a paid lot there, instead of leasing spaces, would exacerbate “the worst traffic on the Island in years.”

Meanwhile, the town will update fees for common victuallers, which have not been increased since 1996. Town administrator Jay Grande said the town is considering a doubling of the price to $80, and adding a $50 surcharge for customers who don’t meet the deadline to renew.

Selectmen gave preliminary approval for the DPW, recreation department, and Mr. Grande to seek Community Preservation funds. Among the items on the list of Community Preservation projects is a pickleball court near the town tennis courts. Pickleball, which is similar to tennis and racquetball, is a fast-growing sport, particularly with seniors. A dog park, a new shed at Veterans Park, and dinghy storage racks are among the other items being considered.

The board also approved dates for the scallop season. Shellfish constable Danielle Ewart said outside the pond is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14, for recreation, and Monday, Oct. 16, for commercial. For Lagoon Pond, the season opens Saturday, Oct. 28, for recreation, and Monday, Oct. 30, for commercial. Lake Tashmoo’s season opens Nov. 18 for recreation, and Dec. 4 for commercial. There is no dragging permitted in the ponds, so the commercial dates are for dip-netting, Ms. Ewart said.

In other business, Tisbury police officers will fill in for animal control officer Laurie Clements when she is on vacation or out of the office for some other reason, under a directive being issued by Police Chief Daniel Hanavan.

The chief had posted a job for an assistant animal control officer, but had not had takers.

Having the directive will provide better coordination, Mr. Grande said. Something is needed, or the calls wind up getting passed around between town hall departments, he said.

Some of the things, like dog or cat bites, can wait until she returns to town, Ms. Clements said. The town clerk’s office and police department can answer questions about whether an animal is up-to-date on its rabies shots, she said.

Ms. Clements said in the past she’s been forced to come in, even while on vacation.

“That’s outrageous in a way,” Ms. Loberg said. “I would support a solution that would give her rightful time off.”