Tisbury voters want to see a new town hall

Pitcher lottery system gets pitched.

Tisbury town moderator Deborah Medders won't be picking article numbers out of a pot anymore. — Gabrielle Mannino

Tisbury voters came out for the third and final time Thursday evening for a nearly four-hour session to wrap up three days of discussion and voting on the town meeting warrant.

Town voters decided to approve spending $675,000 to acquire property at 55 West William St., which is planned to be the site of a new town hall.

An amendment was made to designate the property as land that could be used for any public purpose, not just for a new town hall. The reason for this, as one voter explained, was to allow the property to be used for something else should the town not build its new town hall there.

Jay Grande, town administrator, cited convenience and more parking as two reasons a new town hall is needed.  

Hilary Conklin, town clerk, agreed with Grande, and said a new town hall would benefit voters, giving them more space during elections. Conklin showed a photo of a cluttered town clerk’s office in 2016 during voting to demonstrate a normal day in the office.

Not everyone was in support of a new town hall facility. “I really question the timing of this to be doing this at the same time as the school,” Peter Goodale, a town voter, said.

One town voter suggested the current Tisbury School should be renovated and made into the new town hall, instead of tearing it down, to save money and preserve the school.


Article lottery

During a lengthy discussion, voters approved an article in a 77-47 vote, to have articles discussed in the order they appear on the warrant — not by lottery.

During Tisbury town meetings, articles on the warrant are discussed by having the town moderator randomly choose a counter out of a pitcher.

Nelson Sigelman, a town voter and former editor at The Times, petitioned the article. Sigelman argued it was not fair to force voters to attend town meetings, saying it would be more convenient if voters had a better idea of when the article they wanted to discuss would come up. He also noted this was the third night for town meeting, and that might have been avoided if there was an ordered warrant. The method was the town’s solution to a problem it had meeting a quorum, but Sigelman said the town has not had a problem with a quorum in years.

“It strikes me as an very inefficient way to conduct a town meeting,” Sigelman said. “It’s a bad solution … you should not be held hostage in your seat.” He also referred to the method as “article game bingo and hopscotch.”

Some voters heartily disagreed with Sigelman, saying he had no proof it made meetings longer, and by making it random, it kept voters, especially younger ones, in attendance. One voter claimed if people didn’t know when a certain article was up, they would have to listen to other articles and would learn more about the town.


Seawall construction

Voters decided to fund $104,000 of a project designed to improve the seawall and harborwalk on Beach Road, which has been eroding.

“I do want to bash the state for not taking responsibility for this wall,” selectman Tristan Israel said.

Clarence “Trip” Barnes said the wall isn’t in any immediate danger, saying, “It looks the same as it always has,” and motioned to table to the article. That motion was denied.

One voter asked if there was any official report on the condition of the wall and harborwalk.

“Yes, we have the engineering report and it’s not good,” Grande said. The report listed cracking and eroding concrete as major problems, and that the wall is “deteriorating more rapidly.”

In other business, voters approved a flurry of Community Preservation projects and capital appropriations, including a new $250,000 ambulance for the fire department and emergency services, $400,000 in total repairs to the steeple on the town hall, and over $200,000 for solar panel installation on the EMS building.

Before the final lottery counter was drawn, town moderator Deborah Medders gave a brief speech on her appreciation of town voters, the process of town meeting, and what she has learned in recent years.

“You begin to realize the town meeting is the people’s meeting. They have culture, they have practice, they have history, and I appreciate all the work that is done,” she said. “It is the people this town meeting is for.”