Chilmark selectmen push for fire chief contract

Chilmark selectmen are looking to work out a contract with Fire Chief David Norton. — Rich Saltzberg

The Chilmark board of selectmen and Fire Chief David Norton are moving closer to a contract for the longtime chief, who has worked as an at-will town employee during his career rather than on contract. The pact, expected to be finalized shortly, provides the chief with a contract past the age of 65.

At the selectmen’s meeting this week, chairman Jim Malkin provided Norton with copies of comparable contract details from West Tisbury to consider. “We’ll finish with legal opinions and have another executive session. We want to make this work past your birthday,” Malkin said.

His contract may be an easier issue to solve than a proposal by Chief Norton to upgrade the town street numbering and street signage systems, which are inconsistent, and in some cases, nonexistent. “Some have street numbers and some don’t. Some are up high, some are down low, and some signage is faded or covered up,” the chief said, noting that night darkness exacerbates the problem of finding a home for public safety personnel.

The chief will present recommendations to selectmen next month

The selectmen also looked at renderings for the most recent iteration of a new firehouse. “This is the closest we have come to a new fire house in years and years. This plan has great promise. The consultant showed us what could be done on the site,” selectman Warren Doty said. The firehouse would be sited on a small footprint next to town hall off Middle Road. Doty called for further paring of the square footage in the now 11,830-square-foot, two-story plan.

“Every fire house built recently on the Island has cost $400 per square foot, and we should expect that to be true for us. On that basis, we are looking in the neighborhood of $5 million. We should be looking at the $3 million range,” Doty said.

Selectman Bill Rossi noted that the plan does not encroach on neighboring wetlands, but is within the 25-foot setback in several places. “We need to meet with the conservation commission and resolve that before we do anything else,” Rossi advised.

Selectmen dealt with a number of seasonal issues, including ongoing conversations to build a VTA turnaround near the comfort station in Menemsha, which would preclude buses having to turn around in the beach parking lot, with attendant traffic snarls. The board heard a list of necessary repairs to the air dryers and hot water system inside the comfort station.

Resident Marshall Carroll and Malkin had a brief but pointed exchange over signage for dock hours and fees, Carroll indicating that current signage does not reflect the hours and the post–Labor Day period for which charges will be levied, and that the board has not had communication with the harbor advisory group on plans. Malkin replied that the matter will be dealt with in good time, and that he would be happy to update the chairman.

Selectmen continued discussion on a request by Jeremy Scheffer to plant an oyster bed in Chilmark waters, based on a possible conflict of interest. Mr. Scheffer’s brother Isaiah is shellfish warden for the town. “No question he’s made a success of his oyster beds in Edgartown,” Rossi said. Doty suggested that if approved, Scheffer not use Edgartown oysters to seed, because some have had health issues.

The board appointed summer staff and special police officers for Police Chief Jonathan Klaren. reappointed town staff, and called for advertising committee posts for an advisory group to research uses for part of 80 acres of town land at Peaked Hill.



  1. So…the fire chief asks for the fire house to be fixed and the town has him removed from a compensation study on purpose!
    Now this same selectman say he is helping with the contract? I would be very skeptical!!
    The fire chief should act like the harbormaster, the Chilmark harbormaster got a raise…for doing less.
    The question that resident Marshall asked was “when dose the harbor start charging?”. That isn’t a difficult one. Except the selectman doesn’t answer it.
    Speaking to one boat captain he says harbormaster told him $3 a foot starting May 15, speaking to another it is free until June 15 and speaking to another it’s a discounted shoulder season rate?
    The rates charged fluctuate with no ryme or reason.

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