Oak Bluffs and Tisbury selectmen met for a joint meeting Wednesday evening to continue talks on shared services.
The meeting, which took place at the Katharine Cornell Theater, focused on community services, the potential for a shared building commissioner, and Eastville Beach.
Both towns drafted a letter at their previous joint meeting requesting the Island’s human service agencies to meet and plan a more efficient human services model to meet the Island’s needs. The letter was sent to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Vineyard Health Care Access, Center For Living, Healthy Aging Task Force, Dukes County Human Service Department, and the Substance Use Prevention Program.
The two boards unanimously established a conduit group for the human service agencies to contact directly. The group is made up of town administrators Jay Grande and Bob Whritenour, Oak Bluffs selectman Jason Balboni, and Tisbury selectman Jim Rogers, and will include one member from each town’s finance committee.
Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian said she wanted a “proactive group.”
Currently each town funds the services individually in its annual budgets and through town meeting articles, which both towns believe is an unsustainable model. With more oversight, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury believe the human service agencies can be funded more effectively.
“The bottom line is that the towns don’t have direct say, it all goes through the county. When it comes through the county, funding comes through the county, divides it amongst the towns, the towns’ backs are against the wall. Each individual town says, ‘God, if we don’t approve this what happens?’” Barmakian said.
Selectman Tristan Israel, who is also a Dukes County commissioner, said the county has become a “pass-through” for the funds that go to human service agencies.
Dukes County was on board with a new model for the human service agencies, as commissioners Christine Todd and Israel were pleased with the direction the plan was going. “I’m very happy that this process is evolving the way it is, because I do believe there should be more examination of the requests that are being submitted,” Todd said.
In other business, Grande and Whritenour presented their draft for an intermunicipal agreement for a shared building commissioner. The draft outlines the definition of the position, the length of the agreement, funding contributions, and other logistics.
The towns want to create a future system that would combine town budgets and have one “highly skilled, fully certified” building commissioner, Whritenour said. Each town would have a full-time local inspector and administrative assistant.
Oak Bluffs has had difficulty finding a full-time building commissioner. At their last joint meeting, both boards voted to combine budgets and move forward with the plan.
With the draft in hand, each board will review it, send comments to their town administrators, and plan to sign a memorandum of understanding within a month.
Grande and Whritenour also spoke with their town’s department of public works (DPW) directors about a project to maintain Eastville Beach. DPW directors Richard Combra in Oak Bluffs and Ray Tattersall in Tisbury both agreed to work together to restore and preserve the small beach. Both towns and the county own portions of the small beach.
The towns will use $5,000 each from Community Preservation committee funds to fund the project, which will repair the road and parking lot in addition to landscaping.
Todd said the county is looking to contribute funding to the restoration project as well.
The next joint meeting between the towns will be on Nov. 27 at 4:30 pm in the Oak Bluffs Public Library meeting room. The towns will continue their discussion of shared services.