Time is now for town hall


To the Editor:

In the months since the building committee was formed in December 2016 to build a new town hall on the site of the present building, we have developed and amended plans, held five public hearings, met 73 times, gone out to bid several times, presented and defended the process to the selectmen, planning board, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, been before the ZBA, coordinated with affected property owners, worked to improve longstanding drainage problems, public transit access, and traffic flow. We provided temporary quarters, insured uninterrupted operation of our library, secure storage during construction of essential and historic documents, and nearly seamless provision of service by the town hall staff.

We went to town meeting and gained voter support for the concept and funding, and to the ballot for a debt exclusion. We have bids in hand for hazard remediation, moving, demolition, and construction of a new, energy-efficient, well-designed building that will serve Oak Bluffs for the next 50 years.

We need an additional $1.3 million to accept the bids and to move forward. The additional funding will add about 3 cents to the tax rate, and cost the average homeowner about $20 per year for the next 20 years. We will appeal to the voters at special town meeting on Nov. 13 for the additional monies. We will go back to the ballot at a special town election on Nov. 15 to debt-exclude the additional funds. With approval, a yes vote at town meeting and at the election, construction will start in December and be completed in April 2020.

The new town hall will have three levels, with a footprint of 6,740 square feet and a total of 16,160 square feet of finished space. The lower level will have the permitting departments and the town clerk. The main level includes a 60-seat multipurpose room, the financial departments, and a lobby. The upper level will have the administrative offices, with a conference room and future space. An elevator will provide access to all levels of the new building. There are four entrances to the new building: Two from the library parking lot to the lower level, one to the town clerk’s office, another to the permitting departments; one fronting on School Street to the main floor and meeting room; one fronting Pacific to the main floor and financial offices. There will be a new off-street parking area off Pacific Avenue. There will be diagonal parking spaces on School Street, which will be widened by 5 feet. The temporary town hall during construction of the new building is across School Street, behind the Catholic Annex building. Parking for the temporary town hall will be on an existing paved parking area on School Street.

Plans, videos, and minutes of each meeting, and full documentation, are available at the town’s website.

Bill McGrath, chairman
Oak Bluffs Town Hall Building Committee