Town hall, school projects approved by O.B. voters

Voters now go to the polls in special election.

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Updated Nov. 14

Oak Bluffs town meeting voters have spoken and approved an additional $1.3 million to pay for a new town hall. Voters approved the article with a majority two-thirds vote. The measure will now go to a town-wide vote on Thursday, Nov. 15.

Town voters filled in rows of chairs in the Oak Bluffs School cafeteria Tuesday night for the special town meeting. In the 26-minute meeting, voters asked few questions and approved several of the warrant articles, including the vote on the new town hall.

With the article overwhelmingly approved, voters will now head to the polls for a special election to vote on a debt exemption for the money. Polls will open on Thursday, Nov. 15, from 10 am to 7 pm. The measure must be approved at the ballot box to move forward.

The $1.3 million would be funded for 20 years at 3 percent interest. The starting annual cost per $1,000 home valuation would be 3 cents, or $18.33 for the average $600,000 home.

The additional $1.3 million would bring the total approved funding for the new town hall to $11.2 million, which would be funded for 20 years at 3 percent interest.The starting annual cost per $1,000 home valuation would be 29 cents, or $157.84 for the average $600,000 home. Each year the amount would decrease. The average home would end up paying $2,500 over the course of 20 years.

Voters previously approved spending $9.8 million at annual town meeting in April 2017, but two rounds of bids for the project came in over budget. If the question is approved at the polls, the town will be able to accept the latest bid for the project and begin construction.

Voters applauded the vote after town moderator Jack Law said the article passed.

Another major funding article, for repairs and renovations to the Oak Bluffs school roof and heating and ventilation systems, received approval from voters. The bid for the project is $7.8 million.

The article passed with a majority two-thirds vote. The school’s roof and heating and ventilation systems have been failing due to age and deterioration. The project was recommended in the town’s Capital Improvement Program to be funded by a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion, which only raises taxes until the bonds are paid off. The bids for the school project did not come in soon enough to be put on the special election.

Town administrator Robert Whritenour told the audience a ballot vote will need to be taken at an unspecified future date for an additional debt exclusion. The school project was in a similar situation as the new town hall — bids for the project came in higher than the estimates. When bids come in higher than expected, they need to be voted on again by the town.

The roof would also be funded for 20 years at 3 percent interest. The cost per $1000 valuation would be 21 cents. The average home would pay $109.95 in the first year, or about $1,700 over 20 years.

In other business, voters approved a $25,000 transfer from the waterways account to the harbormaster expense account. The funds will be used to conduct piling repairs at the Harbor Marina Facility, and continued repairs and replacements of town moorings.

Three articles submitted by the wastewater commission were approved by voters.

An article that transfers $15,200 from the town’s retained-earnings account to the wastewater expense account will go toward the town’s share of a grant for an asset management plan as required by the state Revolving Loan Fund. The town will use the funds for low- or no-interest financing on future wastewater infrastructure.

In a separate article, $86,000 will be transferred back to wastewater retained earnings. At the April 2017 annual town meeting, voters originally approved $100,000 to conduct an infiltration and inflow study, but the study ended up only costing $14,000 because the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection was satisfied with alternative data.

The third article submitted by the wastewater department asked voters to appropriate and transfer $25,000 from the town’s retained-earnings account to the wastewater expense account to fund the town’s share of a Southeast New England Program (SNEP) grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission, in conjunction with the towns of Oak Bluffs and Tisbury, received the $250,000 grant to build permeable barriers in Lagoon Pond that help with nitrogen removal.

The evening’s final article, which sought $1.3 million for the new town hall and was submitted by petition, was tabled, since voters had already approved voting on the article at the special election on Thursday.

Updated to include votes on other articles. -Ed.