O.B. voters deny money for new town hall

After approval at special town meeting, funding gets shot down at ballot.

5

Oak Bluffs voters denied an extra $1.3 million to build a new town hall at the town’s special election Thursday.

Voters shot down the funds by a vote of 370-295, two days after the voters approved the funding at a special town meeting.

The project was first given the green light in 2017 at annual town meeting, when voters approved $9.8 million, but was stalled after two rounds of bids came in over budget.

With the funding denied, town hall building committee chairman Bill McGrath told The Times it is now up to the selectmen to decide how to proceed, but he will no longer be a part of the project. “I have no idea what to do with it.” McGrath said. “I’m disappointed. I think it’s shortsighted, but the voters decided and I’ll live with that.”

“As far as I’m concerned, there is no project,” McGrath said, when asked if he would be involved in a town hall project going forward.

The original $9.8 million is still approved, but because it is not enough, the town is at a crossroads.

The additional $1.3 million would have brought 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 have been 29 cents, or $157.84 for the average $600,000 home. Each year the amount would decrease. The average home would have ended up paying $2,500 over the course of 20 years.

Selectmen chairman Gail Barmakian said the town might revisit the project, but could not immediately say what direction it would take. “It’s quite telling. I’m glad that we did this when we did it,” she said, adding that the topic will most likely be discussed at the next selectmen’s meeting on Nov. 27.

Selectmen Greg Coogan and Mike Santoro were present as the results were read aloud. “I’m surprised,” said Santoro, who was concerned about how the price could rise. “Looking down the road, it might get more expensive.”

Coogan said a new town hall has been in the works for more than two decades. “It’s a little frustrating to still be working on it.”

  • We can’t build an adequate building for $9.8 million?? That’s nonsense. I’m glad OB residents looked around at their own home worth maybe 500 or 600 K and said we can’t house our town employees 8 hours a day for 20 times the size of my house? If this building were the centerpiece of our downtown and reflected our community pride perhaps I could buy in. But it’s not.

  • Track the lost moneys of the drawbridge add 1.3 million and then we can afford to get extra cobwebs for the trees next halloween.

  • So, .006% of the Oak Bluffs population decided not to make the town hall a beautiful building ?

    Everything will cost more down the road.
    Cheap is cheap and the townspeople will look at it every day.

    This is a tragic mistake and our Town’s leaders need to have a serious look at this decision.
    Not to mention it will be ultimately be paid for by summerfolk.
    We all want a beautiful town hall, not a building that looks like the wheels beneath it are missing.