Oak Bluffs looks for next step with town hall

After failed vote, project still hangs in limbo.

Oak Bluffs selectmen consider the next step after a failed town hall vote. — Brian Dowd

After a failed ballot vote that threw the new town hall into limbo, Oak Bluffs plans to open up the conversation and focus on ways to address the issue moving forward.

At a meeting Tuesday, town administrator Robert Whritenour told selectmen that while the town was disappointed in the results and can’t afford the new design, there may be ways to address code, HVAC, electrical, space, and other deficiencies in the current town hall.

“We had a building committee that’s worked really hard … I’m completely grateful for the hard work. It was obvious a ton of time went into it, and unfortunately we ended up where we ended up, and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in the conversation, but I think it’s going to be a conversation that’s isolated to the board of selectmen moving on,” selectman Brian Packish said.

Selectmen plan to have a discussion on town hall as a special agenda item at the board’s next meeting. They made a point to keep town hall staff informed throughout the process.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Oak Bluffs resident Pete Meleney said he was “blindsided” by the town hall vote, adding he didn’t see much dialogue about the project with the community.

Selectman Mike Santoro said the town hall project unfortunately turned “political.”


Lampost undergoes renovation

Lampost owner Adam Cummings asked selectmen for the use of parking spaces in the front and back of his building for dump trucks and trailers to remove debris for a major renovation project.

Selectmen approved Cummings’ request to occupy four spaces on Circuit Avenue from Dec. 1 to May 1, with the condition that he email updates on the schedule and progress of the project and inform Police Chief Erik Blake when he needs the spaces and which spaces he will use.

Cummings made a similar request for use of public space in the back of the building, but will have to wait until the next selectmen’s meeting for approval. The project needs to fence off 15 feet behind the back of the building, which is being taken down and rebuilt. The space he needs encroaches on a small portion of town-owned property that is currently being leased.

The project will create 10 apartments for both seasonal and year-round housing.

In other business, preliminary designs to fix drainage issues on County Road, specifically a large puddle that collects rainwater from surrounding properties, have been received by the town’s highway department.

The project is expected to cost an estimated $300,000, and involves installing drainage on both sides of County Road and rehabbing existing drainage. Construction will begin in April and be completed in a month.

The project is funded by using about two-thirds of the town’s Chapter 90 funds, which are for road projects. The town has some of the funds on hand, but is expected to receive the rest in May.

Selectmen also approved a recommendation from the town shellfish committee to open Oak Bluffs Harbor for recreational and commercial shellfishing.

The harbor opening offers fishermen and women a chance to fish for quahogs as an alternative source of income, due to a scallop shortage in Sengekontacket and Lagoon ponds.

A petition for Eversource to install two jointly owned poles on School Street in Oak Bluffs was approved by selectmen. Jessica Elder, the Eversource right-of-way agent, informed selectmen of the proposed project, but then told them the project had already been completed.

Despite the poles already being installed, town selectmen still held a public hearing and then voted to approve the project.



  1. Next step for (honest politician): look in mirror and ask question, “what do the people who actually pay the bills want”?

  2. So do we still need the brand new buildings behind the school? Are they being heated and cooled with nothing in them? Hmm

  3. The personnel board should study every position in town hall and evaluate whether that employee has day to day contact with residents. If not they should work from home and we can reduce the number of offices. We should also study the reasons why people have to transact business at the town hall and if that business can be done online. This building is not the centerpiece of our community. It’s not on a town square that all will see. It’s tucked away from the public and does not need to be grandiose. Put up a steel structure with some shingle out front and call it a day.

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