Tisbury selectmen agreed Tuesday night to assemble a short-term rental task force to gather information and advise the town about the state’s short-term rental tax that the town can begin collecting in July. Selectman Melinda Loberg, Fire Chief John Schilling, and realtor Elaine Miller were selected as the ad hoc core of the task force. Fred Rundlet, who co-runs the Look Inn, told the board he would like to be part of the task force, too.
Chairman Tristan Israel put forth the idea. “My thought about this was we just had this bill that was signed by the governor concerning short-term rentals,” Israel said. “There are a lot of aspects to this bill.” Israel called the bill “very complex.”
Israel said revenue, affordable housing, wastewater, registration and tracking, infrastructure, and “a major inspection component” are issues Tisbury needed to be well informed on with regard to the tax.
Loberg spoke in favor of forming the task force, and said she hopes in one of the upcoming selectmen’s meetings, the board can formally launch the task force and empower it with a mission.
Selectman Jim Rogers expressed his weariness with committees in general, which the task force was first labeled as, but agreed to go along with the idea. “You know my feeling on committees,” Rogers said. “Perhaps this is a place where we really do need a committee, but I think we have too many committees already, but I’ll acquiesce.”
“I think there’s a lot of potential here for the town, certainly [as] a revenue source, but there’s also some investment that the town’s going to need to make to realize that,” Chief Schilling said. He pointed to wastewater as a major issue with short-term rentals, and added, “I think the sooner we start getting up to speed with this, the better it’s going to be for our community.”
Town administrator Jay Grande said it’s difficult to gauge what support staff the town may need to manage short-term rentals because what the tax will generate is hard to forecast. “We have no clear sense of what the revenue stream will be,” he said.
The board closed the issue with the expectation they would revisit it in two weeks’ time.
In other business, the board discussed finding a replacement for emergency management director Erik Meisner. Curiously, throughout the discourse, Meisner’s name was never mentioned. Meisner, a former Tisbury Police lieutenant, was demoted to an acting sergeant shortly after Chief Mark Saloio took over the police department, and then terminated from the department under circumstances neither the town of Tisbury nor Meisner have been willing to explain. “As to the emergency management director designation for the town, that position is technically open,” Grande said.
Grande later told The Times Meisner occupied the position for about four years.
At the meeting, Grande went on to say he intended to put forth some potential candidates after he confers with Police Chief Saloio and Chief Schilling. “There are prospective candidates that have already been spoken with, but I’m not going share the names,” he said.
He told the board that harbormaster John Crocker, who is assistant emergency management director, is currently acting emergency management director, but ultimately somebody needed to be found to serve until June, when the position is up for reappointment.
“I think that with all due respect to the fire chief and the police chief, I think we should advertise this position,” Rogers said. Rogers went on to say he doesn’t believe the harbormaster should be considered for the job. “Going forward, that’s one of the worst choices we could have, because when the harbormaster is in full need [at] the harbor in storm[y] conditions, you can’t be serving two masters at the same time.”
Crocker was not present at the meeting to comment.
Israel suggested a new job description should be created.
Tisbury Finance Director Jonathan Snyder later told The Times the emergency management director position has a stipend of $3,000 annually.
Loberg said it was imperative an interim appointment be made as soon as possible. “I don’t want to wait until June,” she said.