Updated March 14
The Oak Bluffs town warrant for the April annual and special town meetings was signed off by selectmen Tuesday night.
The town will vote on several articles, including a $30.9 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year, $160,000 for harbor improvements, and the creation of the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank. Several town positions are on the ballot, including chair Gail Barmakian’s selectman seat, a board of health seat, a Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission seat, and two planning board seats. Nomination submissions closed on Feb. 21. There are two contested races, one for a three-year term on the finance and advisory committee and another for a position on the Land Bank commission.
The finance and advisory committee seat was left vacant, but William Vrooman and Abe Seiman both sent letters to town clerk Laura Johnston expressing their intent to run write-in campaigns.
Incumbent Priscilla Sylvia and Kristen Reimann are both running for the Land Bank commission seat.
The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) filed a late warrant article that allows the school to use $292,723 in excess and deficiency (E and D) funds for the town’s share of a feasibility study. The school originally submitted an article requesting $316,267.99 from the town.
At a school committee meeting earlier this month, Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea said the past practice of appropriating E and D funds was illegal.
If a regional school district committee uses E and D funds, the school must notify the towns within seven days. Towns are then allowed to have a special town meeting within 45 days to vote to approve appropriation of the funds.
Selectman Jason Balboni brought attention to the funding formula for the study, under which Oak Bluffs pays a larger share because it has the largest population. He took issue with the redistribution of E and D funds. “I just disagree with that. It’s not fair. That money that was taken, we paid a larger amount of — why aren’t we getting our amount back? Why does a town, say, like Aquinnah or Chilmark get the same reduction that we get, when we paid more in the beginning? That’s an issue I have,” Balboni said.
“It just shows again how the formulas are problematic at every turn, and it seems like at every turn there’s a different problem,” selectman Brian Packish said.
The finance committee voted a 4-2 no recommendation on the high school’s feasibility study. Town administrator Robert Whritenour said the finance committee believes the funding formula is “fundamentally flawed” and should not be assessed based on population, but spread to each town equally because each town benefits from the school being available.
Selectmen approved the article on the condition that all other towns vote to appropriate their shares.
Another late article filing was a $100,000 request from the fire department for repair costs to a pumper truck. While the finance committee recommended the article in a 7-0 vote, the article was not put on the warrant after a tie vote with Barmakian and selectman Greg Coogan for and Packish and Balboni against. Selectman Mike Santoro was not present at the meeting.
Coogan and Barmakian both felt the article should be on the warrant because it was unanimously approved by the finance committee despite its late filing.
Packish said he always wants to support the fire department and other services, but took issue with late filing and lack of information. Balboni agreed.
“I want to get us out of this behavior of last minute. It’s bad enough when outside entities do it. It’s just really disappointing when we do it to ourselves,” Packish said.
The annual town meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 9, at 7 pm, at the MVRHS Performing Arts Center. The election will be held on Thursday, April 11, from 10 am to 7 pm.
In other business, town conservation agent Liz Durkee gave selectmen a presentation on the town’s vulnerability preparedness program. Durkee said the town should be focusing on coastal resiliency. She identified sea level rise, flooding, erosion, drought, and ocean acidification as some of the issues the town is facing and will continue to face in the future.
Dan Shaw, a landscape designer from Dodson & Flinker, a consulting firm, told selectmen Oak Bluffs has completed a community resilience building workshop, making it municipal vulnerability preparedness (MVP) certified. The town can now pursue state action grants that help coastal towns address climate change–related hazards.
The owners of the popular Backyard Taco and Smooth Moves in Edgartown were granted a business license by selectmen for a new location on Circuit Avenue.
The new location makes its home in the building that most recently housed Slice of Life. The owners are brothers Zared and Evan Shai, along with their father Raphael and sister Megan Brown.
The Shais will call their second location Dos, and plan to offer breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night dining options, with hours from 8 am to 1:30 am.
Coogan warned the Shais about noise on the street late at night, but said he wanted to see the brothers succeed.
Zared Shai said the business in Edgartown is near residential areas, and in three years they never received a complaint. “We’re good at keeping people quiet and happy and well-fed,” Shai said.
Selectman Greg Coogan said the town should begin discussing a potential amendment to the Land Bank legislation so half of the Land Bank’s income goes toward housing. Selectmen agreed it deserved discussion, and will be put on the selectmen’s next agenda on March 26.
Updated to add contested Land Bank Commission seat. — Ed.