O.B. beach committee flush with ideas

Porta-potties may be on their way to Town Beach.

Oak Bluffs hired Marissa Quell as the new deputy shellfish constable. — Brian Dowd

The Oak Bluffs Citizens’ Beach Committee has requested seasonal porta-potties be placed at Town Beach during the summer season.

“There are a lot of people using beaches in ways they shouldn’t be used when they have to go to the bathroom,” committee member Kathy Laskowski said.

Selectman chair Brian Packish was the chairman of the town’s master plan committee, and said this was an issue many residents were concerned about.

Dukes County Commission chair Gretchen Tucker-Underwood said she has had many conversations on the commission about dogs and bathrooms. She wants to see a discussion on porta-potties move forward.

Tucker-Underwood estimates three porta-potties cleaned every day would cost $15,000 from July 1 to Sept. 1.

Some members of the public wanted to see action taken, but Packish said it was not something that would happen overnight, nor was it a decision the board of selectmen would make, because the parks department has purview over the town’s beaches.

“There would not be a vote tonight that would grant magical porta-potties for tomorrow,” Packish said. “The question for us would be simply, does the board of selectmen support the concept of having public bathroom facilities, on some level, at the beach? And personally, I do.”

In other business, after several years of being stuck in a permitting loop, Oak Bluffs has been awarded a $2.1 million Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program Action Grant from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The grant will be used for the beach nourishment project on the North Bluff. “This is a critically important project to restore the historic beach at the North Bluff as well as to provide additional protection and buffering in the areas of the new seawall from coastal erosion,” town administrator Bob Whritenour said.

Town conservation agent Liz Durkee prepared the grant application for the project. 

The total cost of the project is $2.75 million, which requires a $689,770 match from the town. Whritenour recommended the town appropriate the funds through a bond authorization at a special town meeting in November.

“I anticipate that funds to repay this note will be available from revenues derived from the short-term rental tax, which may help us in addressing some of the backlog of capital projects that we have not been able to fit in the budget under Proposition 2½,” Whritenour said.

Selectmen hired Marissa Quell as the new deputy shellfish constable at their meeting Tuesday night. Selectmen said Quell checked all the boxes for the position, which was broken down into three priorities: shellfish propagation, maintenance of gear and vehicles, and enforcement, patrolling, and community outreach.

Quell earned her master’s degree in marine affairs and policy, with a focus on aquaculture. She most recently worked at the Putney Food Co-Op in Putney, Vt., but has also worked at Island Grown Initiative maintaining the aquaponics system, and at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

This is the second recent hire for the town’s shellfish department. In May, Oak Bluffs hired Charles “Chuck” Fisher to take over for longtime shellfish constable Dave Grunden, who retired.

Speaking to The Times on Wednesday, Quell said she has been living for the past few years on the Island, and is ready to get to work. “I’m feeling great about it,” she said.

Selectmen appointed MacGregor Anderson as the town’s principal assessor. Anderson previously served as the town’s assistant assessor, and will take over duties from David Bailey, who will leave the office in September.

Anderson also gave a brief presentation on residential exemptions which would reduce the taxable value of all residential parcels that are determined to be the domicile of the owner. Under Massachusetts law, a person may have many residences, but only one domicile.

Selectmen have the yearly option of granting residential exemptions at the town’s annual tax-rate hearing.

Tisbury is currently the only town on the Island to offer the exemption, which is set at 18 percent. For example, selectmen could grant a $50,000 exemption. If a person owns a home assessed at $500,000, they would only be taxed on $450,000.

Anderson estimates there are 1,650 properties that would qualify.