County approves bonding legislation

Provision that would give county control over airport spending removed.

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Commissioners covered a wide range of topics at a nearly three-hour meeting Wednesday.

At their meeting Wednesday, Dukes County commissioners approved the draft special legislation authorizing the commission to borrow for the airport rather than going before the state legislature for permission.

The proposed legislation has caused issues between the county commission and the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission. The legislation was focused on allowing the county to have more spending authority without seeking state approval, but a small provision in section three would have given the county complete control over airport spending.

At a meeting last month, airport commission chairman Bob Rosenbaum said that if section three was approved, the county commission would be violating a 2015 court order that bars them from meddling in airport affairs. Commissioners, who originally approved the legislation, revisited their vote and removed the controversial section three after pushback from the airport commission.

“I don’t think section three should have ever been in there,” commissioner Keith Chatinover said at Wednesday’s meeting. Commissioner Leon Brathwaite disagreed and said if section three was removed, commissioners would not be able to deny a request from the airport. Any rejection of funding decisions they make would be in violation of the court order. 

“We need to put some standard in there,” Brathwaite said. Other commissioners told Brathwaite it wasn’t true and he could deny any request by simply not signing it. Rosenbaum said county commissioners have the right to say no to borrowing, but should not have the right over final approval for all airport expenditures.

Commissioners approved the draft legislation 6-1. Brathwaite was the lone dissenting vote. 

Elected to appointed

Commissioners also floated the idea of making the county treasurer position an appointed position instead of an elected one.

Noreen Mavro Flanders, the former county treasurer argued for commissioners to keep the position an elected one. County treasurers are elected every six years. The last contested race for county treasurer was in 1991. “At the very least you have to give the voters a voice in this change,” Flanders said.

Commissioner Tristan Israel said if the commission goes forward with the change, then it would go to each Island town for voters to decide on it. He said the change was to give the county the option to look for highly qualified candidates. “Sometimes who can run for office and who can execute that office is not that same person, we’re just lucky that we’ve had for this many years,” Chatinover said of Flanders.

Commissioners approved the draft legislation to be put on the ballot for voters to decide. Brathwaite and commissioner John Alley both voted no. Brathwaite thought appointing the treasurer would take away independence from the position. If approved, the change would not take effect until 2027.