West Tisbury, MVRD discuss a partial ‘divorce’

Failing retaining wall stimulates refuse district desire to dump the West Tisbury dump.

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Failing retaining wall stimulates refuse district desire to dump the West Tisbury dump. - Rich Saltzberg

The Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District (MVRD) wants to be done with the West Tisbury dump, a.k.a. the West Tisbury drop-off or transfer station. A retaining wall there has deteriorated. MVRD steel containers are normally placed against that wall to receive rubbish and recycling. MVRD does not want to pay for repairing it, and claims not to have the money to do so anyway. 

After attending a meeting with MVRD officials, town administrator Jennifer Rand, board of health member Erik Lowe, and town health agent Omar Johnson told West Tisbury selectmen the town must consider appropriating money in short order, paying for the cost of repairing the retaining wall, and renegotiating its agreement with MVRD, or the town stands to lose the facility. 

“Absent the town taking responsibility for this wall, pretty much right away in April,” Rand told the board Wednesday, “the district would vote to close the local drop-off because the wall is not safe. It needs to be repaired before July 1st. The funds don’t exist at the district to make those repairs. And further, the district doesn’t really want to be responsible in the long term for this.”

Rand went on to say that from her perspective, “if the town wants to be responsible for determining if the local drop-off stays open, the town needs to be prepared to take on the capital maintenance costs …”

Rand and MVRD manager Don Hatch said the 20-year agreement for the dump facility between MVRD and West Tisbury expired in 2010, and what’s on the table now is a renegotiation to limit MVRD’s responsibility to rubbish and recycling logistics, and likely staffing. “I think the easiest way to say it would be the control shifts over to the town from the district, so you’d have full control of your facility …,” Hatch said. 

“So the district would sort of divorce itself from the local drop-off,” selectman Cynthia Mitchell said. 

Rand said, Only insofar as maintenance and capital improvements were concerned. 

Johnson told the board containers were recently placed above the wall “so that individuals are no longer having to walk up to this dangerous area.”

“Right now it’s a liability issue, and that’s why something has to be done with the wall,” Lowe said. 

“We got a quote from a local vendor, and it was $55,000,” Rand said. “Problem is the $55,000 did not include prevailing wage.” 

A prevailing-wage adjustment bumped the figure up to $80,000, Rand noted, a figure still less than a $114,000 estimate previously made by an engineering firm. 

Selectman Kent Healy, a civil engineer, balked at $80,000. “I think the cost of $80,000 to straighten up that wall is far more than actually needed, so I would like to sit down and figure out what actually needs to be done, and we can get at least a reasonable handle on the cost,” he said.

Rand stressed time was of the essence if the project is to make the annual town meeting warrant. “I would be glad to develop a plan and stamp it as an engineer,” Healy said. 

“That was my hope, that Kent would help me get this done,” Rand told the board. 

With a plan in hand, Rand indicated, she would be able to swiftly seek bids. 

The board took the matter under advisement. 

Rand subsequently provided The Times with the draft language of the proposed warrant article, which seeks to use $10,000 in unspent funds and $70,000 in so-called free cash to make improvements at the dump site.