Oak Bluffs weighs town meeting locations

Seasonal restaurants given green light to allow cleaning crews.

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The Tabernacle is being looked at as a possible location for town meeting. — Gabrielle Mannino

Much like their fellow down-Island town, Oak Bluffs is putting together a task force to weigh locations for its annual town meeting on June 16 and annual election on June 18.

The issue was raised at a selectmen’s meeting Tuesday. Town administrator Robert Whitneour said he has reservations about holding the annual town meeting at its usual location at the Performing Arts Center due to social distancing issues.

A task force made up of members of the board of health, board of selectmen, town moderator, town clerk, police and fire chief, Whritenour, and others would develop a plan for a town meeting location. Whritneour said options included using the Tabernacle or putting up a tent at Waban Park.

Through March and into April the town instituted a soft budget freeze to conserve funds. From May to June, Whritenour said the town is going to limit all non-essential spending. No town positions have been affected. 

“We’ve got a team that is analyzing the town’s finances closely and were preparing to take whatever prudent step that we need to take to ensure the town remains on solid financial footing,” Whritenour said.

The Oak Bluffs board of health voted Tuesday to allow seasonal restaurants, which are currently closed, to start cleaning their facilities with a maximum crew of five people, which includes contractors. Town health agen Meegan Lancaster t will begin inspections for those establishments next week.

Previously those restaurants were going to be allowed to do takeout, but Lancaster has delayed that decision since Gov. Charlie Baker extended the stay-at-home order and closure of non essential businesses to May 18.

“If anybody sees any activity in restaurants that have been closed they do have permission to be on the premises, maximum of five people and they have to try and consider social distancing and use masks,” selectman Michael Santoro, who owns Fishbones, Oceanview and the Lookout restaurants.

Whritenour said in a phone call between himself, selectman Brian Packish, and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici, the hospital leader expressed “major concerns” with Island summer events.

“[The hospital] would like to see all of the Island communities cancel all of the large events that are scheduled for the summer,” Whritenour said. “They also obviously are in support of the idea of having a 14-day quarantine for the entire summer.”

When asked about summer events earlier in the meeting, Packish said more state guidance and information would be needed before events for July and August are canceled.

“Until we have a little more guidance for July and for August, it’s still currently April. What we knew 30 days ago is completely irrelevant for the most part,” Packish said. “Thirty days from now what we know today will probably be pretty outdated.”