The Tisbury select board voted unanimously Tuesday night to schedule the 2021 annual town meeting for May 1. The vote came after a previous unanimous vote for April 6 met with opposition from town administrator Jay Grande, based on calendar constraints the warrant would have.
“I would strongly urge May,” Grande told the board. “The warrant closing that early is not workable, frankly.”
Grande made it clear to the board the town was up against a filing crunch for warrant articles.
“For the annual town meeting,” he said. “the warrant articles need to be filed with the clerk’s office 90 days in advance. And if you hold to that April 6 date, technically those warrant articles would be due just after the new year. I believe on Wednesday, Jan. 6.”
He suggested many articles would likely need to be submitted as placeholders, with the content fleshed out later on.
Grande wasn’t the only town official bearish on April. Finance committee chair Nancy Gilfoy told the board an April town meeting would leave little time for reviews of departmental budgets and would “certainly make the finance committee’s work very difficult.”
The vote for a May date was the culmination of a scheduling debate over how best to manage an unexplained time crunch the town found itself in. As select board chair Jim Rogers pointed out, the schedule for town meeting was supposed to be set in November, and wasn’t.
“I will say, just for everyone’s edification, something fell through the cracks here, because this should have happened in November, in accordance with our bylaw. The meeting is set and the select people are supposed to be presented with a schedule in November.”
Rogers asked Grande if Nov. 30 was the deadline to approve a timeline.
“That is the date,” Grande said.
“Had that happened, we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in right now,” Rogers said.
“That is correct,” Grande said.
“Going forward from here, hopefully that doesn’t happen again,” Rogers said.
Town moderator Deborah Medders told the board a June town meeting date might be advisable.
She wasn’t a fan of the idea of placeholder articles. “I do not think that we want people to have a placeholder, and then wait until even a week to two weeks out for final language, final financial figures …” she said.
Rogers saw more merit in April or May as opposed to June, which he deemed too deep into the season.
“Our business community has had a tough year, and next spring hopefully between the vaccinations and the unfortunate number of people who have caught this terrible disease, through herd immunity, based on what the national experts are saying, there’s a good chance by April or May we’ll be out of this thing,” he said. “I’d certainly like to see us stay as far as we can out of the busy season, if at all possible.”
Select board member Larry Gomez said he preferred holding town meeting in April, and would prefer to “push it back if we have to rather than pick June, and not have any time to do anything.”
“I agree with Larry,” select board member Jeff Kristal said. “Pick April, and if we have to kick it back to May, we kick it back to May.”
Town counsel David Doneski told the board, “There are two options for moving the date.” Before the warrant is posted, the board can delay town meeting “basically as long as it wants, as long as it’s finished by June 30th.” If the warrant gets posted and the April 6 date set by town bylaw isn’t what the board wants, Doneski said, the moderator is empowered to declare a continuance.
“That can be done in increments of 30 days,” he said, “but there’s not a limit on how many 30-day increments may be utilized.”
Kristal expressed a desire to “punt” the decision on a town meeting date until Jan. 12, so town officials can further assess and plan, and then Grande could return with calendar proposals and game out a town meeting date in May.
Alexandra BenDavid, executive assistant to Grande and the select board, cautioned Rogers that a Saturday town meeting may get hung up by weddings. “With all the weddings from 2020 rescheduled for 2021, I’m just concerned about tent availability,” she said.
“That’ll be an issue as we head down that way,” Rogers said. “You’re correct. No matter what month we pick, that’s going to be an issue, I think.”
“Saturday, Friday, Sunday, and even Thursday might be a problem,” BenDavid said.
The board voted for May 1, a Saturday.
In other business, the board opened a hearing on proposed short-term regulations and fees, and following a short discussion, voted unanimously to continue it to Jan. 26 at 5:30 pm.
The select board unanimously appointed Steven Araujo to the Steamship Authority’s Woods Hole traffic study group for a one-year term. In a 2-0 vote, the board appointed Nancy Gilfoy, Larry Gomez, Michael Loberg, and Ben Robinson to the water resources committee. Gomez abstained from the vote.