Back to the Tabernacle for West Tisbury

Board punts on Tiah’s Cove culvert, approves affordable housing land article.

The outflow to Tisbury Great Pond from the culvert under Tiah's Cove Road in West Tisbury. — Rich Saltzberg

West Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to hold the 2021 annual town meeting at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. The meeting would be the third held with the Camp Meeting Association and the town of Oak Bluffs as hosts. The town held a historic, first-ever meeting at the Tabernacle in June because dangers and impracticalities brought on by the pandemic made a meeting within the borders of West Tisbury risky. 

“The Camp Meeting Association has very kindly said that they will make the Tabernacle available to us again on the 18th of May,” town administrator Jennifer Rand told the board. “And according to counsel, under the current legislation, provided the warrant has not been posted, the action to schedule town meeting is taken by the board of selectmen, not the moderator.”

Having not yet posted a warrant, the board voted to set the annual town meeting on May 18 at 5 pm. 


To culvert or not to culvert

The board revisited a repair and upgrade project for the Tiah’s Cove Road culvert. In 2018 it placed a $10,000 appropriation on the warrant at the request of highway superintendent Richard Olsen. Olsen sought to replace the culvert with a larger diameter of culvert because of its age and to better facilitate the passage of fish. That article was pulled because the conservation commission opted to seek a grant from the state.

“We didn’t get the grant,” Rand told the board Wednesday. 

Rand said she believed that the state doesn’t see the culvert as an emergency.

“I would say that this is a project that is unnecessary,” selectman Kent Healy, a civil engineer, said. He added, “And even if it were important, water over the road is only a temporary obstacle.”

Chair Cynthia Mitchell asked for more detail regarding the original request.

“The conservation commission believed that it should be replaced,” Rand said. “I don’t know that the highway superintendent feels strongly about it one way or the other.”

“I think I’d feel most comfortable if we reached back to the conservation commission just to check in with them,” Mitchell said.

“I do believe they’d like it done,” Rand said.

Selectman Skipper Manter agreed with Mitchell about seeking more information from the conservation commission. 

The board decided to take the issue up again on Jan. 27, after Rand has touched base with the conservation commission. 

Conservation commission vice chair Tara Whiting Wells later told The Times the Tiah’s Cove culvert is considered a “failed culvert,” as the area regularly floods during periods of “high pond” because of inadequate water flow. She said size-wise, the culvert is insufficient for the passage of water and wildlife. 

Whiting Wells said she believes the reason West Tisbury didn’t get a grant is because the state is dealing with culverts in more dire condition, some of which have collapsed. “Do we wait until there’s a hole in the road?” she asked.

In other business, on the recommendation of the affordable housing committee, the board voted unanimously to place an article on the annual town meeting warrant that would place 401 State Road, a town-owned three-acre parcel, into the control of the affordable housing committee for the development of affordable housing.