Tisbury approves budget, sets climate goals

Voters back green aspirations and address personnel needs at back-to-back special and annual town meetings.


After more than four hours underneath the big top outside the Tisbury School, residents approved a more than $30 million operating budget, $5 million in roadway improvements, and a number of changes to planning, practice, and personnel that prepare the town for the future.

Back-to-back annual and special town meetings made for a marathon day, with folks convening outdoors for the second year in a row due to COVID restrictions.

The Tisbury operating budget was approved, but not without some questions and amendments related to the legal expenses the town is incurring, along with a request from West Tisbury emergency management director Russell Hartenstein to fund an Island-wide emergency coordinator position.

In light of recent and past events, Peter Goodale asked what area of the budget is accounting for any settlements or legal expenses incurred by the police department. “I don’t know in what budget the settlements show up, or what settlements we pay out for victims of what the police department has caused,” Goodale said. “What are selectmen doing about making sure we get our whole town on the right path?”

Town administrator Jay Grande explained that the legal services budget covers legal counsel to the town, and any other legal expenses would be paid by the town’s insurance. Tisbury finance director Jon Snyder said any money for legal settlements is pulled from the insurance line, and he expects that budget may go up in the coming years.

Voters also approved Hartenstein’s request for an additional $5,000 to the emergency management budget to contribute the town’s share to a part-time Island-wide emergency coordinator position. Hartenstein said this has been a central goal for emergency managers in every town, and the pilot program to create an Islandwide position would establish consistency and allow the Island to find and apply for additional emergency grants.“It’s a huge responsibility for stipend employees to handle this. We have a whole lot of need, but not a lot of funds,” Hartenstein said.

He added that there is a “very clear” job description drafted for the position, and the Island emergency managers have all agreed that the Islandwide coordinator will report to the head of the Emergency Management Directors Association. 

Another new town government position was approved by voters — the natural resources assistant. Tisbury resident Lynne Fraker said this position requires more skill than the harbormaster has, and is supposed to cover both the harbor and shellfish departments. She wondered which department the position is accountable to, and how their time will be divided up between duties. 

Harbormaster John Crocker clarified that the harbor and shellfish departments are now jointly known as the natural resources department, and the position would serve both under their purview.

Danielle Ewart, Tisbury shellfish constable, said the natural resources department is looking to plan ahead, and “in the future of Tisbury, it would be nice to have somebody who is going to be accountable, and also so I don’t have to keep hiring a part-time seasonal person.” 

Finance committee member Nancy Gilfoy said she thinks it’s important to have a more serious authority to enforce some of the rules on Tisbury waterways, instead of part-time staff.

At the special town meeting that preceded the annual town meeting, Tisbury residents voted to allow special legislation for the town to continue employment of fire department employees past the date they become subject to mandatory retirement at age 65. Retired Tisbury firefighter Malcolm Boyd said the strain on firefighters diminishes as they increase in rank, and the experience they gain over the years is a major benefit to the department. “Generally, firefighters are younger fellas and officers are older fellas,” Boyd said. “Captains should never go into a building — lieutenants direct in a building, and that is about as much as they do.”

Select board member and retired Tisbury firefighter Jim Rogers said he honored the law when he reached the age of 65, and left the department. But he said Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Leland is putting together an operations plan that will limit physical activities for older firefighters. Rogers added that the older, more experienced firefighters bring a lot to the department, and supported the article: “I think this is a very good fit for the town of Tisbury.”

Another major decision by town residents was to adopt islandwide goals in response to the climate crisis that seek to reduce fossil fuel use on-Island by 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040, and also reach 100 percent renewable electricity use by 2040. The goals include carbon sequestration initiatives like regenerative agriculture and other resource preservation methods. 

Peter Goodale said he is concerned that the goals are too lofty, and has severe doubts they are even attainable. “The electric grid isn’t sufficient to provide enough power to the town or the Island in order to completely eliminate the use of fuels for vehicles and homes and such,” Goodale said. He added that many larger trucks and equipment don’t have electric alternatives yet, and is worried that the goals might be asking the impossible of certain industries.

“I think we should reconsider what our goals actually are to make it more realistic.” Goodale said. “My concern really is that goals tend to lead to regulations, and I don’t want to be in a situation where we start mandating things that aren’t possible yet.” 

Tisbury planning board member Ben Robinson said the resolution that was put forward by the Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committees across the Island and the goals it contains should be seen as ambitions and standards that each town should strive for, rather than stringent ultimatums.

“They are goals,” Robinson said. He referenced an analogy offered by planning board member Cheryl Doble: “If the light in front of you is green, you start driving even though the lights further down the road from you are still red. Some of the solutions are going to have to be developed.”

Even now, Robinson said, the generators on the Vineyard burn through more than 300,000 gallons of diesel each year to back up the grid during peak demands. 

He stressed that if the Vineyard meets these goals by 2040, the Island could lower overall energy usage (both electricity and fossil fuels) by a third, even when counting the growth in energy demand. 

With the new climate goals, the energy working group of the Island Climate Action Network has developed an energy model that tracks all energy use, and will be the central tool for monitoring progress in sustainable energy going forward.

Townspeople also voted on changes to the Tisbury zoning bylaws, including alterations to the times that restrict excessive noise, light, and odors that affect neighboring properties. Specifically, Tisbury folks wanted to address the issue of contractors making noise late at night or early in the morning, especially on weekends. The town voted to change these restricted hours in residential and business districts to Sunday through Thursday, no later than 10 pm, Friday and Saturday, no later than 11 pm; and Monday through Friday, no earlier than 7 am, and Saturday and Sunday, no earlier than 8 am. 

Tisbury select board member Larry Gomez said he is most concerned with landscapers running leaf blowers early in the morning, and disturbing folks who are trying to sleep, such as guests at his bed and breakfast. He added that the issue of contractors making noise at odd hours is a larger issue that needs to be addressed separately by the town.

Tisbury resident Tristan Israel said he is a landscaper, and although he supports not working late at night and having a late start on weekends, the issue isn’t just limited to contractors, and such strict sound and light restrictions would be difficult for some to comply with. “We have people with birthday parties, we have tourists who come. I would vote against making it 10 pm, especially on weekends, I think that’s unreasonable,” he said.


  1. it seems the glimmer of hope for Tisbury came from Mr. Goodale, who asked the important questions. Though I do not believe he was given adequate answers. He is correct in his terminology when he refers to the ‘victims’ of the police department. Those unfortunate folks who have had their lives turned upside down due to the idiotic political playpen that is the Bored of Selectmen’s Office and their Grande. It seems they didn’t answer the questions about a plan to control those who have clearly overstepped their bounds and served up the tax payers settlement payments. In fact they didn’t provide any information on their involvement as the ‘police commissioners’. The answer he got is that insurance is going to cost more. Thank you for asking the question Mr. Goodale, but, it seems as though you got a fraction of a response. Also thank you for putting a little reality in the climate change arena, which seems to be something to put in the back burner until the town stops bleeding from lawsuits. I also have to note the self service of Gomez who wants to have quiet for his guests at his inn…. Maybe climate change will come sooner than we think, sparing us anymore of this none sense, and just wash Tisbury off the island.

  2. The idea that the vineyard can get a 100% reduction in fossil fuels by 2040 is ridiculous.
    Who comes up with this stuff ? is this idea an unintended consequence of legal marijuana ?
    Come on, I am a liberal. I believe climate change is the number one threat to our species.
    But statements like
    ” if the Vineyard meets these goals by 2040, the Island could lower overall energy usage (both electricity and fossil fuels) by a third, even when counting the growth in energy demand.” ——What kind of psychobabble is that ?
    Is the idea that we can do some kind of “voodoo economics” with carbon emissions ?
    If we shuffle some “carbon offsets” from one place to another, how does that reduce carbon emissions ? This is a global problem, and shuffling papers around to make us look good and feel good does nothing.
    I am sure there are well meaning intelligent people behind this “goal”. But the reality is that the idiots who leave their oversized trucks running will just have their idiotic idea that environmentalist are idiots reinforced and dig in further on their idiotic climate denial.
    I cite the comment above from Mr. Johnson as an example of the ignorance associated with this issue — He mocks the “alarmist” by putting forth the concept that Tisbury will just wash away– I guess he thinks the rest of the island will be just fine if that happens.

    • Mr. Keller, the last was meant as sarcastic jest, get a grip on your colander… I am fully aware the rest of the island would suffer the same fate, if it were going to happen 😉

      • Anthony you never know sometimes—There a lots of people who actually believe some pretty crazy things…

  3. Rather than stating sweeping but vague energy reduction goals that throw out a speculative number, it seems to me it would make more sense to put together a small conservation plan that is tied to specific actions to reduce energy use and carbon footprint, incentives, and metrics. That is, a concrete “negawatts” energy accounting project that enlists participants or perhaps a particular neighborhood, introduces specific measures to reduce energy use (e.g., reduce use of energy hogs such as electric dryers; ride bike instead of hopping into SUV), and then does the actual energy accounting of the “negawatts” saved.

    IOW, a pilot program that sets small but reasonable goals.

  4. Most anti natalists want a voluntary reduction of birth rates or through government enforcement or special taxes on those with ”too many children” or maybe rejoicing on the growing human death toll since air pollution and CO2 emmisions fell rapidly during Covid. There is a carbon footprint of procreation and one needs to be concerned about our hypothetical children in a climate change world. Of course we also have the enemies of meat and Bidens Climate plan could limit Americans to one burger per month. Climate warriors will soon be coming for your burger since the entire agricultural sector from steaks to soy is about 10 percent of our greenhouse gas emmisions. Relax they wont be banned but they will be rationed and taxed. Mr Keller has a head start on us though since he uses his bicycle and eats pasta from his Pastafarian colander. He is correct on the 2040 prediction though and if we put Sir Anthony Fauci in charge of Climate change who better for unforced errors from Americas political doctor.

  5. Andrew– one burger a month — the only source for that lie was the fox news liars. Nothing in any climate proposal by the Biden admin has ever mentioned the rationing of any kind on any kind of meant. Just another hysterical lie.
    The free market will ultimately reduce the demand for meat. The retail price of beef is up over 10 % this year alone. Impossible burger and Beyond meat are now lower in price than real beef. That trend will continue. And the fake burger is just as good in every way. And healthier also.
    And let me educate you about eating pasta.
    One does not eat pasta out of a colander ( although that is possible). Rather, the colander is simply used to strain the pasta from the water used to boil it. Then condiments are usually added to enhance the holy experience. I like lots of veggies and some kind of sauce ( like a tomato sauce or pesto) I sometimes Sautee some delicious plant based ” meat” for a delicious protean. Some parmesan cheese on the top is a favorite topping among us Pastafarians. Some garlic bread , perhaps a salad and a nice vintage of a red wine creates a simple, delicious elegant and cost effective meal while participating in a holy ritual.
    Much better than a dry flat wafer of white flour and a sip of grape juice.

    • Mr Keller you are proof positive that left wing liberals dont like sarcasm about their idols.

      • You made inflammatory comments, which perpetuate the half truths or flat lies you tell, then chuckle and smart when someone says that’s ignorant, and pass it off as sarcasm.

        • Mr Zeke, Animal Farm and Gullivers Travels are satire and allegory or are they half truths or flat lies. Get a grip. You folks loathe any attack on your idols. What is truth said Pontius jestingly and did not tarry for an answer.

          • Mr Engleman, sorry to disturb your own self portrait, but that’s all I can see from your comments. Inflammatory, useless ridiculing and perpetual “owning” is all there is.

      • Andrew– let me point something out here.
        On or about April 27 2021 Fox News: “Biden’s climate requirements” will “cut 90% of red meat from diet” to a “max 4 lbs per year” and “one burger per month.”
        “One day after President Joe Biden pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half, Fox News and Fox Business Network personalities repeatedly and baselessly claimed that the move would also force Americans to say goodbye to hamburgers and steaks.
        “To meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat,” said Fox Business Network host Larry Kudlow, a former economic adviser to President Donald Trump, on April 23. “No burger on July 4. No steaks on the barbecue.”
        Biden’s climate plans do not include restrictions on red meat consumption, a White House official confirmed to PolitiFact. Biden never mentioned red meat when he announced his plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030, a move that would double the U.S.’s commitment under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

        “across several Fox News and Fox Business Network programs, the story told was different. Hosts such as Kudlow and Fox News’s Jesse Watters wrongly claimed that Americans would have to take steaks off their grills in order for the U.S. to hit Biden’s target, while the networks’ chyrons and graphics gave the same false claims a visual flair.

        Now Andrew— there are the same idiots that tell you trump won the election and that the covid virus is nothing to worry about and that hospitals are inflating the number of covid deaths to get more money.
        You swallow it all, hook line and sinker, and tell me I don’t know about sarcasm ?
        Is the conspiracy that trump won sarcasm?
        Is the hospital thing sarcasm ?
        is your denial of covid sarcasm?
        Is your denial of climate change sarcasm ?
        Came on Andrew– how are we supposed to know when you are just lying and when you are being sarcastic ?
        And then you say that we “loath any attack on our idols ”
        Are you kidding ?????

  6. Where is my comment? You leave a derogatory comment about liberals but not my comment that was truthful?

    • Zeke– sometimes the “your comment is awaiting moderation’ notice goes away for a while before it is posted..
      Be patient– it seems like they finally got around to your comment to andy– good one by the way ..

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