Aquinnah town employee resigns following vaccine mandate

An Aquinnah town employee has resigned following a select board-approved mandate to require all employees working in town buildings to be vaccinated. - Jeremy Driesen — Jeremy Driesen

Following the implementation of a mandate for town employees to be vaccinated if they wish to work inside town buildings, one unnamed Aquinnah employee who hasn’t been vaccinated resigned his position. 

Town administrator Jeff Madison said at Tuesday’s select board meeting that the person is still technically employed by the town. Madison wrote the employee a letter after the last select board meeting, suspending him with pay. 

“We need to bring him in, I think. The board has to decide …” said Madison, before select board member Tom Murphy interjected, suggesting the board have the conversation about the unvaccinated employee in an executive session. 

Select board member Juli Vanderhoop agreed with deferring the conversation.

The item was on the agenda as regular business, and there was no executive session planned for that meeting. 

In other business, officials are considering sending a letter to the Dukes County Commission requesting it use some of its federal COVID relief funding to fully or partially pay for new restrooms at Aquinnah Circle. 

According to Madison, the county has sent out a letter to Island towns asking for a list of regional eligible projects that the County Advisory Board can review, and consider allocating funds to. 

Madison said the town is in dire need of financial support for getting the restrooms to a point where they adequately serve the seasonal population each year, and the funds retained by the county are meant to bolster the economic viability of the Island.

He said the Circle is a major destination for folks who come here during the summer, and it’s up to the town to make sure everyone has access to restrooms.

“You rarely see an advertisement for this Island that doesn’t include the Gay Head Cliffs, or the lighthouse, or the beaches,” Madison said. “We provide that service, and I would like there to be a contribution from the pot of money that the county received toward the implementation of our new restroom project.”

Murphy suggested requesting that the county fund the full cost of the project, and if they can’t afford to cover the total expense, they may be able to at least cover it partially.

“I’d rather ask for the entire amount, because I believe this is a substantial project,” Murphy said.