Best tapped for Water Resources Committee

Sewer advisory board votes three to two with one abstention.

John Best was appointed to the water resources committee in Tisbury. -Rich Saltzberg

Tisbury’s sewer advisory board voted 3-2 (with one abstention) to appoint former board member John Best to the water resources committee. Best was chosen over Chris Scott, a current member of the sewer advisory board.

Before the candidates were heard from, Tisbury wastewater superintendent Jared Meader told the board after “a lot of thinking” and despite the understanding Best has a high degree of wastewater experience, he would rather see a current board member appointed 

“only because they can more or less speak on behalf of the board.”

Meader also said he was “not trying to influence” the board’s decision. 

Scott, one of the board’s newest members, admitted he was “green” when it came to boards and committees but that the town could use a “fresher set of eyes looking at some of this stuff.”

Scott said he was born and raised on the Vineyard and “really interested in learning a lot more but also [being] a voice for the new generation that’s coming up.” 

When asked what he knows about the committee, Scott said, “I understand it’s there to advise and facilitate — I guess put in the plan to some degree — the new sewer plant, stormwater management, look at wastewater systems that might be an alternative to what we’re using today in terms of septic systems, make suggestions to the selectmen. I guess it would sort of be the whole water management plan for the town.”

Best told the board his familiarity with them and with wastewater were his selling points. 

“I feel comfortable representing you because I know you all and I often attend your meetings anyway as a private citizen,” Best said. “I’d be perfectly comfortable reporting back to you and I’d reach out to the board if I needed input.”

Best also touched upon Tisbury’s Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP)

“I’m keenly interested in the CWMP,” Best said. “This is the sort of planning I’ve been doing for,  frankly, 40 years. I started doing wastewater work in 1980 for the town of Oak Bluffs — wastewater planning. And I’ve done it both professionally and as a volunteer. And the planning aspect of it is my strong suit. My academic training is in planning.”

Best added, “I would be the only person on the water resources committee who has a strong background in Tisbury’s system because I was involved in it from its very onset.”

He said he’s often consulted about aspects of the system.

Board member Jeff Pratt said the CWMP, among other things, is critical to receiving federal grants to maintain and enhance Tisbury’s wastewater system. 

He asked Best what skills he would bring to the table to facilitate the CWMP. 

“I guess you could say I’ve spent a good part of my adult life involved in planning. For 16 years I was on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as Tisbury’s elected rep. And I did wastewater planning for the town of Oak Bluffs for two years in the early ‘80s … I’ve kept up to speed for 40 years on alternatives and how they’ve progressed.”

Asked the same question by board member Tomar Waldman, Scott said, “In terms of this exact thing I don’t have much experience.”  Nevertheless, Scott said he has been involved in complex business and planning and is “very familiar” with project management. Scott said he has “just started diving into what the water resources committee is doing and the CWMP and all of that stuff…” 

Scott characterized his inexperience as something good to shake things up. “I’m green with it,” he said of the CWMP. “I think that’s a good thing. I think bringing someone fresh into it that doesn’t really know it is an opportunity to ask some questions that may be redundant but it would be a good chance to ask a lot of questions about what it is we’re doing, what’s important, what’s not.”

Board member Dan Seidman suggested Scott’s affiliation with a Tisbury marina might present a conflict of interest. Scott is the general manager for two Vineyard marinas and property associated with them. Seidman suggested that since Scott represents a ratepayer, decisions he might make could benefit his employer.

Scott suggested all Tisbury residents were ratepayers but several members of the board said that was untrue.

Seidman pointed out many folks are on septic tanks.

Meader said the marina in question is already sewered so there’s nothing to gain.

He added that said the committee doesn’t make binding decisions, it’s an advisory board, and therefore conflict of interest doesn’t apply.

Seidman said “we’re advisory too” but there can be “the perception of conflict of interest.”

Seidman also said this type of material isn’t something “you can just jump into and really be a benefit to that particular committee.”

Pratt said Scott could abstain from any vote where he had the appearance of a conflict.

He also said he was “tickled pink” to have Scott on the sewer advisory board.  

In the end Pratt, Seidman, and board member Connie Alexander voted for Best. Waldman and board Chair Christina Colorusso voted for Scott. Scott himself abstained from the vote. Board member Jeff Kristal wasn’t present.