Voters will go to town meeting on April 12 for the last time in the Tisbury School’s gym, but they’ll have to wait until May 24 to vote in the town election.
The select board unanimously set those dates at a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
“This is the last time the town meeting can be held at the Tisbury School gymnasium,” town administrator Jay Grande told the board. After setting the date, the select board voted to close the warrants, meaning that no further articles will be accepted.
The town had requested permission from the state legislature to hold town meeting out of town at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center, but that legislation has not yet been acted upon. The thought was that construction would already be underway on the Tisbury School’s $55 million renovation and addition project, but it has not started yet.
Meanwhile, the town election was put on hold while the town waited for a date and venue for town meeting. The May 24 date gives candidates enough time to take out nomination papers starting March 10, seek signatures, and return them to the town clerk by April 5.
The board also supported putting three questions on the the town election ballot — a $750,000 Proposition 2½ override, the housing bank, and a nonbinding referendum calling on the owner of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant not to dump radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay.
Select board Roy Cutrer said the Pilgrim question is an important one. “If they’re planning on dumping contaminated water into the Cape Cod Bay, with tides I think it’s eventually going to affect us all,” he said.
The override isn’t for any specific expense, but will give the town some spending flexibility as it approaches its levy limit, town finance director Jon Snyder said.
“The ballot question for the override is predicated on creating a bigger buffer between what we’re spending and our levy limit,” Grande said.
According to Snyder, the impact on the proposed tax hike on the median home price of $744,300 is about $178 per year.
Meanwhile, town counsel Donald Doneski will review the housing bank article with Ron Rappaport, who represents the other five Island towns, to make sure the wording matches what’s on the other town ballots.
“The substance is the same, but I would prefer they are uniform,” Doneski said.
The select board had a lengthy discussion to essentially settle a dispute between Snyder and wastewater superintendent Jared Meader. At issue was the debt on $400,000 from a $1 million wastewater article approved at the 2019 town meeting to pay for wastewater plant improvements, and how it should be repaid. At that same town meeting, $500,000 was transferred from the wastewater revolving fund, so that only $500,000 was borrowed.
Snyder said most expenses for wastewater are split 50/50 between ratepayers and taxpayers.
“The question at hand is whether that’s debt that should be paid by the wastewater enterprise budget or by the town’s budget,” Snyder said. “There are arguments on both sides.”
Meader’s position was that the ratepayers already paid their portion of the bill. He said it would put undue financial impact on a relatively small number of wastewater users. “One of my responsibilities, my primary responsibility, is to protect the ratepayers and their interest in the collective system,” he said.
Josh Goldstein, who runs the Mansion House Inn along with his family, said the ratepayers already provided their share. “We just can’t afford it. There aren’t enough of us,” Goldstein said.
Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to have the town’s taxpayers cover the remaining $400,000 owed for the money that was borrowed.
After the discussion went round and round, Grande said that decisions on how borrowed funds will be repaid should be made up front, and that it should be clearly recorded.
“I think we should have clearer warrant articles moving forward, if we’re to undergo a project like this in the future,” select board chair Jeff Kristal said.