Tisbury supports development of HR system

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Tisbury voters convened for a final time Tuesday night in the gym of the Tisbury School for the 2022 annual town meeting and a special town meeting added onto it. The gym is slated for demolition this summer as part of the $55 million renovation and addition project of the school. Ahead of the warrants, four former Tisbury School students from different eras gave reflections on the gym they once used as children. After that, voters showed they were in a mood to approve just about everything save for the few articles that were withdrawn. 

Most articles were approved by unanimous voice vote, such as an article from the special warrant establishing a human resources (HR) department. That article, and one that established a director of human resources via majority vote, came as part of an effort by the personnel board to develop a standalone human resources system for the town. To that end, as The Times previously reported, the personnel board has hired a municipal consultant to review town personnel bylaw and policies and make recommendations. Personnel board chair John Schilling previously said the new department and director wouldn’t necessarily be activated right away. Rather those subjects went on the warrant to make sure voters backed the concepts. By the 2023 annual town meeting, Schilling said, the personnel board expected to have the consultant’s recommendations for “the actual structure and a financial foundation” of a personnel department, personnel bylaws, and the director position for voters to consider.

Schilling previously outlined some of the reasons behind the article. Given all the responsibilities of the town administrator position, Schilling said, the human resource duties that are currently added to that job “exceed the capacity of one person to deal with.”

Voters supported the idea, posing no questions ahead of the votes.

From $100,000 for harbor dredging to $94,250 for “salaries, equipment, and clothing” for traffic officers, voters said yes to a total draw of $248,519 from Steamship Authority embarkation funds to address various line-item expenses. 

Voters said yes to a number of Community Preservation projects both in town and across the Vineyard, including $74,950 for a portion of the costs to replace the roof of the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, $39,200 for a trail and enhanced public access to Tashmoo Spring Pond, $107,829 to repair the bell tower of Grace Episcopal Church, and $100,000 for “grading, landscaping, plantings, and play structures” on the Tisbury School grounds.

Voter Peter Goodale questioned how such school groundwork would be done when a major construction project was about to ramp up at the school. 

Tisbury School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president Siobhan Mullin said the PTO sponsored the expenditure, and that the funds were meant to “supplement” the site and landscaping budget for the overall school project. 

Among the many waterways capital expenditures voters said yes to was $6,000 to match funds from a Clean Vessel Act grant to service the engine of the PUE II septage vessel. 

Voters approved a number of capital appropriations, including $35,000 to upgrade the town’s website, $32,000 for an assessor’s department hybrid SUV, $15,000 for the preservation of historical records “per statute,” $80,000 for Owen Park bandstand construction costs, and $150,000 for various library repairs and upgrades. 

Cheryl Doble of Tisbury’s open space and recreation committee said $150,000 had already been allocated to the project, but materials and construction costs had escalated, and additional funds were necessary to complete the bandstand project.

“The building is deteriorating,” town administrator Jay Grande said during an explanation of the need for the library repair funds. Grande said a lot of work had been done on the library over the years, but “the tinkering is really not getting the job done.”

In response to a question about why Tisbury’s buildings are deteriorating, Grande said, “With this particular building, it has been plagued with issues from the day it opened. And some of those are related to the procurement processes that were undertaken years and years and years ago.”

Grande also said the library previously suffered from a “very poor operations and maintenance plan,” and that voters should expect more substantial funding requests in the future. 

One of the very few standing votes took place for a $50,000 deposit into the Tisbury Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The article passed 167 to 59.

Voters were asked to table two articles involving land transfers, one an acquisition and the other a disposal. As wastewater superintendent Jared Meader previously told The Times, the articles constituted a land exchange in furtherance of a new effluent field for the mitigation of nitrogen. The land to be sold was off Short Hill Road–Sailor’s Burying Ground Road. The land to be acquired was off Mud Puddle Lane. Voters unanimously took no action on either article.

Toward the end of the meeting, voters unanimously approved a $34.4 million fiscal ’23 budget.

In all, 249 of the town’s 3,700 registered voters showed up for the two warrants, according to town clerk Hilary Conklin.