Aquinnah promises more transparency on town projects

Numerous appointments were made; town supports healthy aging. 

The Aquinnah select board going through their meeting agenda on Tuesday. — Eunki Seonwoo

The Aquinnah select board reached a consensus that the town should have more transparency regarding the rehabilitation and planning of town buildings. 

Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison requested this topic be added to the agenda because he heard from town clerk Gabriella Camilleri there were “rumblings” from residents who were dissatisfied by how much information was being shared by the town. 

“We have a committee in town that has worked diligently over 18 months or so, developing plans for rehabilitating this building and the town hall and the police station, making plans for a new comfort station up at the Cliffs in addition to the one that is there,” Madison said. “Despite our efforts to keep people informed on what was going on, what has been going on, that they feel that they have not been adequately informed.” 

Madison said he contacted ICON Architecture and Atlantic Architecture, the firms working on the designs for the buildings, to move to the schematic and design phase of the project. The basic designs of the buildings have changed over the 18 months, based on need and feedback from the community, according to Madison. 

“Frankly, I don’t know what more we could’ve done. We’ve had meetings at the town hall, we’ve had Zoom meetings,” Madison said, mentioning that the “meetings have always been open.” He said he was unaware who made the complaint, and whether this complaint was a formal Open Meeting Law violation complaint. “It’s a valid concern, and we need to address it and we will,” he said.

Board chair Juli Vanderhoop said the committee has been doing a balancing act of meeting state regulations and addressing the needs of the Aquinnah community. “We are mindful of where we were standing with our municipal buildings, and what our committee has been charged is pretty monumental,” she said. Vanderhoop suggested taking minutes and clearly posting the resources on the town website.

Madison agreed, saying there were times people lacked understanding regarding the project.

“From now on, any meeting of the projects committee will be open, it’ll be advertised 48 hours [beforehand], and it will have an agenda, and it will contain minutes,” Madison said. “I think we need to have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting, if you will, because nobody has any self-interest here. But the buildings are falling down.” 

In other business, the board went page by page approving numerous appointments. Each page of appointments was unanimously approved except for two of them, which were approved in 2-0 votes. This was because board members Tom Murphy and Gary Haley were each on one of the pages of appointments, so each abstained from voting. 

Aquinnah is looking for someone to become its animal control officer, a position that Massachusetts towns are required to have filled. 

The board unanimously voted to send a draft request for proposal (RFP) to town counsel Ron Rappaport. The RFP was for a fence around a proposed playground area behind the town hall. 

The board also unanimously approved Madison to sign a letter of support for Healthy Aging MV’s efforts to recertify the town as a healthy aging town, and to sign the dementia pledge, which is to show support toward making Aquinnah and other towns dementia-friendly. 

The select board plans to meet with the board of health on July 5 about filling empty positions. Former board of health chair Sarah Saltonstall and former health assistant Karen Colombo both resigned earlier in June.