O.B. holds forum for summer taxpayers

Seasonal residents get chance to ask questions of town officials.

Among the concerns raised were the residential area speed limit signs. Homeowners said the speed limit is not enforced. — Abigail Rosen

Speed enforcement, cell services, and taxes were on the minds of Oak Bluffs seasonal residents at a forum held Tuesday. The forum was held in order to familiarize seasonal residents with the town’s department officials, and to address their concerns.

In addition to three of the five select board members — absent were Ryan Ruley and Gail Barmakian, board chair and vice chair, respectively — the police and fire/EMS departments, parks commission, information tech, highway department, shellfish constable, and library were among the representatives present. 

Seasonal residents were given the opportunity to better understand the operating processes of interdepartmental projects and efforts, and were able to voice concerns to their town officials. 

One summer taxpayer asked how the police department is regulating neighborhood speed limits, specifically in residential areas that have suggested speed limits below 10 mph.

“I rarely see anybody go 7 mph on the Campground,” the homeowner said. “I see them go maybe twice that speed.” He asked if there is a policy in place to enforce the speed limit. 

“It would be good to develop a policy,” he added.

Police Chief Jon Searle explained that he was unaware of the pervasiveness of the speeding problem, but will look into it. The police cannot really enforce a 7 mph speed limit, as any public way has a minimum speed limit of 20 mph, he said.

The homeowner said after an uncited speed study was conducted two years ago, “it was determined that there was significant speeding at the Campground.” Upon his attempts to notify officials, he said, “it wasn’t really responded to at all.” He added, “I think it would be great if you’d do a little bit of research [to see] how you might be able to respond to situations in the Campground.”

The board heard from another summer taxpayer regarding cell phone coverage. “There is none,” she said. ”I am wondering if anyone can address that.” 

Select board member Brian Packish noted that lack of cell service is Island-wide, and bandwidth is stretched during the Island’s peak-season, whereas cellular service is more reliable in the winter and shoulder months.

“We’re here early in April,” replied the homeowner, “and even in April, you have to stand in one spot in your house and not move … literally with my head next to the door to carry on a conversation.” She asked what the select board can do. 

Packish said the town is charged only with reviewing requests to erect cell towers, not recommending them.

One homeowner asked about a “rumor” of a two-tier taxing system for permanent and summer residents, and what that entails. 

“There is a residential exemption that we’ve been working on,” said Packish. 

Principal assessor of Oak Bluffs Kristina West confirmed that year-round residents are entitled to a $231 reduction in their tax bill, and the select board votes on it annually. 

Packish said in order to qualify for the reduction, a resident would have to provide the town with their tax return and documentation: “You have to come in with your tax return and documentation proving year-round residency.”