Chilmark voters approve wharf appropriation


On Monday night, Chilmark voters at a special town meeting unanimously approved $44,000 to help fund commercial wharf replacement in Menemsha. The money is intended to be the town’s portion of a grant — specifically a 20 percent/80 percent split with the state — for a $220,000 Seaport Economic Council grant. The state will contribute $176,000. The meeting drew 58 voters into the Chilmark Community Center, out of Chilmark’s 1,116 registered voters, according to town clerk Jennifer Christy. 

At a podium, moderator Janet Weidner opened the single-article special town meeting without delay or chitchat. 

Peter Neilly, who has worked with harbormaster Ryan Rossi on several planning and guidance aspects of the wharf project, said the funding would enable Phase 2 of a four-phase project envisioned not only to replace the commercial wharf because of its deteriorating state, but also as an evolution to offset the effects of climate change. 

In a handout provided at the meeting, a more elaborate description of the project’s goal was provided: “To restore the existing docks, bulkhead, and related infrastructure in a manner that supports at least 30 to 50 years of a vibrant commercial fishing industry and related businesses in Menemsha, is consistent with the existing visual character of Menemsha as a small fishing village, provides resilience against a changing climate and sea level rise, and where reasonable, supports improved use, safety, and congestion relief along the Basin Road waterfront.”

Neilly noted the first phase, which entailed assessing the condition of the wharf, is complete. The second phase will be creating a design. He said the goal was to incorporate input from the town, the townspeople, and any other stakeholders.

Select board member Warren Doty said a foot of water “regularly floods the wharf.”

“We’re at this point where we have to make a change,” Doty said. “And nobody wants to see change in Menemsha, but this one — we just have to do something.”

Following the sole vote, the meeting adjourned. 

Ahead of the vote, a feline visitor returned to the town meeting floor. Reportedly named Stella, the cat last weaved its way through voters at the annual town meeting in April. As it was then, the cat was a crowd pleaser. 


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