Edgartown discusses Norton Point takeover

Town will have to find a way to fund management until sticker revenue comes in.

Edgartown began discussions of its Norton Point takeover. -MV Times

The Edgartown parks department met Thursday to discuss the town’s next steps in taking over Norton Point Beach after it was announced last week that the Trustees of Reservations will be relinquishing their stewardship of the Chappy barrier beach.

On Wednesday, negotiations between Edgartown and the Dukes County Commission, which owns Norton Point, kicked off. That followed a formal statement from Islands director for the Trustees Darci Schofield on the organization’s decision to forgo its contract renewal with the county. 

Schofield said the decision was made after extensive deliberation, and that the management agreement with the county will soon expire. She said the Trustees will be working with the new stewards for an expedited and seamless takeover, in addition to offering assistance with staff training.

“We truly love and value Norton Point Beach,” she said Wednesday; “we also want to express our sincerest gratitude for the honor to manage this very special place … We are invested in the town or the new manager’s success, and want to share our knowledge and expertise in these matters.”

Having not been approached by any other entity expressing interest in the beach’s management, the Dukes County Commission voted in favor of beginning preliminary negotiations with Edgartown regarding what the transfer would entail.

On Thursday, Edgartown parks commissioner Andrew Kelly said the goal would be to have a management agreement in place by the end of January, in order to be able to get associated warrant articles approved, and to begin hiring staff. 

“Obviously this is going to happen,” town administrator James Hagerty said, noting that a number of details still need hammering out involving accounting, procurement, and human resources. 

Hagerty pointed out that taking over sticker sales for over-sand vehicle access is akin to starting a business, where upfront cash is needed. He said a particular fund would need to be established for those revenues, along with management expenses. 

Because any agreement with the county would take place before the beginning of the next fiscal year, the few months left in FY23 (April 1–June 30), which don’t necessarily allow for additional spending, would need to be funded through other means, prior to sticker sale revenue collections. 

Kelly said the Parks Department should have enough money left over from last year’s budget to cover salary costs on an interim basis, but the department does not have the funds for shorebird monitoring. 

Parks members mulled over options of how to staff up, and where exactly the salary will come from. 

A part of Edgartown’s initial pitch to the county was that all revenue generated by sticker sales would be returned to the beach; the money cannot come from the town’s general fund. 

“We made the promise that any money that’s in excess is going to go to capital projects on Norton Point,” Hagerty reiterated. He estimated around $600,000 to $700,000 in sticker sales will be generated annually, and it will cost a fraction of that to run the operation. He added the goal would be for those revenues to cover all beach management costs. 

“The town doesn’t want to have a full-time position if it’s not going to be covered by the sticker sales,” Hagerty said. 

Town accountant Amy Tierney recommended a few options for how to initially fund the beach management, including a departmental revolving fund which would be established the day after approval at the April 12 town meeting. 

A special town meeting will be held concerning management costs leading up to the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.