Edgartown voters cruised through a nearly 100-article warrant Tuesday night, approving funding for a new fire station, a nip ban, and several other capital costs.
Despite a half-hour delay caused by the lack of a quorum, voters were out of the Old Whaling Church just after 10 pm.
The $21 million fire station article loomed largest on the warrant. But funding for the rebuild passed voters with an overwhelming vote of 189 to 7.
“On behalf of the entire fire department membership, I would like to thank everyone for their support at the all-town meeting last night,” Fire Chief Alexander Schaeffer told the Times Wednesday morning. “It was a great first step toward the needed funding. We are hopeful that that support will continue at the ballot this Thursday, and that the information we have made available empowers the voters to make an informed decision.”
Voters will have to approve the funding request at the ballot box on Thursday. The new station is expected to be roughly double the size of the existing building, along with three garage bays.
The fire station discussion on town meeting floor Tuesday night started with support for the project right out of the gate. “I don’t like spending money, but I can’t think of a better way of spending money than supporting the fire department,” Edgartown resident Kenny Ivory said. His comments were greeted with a hearty applause.
There were a few questions asked of the administration, like if a renovation was considered instead of a rebuild.
Schaeffer told voters that the existing station dates back to the 1960s, which he said the department has outgrown. The chief did say that they considered retrofitting the building, but found rebuilding was the better option. “There’s no way to cover all of the problems that we have by retrofitting or renovation,” the chief said.
Aside from the fire station, Edgartown town meeting voters also approved nearly a million dollars in funding for a new outdoor learning space and playground at the Edgartown School. It passed unanimously, but after likely the longest discussion of the night.
After hearing pointed questions about why an outdoor classroom costs nearly a million dollars, Edgartown kindergarten teacher Debbie Grant pushed for the article’s passage. She said that the current playground doesn’t accommodate the school’s needs, and the current facility leads to kids tracking mud throughout the school.
“I’m speaking for the kids and the custodians trying to keep up with the mud,” Grant said. “They need the air, they need to be able to move, they need to be able to climb. This is essential.”
The only article that did not pass on the night was a citizens’ petition submitted by Edgartown resident Norma Holmes. The idea was to “maintain the traditional character of Edgartown, including the unique quality of the nighttime sky,” as the article’s explanation reads.
Some argued that the idea was too restrictive, while others supported the intention of protecting the night sky from light pollution. Ultimately, though, Edgartown town counsel Ronald Rappaport called for the article to be postponed. He said the article was written as a general bylaw, but should be a zoning bylaw. That would lead to complications for the building inspector. He encouraged the petitioner to proceed through the town’s zoning board of appeals. The article was then indefinitely postponed.
Most of the 93 articles on the Edgartown warrant were approved unanimously, with little or no discussion. That includes a budget of more than $42 million. There were no holds as town moderator Steve Ewing read through a 130-line budget.
Voters also approved $2.6 million to fund renovations at the North Wharf. Town meeting in 2019 already approved nearly $1 million for the project. The plan is to replace the bulkhead, timber pilings, and additional other work on the commercial marine hub.
Other capital projects approved included $75,000 for the town’s fireworks display, and more than $1.5 million in upgrades at the town’s wastewater treatment plant. In a slightly smaller request, voters approved $700,000 to demolish and rebuild the animal control officer’s facilities.
Like any town meeting, there were moments of levity. It took 30 minutes before a quorum was reached. When the clock ticked past the original start time of 7 pm, and then 7:15, Ewing asked people to call their friends, “or their enemies.” He also announced that there was a call out to a local bar to rally some last-minute voters.