New Tisbury town hall estimated at $15 million

The consolidated town hall task force is recommending a site on West William Street.

55 West William after demolition in 2021. — Rich Saltzberg

A Tisbury group charged with coming up with a recommendation for a future town hall has recommended building a new, 10,000-square-foot facility on West William Street. The consolidated town hall task group pitched the idea to the town’s select board on Wednesday for the 1.3-acre 55 West William St. site.

The group estimated the project to cost $15 million, but they are looking at ways to fund the project that wouldn’t impact the tax rate. 

Employees in current town offices, split between the town hall and town hall annex, have raised concerns over mold and rodents. 

“There have certainly been some questions about the health status of these offices over the course of the past six months while we’ve been reviewing this process,” task group chair Amy Houghton told the board Wednesday. 

The 55 West William St. site was recommended partly because Tisbury already owns it. It’s also accessible, has adequate parking space, and is within walking distance of the Tisbury School, emergency services facility, and senior center. 

One or more lots adjacent to the site may also become available for relocation of the police department.

The cost estimate came from research by town administrator Jay Grande, and was partly based on the estimated cost per square foot of the Tisbury School project. “The cost] might be a little lower. It might be a little higher,” said the task group’s Rick Homans. “But [$15 million] is in the ballpark for what this project will cost.”

The group had in mind three project funding sources. “We’re looking for revenue sources that would not require the town to have to increase any tax rates,” Houghton said.

Possible funding sources include a $10 million bond, to be issued when a bond for the emergency services facility building expires in 2025. The $615,000 annual payments used for that building could then be used instead to pay for a town hall, causing no increase in taxes. Another $4 million would come from stabilization funds. Where the additional $1 million will come from is to be determined.

The task group also recommended against purchasing modular units now leased for the ongoing Tisbury School building and renovation project. The units had been discussed as an option for temporary town offices while a new town hall is being built.

“In the course of the past two or three weeks,” Houghton said, “there has been much more information that has come to us [about the modular units] … The most cost-effective solution would be to leave one or two of those modulars on the site where they are.” Houghton added that using the modulars as temporary town offices would require construction to support their infrastructure capabilities.

“Why are we spending money to put people in a temporary situation while we’re building a permanent building?” posed the task group’s John Schilling. “They can stay where they are, especially with the repairs that have been done recently to the annex to solve some issues there.” 

Schilling then asked the board to pull the warrant articles for the previously set special town meeting to purchase the modular units.

The task group recommended that the board ask the task group or another body to develop a request for proposal (RFP) for design and engineering of the new town hall. 

The task group also recommended submitting a town meeting warrant article in April for $600,000 to proceed with design, engineering, and development of a cost estimate and timeline for a new town hall. Their final recommendation was to issue an RFP for design and engineering, and to select a firm by summer.

“The last thing that we want to see is [these recommendations] come to [the board] and then this just gets kicked down the path for years to come,” Houghton said.

The select board voted at the meeting to accept the task group’s report, which does not, on its own, amount to accepting the recommendations.

The board then voted to forgo the special town meeting on Jan. 11, which would have included a warrant article for purchasing the modular units. The vote passed 2-1, with select board member Christina Colarusso voting no. Colarusso wanted to hold the special town meeting, due to a planned article for funding to replace a generator at the police station.


  1. I have been a taxpayer in Tisbury for 20+ years. The geographic size of our town is by far the smallest, so our revenue base has become increasingly burdensome on the homeowners. We have to get our spending under control. Increases in insurance, utilities and property taxes are forcing people to sell and unfortunately, buyers are looking at much lower taxes in all of the other towns. Our property values will almost certainly be affected by the new septic requirement as well. 15 million seems like a deal compared to the 88 million school but we are also paying for lawsuits, the high school and the Targeted Watershed Plan. I am afraid our town well is getting close to drying up.

    • Tisbury is in the bottom 10% for population density for towns in Massachusetts, it has plenty of space for commercial development, Commercial takes few tax dollars.
      The septic requirements are long overdue (Town Well).
      Replacing the the Tisbury School was long overdue.
      Replacing the High School is overdue.
      Replacing the Town Hall is long, long, long over due.
      The tax rate in Boston is $10.74, Tisbury, $7.92
      Tisbury is the city of the Island, all those services, for 20+ years.
      What is the reason for your fear of the town well getting close to drying up.
      Have you seen a recent report of flow rate/recovery time?

  2. My mom, Ruth Stiller, used to tell how the Town of Tisbury was offered the old VA Hospital (where the MV Museum is now) for $1.00! I’m not sure what year that was, but the idea was to put the town offices there. Obviously it was turned down- thought to be too far outside of town. I sometimes wonder if that’s one of those “if only” scenarios?

    • There has been so much regret in purchasing things from the government for a $1.00.
      They have negative value.

    • The existing access road to MV Museum at times presently is limited by tidal action, of course a access road would and could be cut to Skiff Ave., but do we really want any future governmental buildings to be built where the effect of sea level rise may cause near future mitigation which costs more money.

  3. The town needs permanent office space with technology which enables town employees to conduct our business in an efficient manner or at least the ability to. And moving forward I believe it would be prudent to seriously discuss including the new police department offices into the design. The movement of the existing police offices would free up valuable space in our congested downtown – waterfront area, and help with mitigation costs in the future related to sea level rise, which should be on the minds of all boards and committees moving forward in the positioning of governmental structures and buildings to be far above projected sea level rise for at least one hundred years into the future.

  4. Why didn’t the Town of Tisbury design the new fire station to include the Town offices and police department ?
    Tisbury like all the Vineyard Towns needs a Taxpayers Association to bring accountability back to the spendthrift’s in Town Government.
    There hasn’t been any slow down in the growth of spending by the Town in recent history and with no regard to how all this spending effects the taxpayers.

    • Tisbury has a ‘Taxpayers Association’, in Tisbury it’s called Elections/Town Meetings.
      Not one dime of taxpayer money is spent without taxpayer approval via the democratic process.

      Has the spending slowed down in any town?

  5. “needs a Taxpayers Association to bring accountability”. How would that be different from the independently elected Finance Committee?

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