Season of Annual Town Meetings Continues in Two Island Forums
By MARCUS TONTI
Chilmark residents who in recent years have approved construction of both a new school and library will next consider improvements to another public building, deciding this week whether to borrow $1.5 million to expand and renovate their town hall.
Assembling at 7:30 p.m. for annual town meeting at the Chilmark Community Center on Monday, voters will consider this and other items on a 32-article warrant. On Wednesday they will go to the polls to fill 13 public offices and decide three ballot questions.
Likely to draw the most discussion is the Proposition 2 1/2 override required to borrow the money necessary for town hall rehabilitation. Under state law, a town may not exceed the previous year's tax assessment by more than 2.5 per cent without voting to do so. In order to borrow money as Chilmark officials wish, passage requires two-thirds of the vote.
The debt exclusion sought, however, would not raise the baseline for the town budget in subsequent years.
Selectman Warren Doty said he expects at least 30 per cent of the town's 782 eligible registered voters to attend Monday's meeting.
"I think town meeting is absolutely fantastic," he said. "It's the lifeblood of this town.
"It's democracy in action - nothing happens in Chilmark until the voters make it happen," he added.
Apart from the override, which was not necessary for school or library construction, voters also will consider whether to adopt zoning bylaws to limit the construction of new docks in two areas.
Adoption of the Wild and Scenic North Shore District would protect the Chilmark coastline along Vineyard Sound. Aquinnah, West Tisbury and Tisbury voters have already approved protection for their portions of the shoreline.
The second would create a similar protection district for Mememsha, Nashaquitsa and Stonewall Ponds. Mr. Doty said he expects "vigorous debate" on the latter and foresees easy passage of the former.
Most of the remainder of the warrant treats various line items in the town budget. Among the larger items are $35,000 for a new police cruiser and $45,000 for Chilmark's one-third share of a new ambulance for emergency services up-Island.
Voters must approve a host of additional expenditures, all the way down to the $736 sought for longevity benefits for part-time employees. The town's finance committee has endorsed all the proposed budget items, and Mr. Doty said he expects them to pass as well, despite some inevitable opposition.
"The big discussion will be about the town hall," said Mr. Doty, who is also chairman of the town building committee and said he will speak on the project's behalf at the meeting.
"We're upgrading our buildings one at a time," he said. "Our town hall is much too crowded."
The public building boom, as it were, follows a 25-year plan, Mr. Doty said, intended to take care of such construction for at least a generation.
Mr. Doty, who is seeking another term as selectman, is among the officials unopposed on Wednesday's ballot. The town must also elect members of the assessors, health and planning boards, the financial advisory committee and library trustees, among others.
Keith Emin faces Joshua Scott in the town's only race, for tree warden.
Among other budget items to be considered are appropriations for road repair, ambulance staffing, beach maintenance, a fire station needs assessment, dredging, dock repairs, cemetery maintenance and a financial audit.
The full town meeting warrant and ballots may be viewed at town hall.