$16 Million Budget on Warrant

By ALEXIS TONTI

At town meeting next week Tisbury voters will consider a host of articles related to public safety, including requests for an upgrade in ambulance services, new vehicles for the police and fire departments and a feasibility study for an emergency services facility.

The annual town meeting begins Wednesday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Tisbury School gymnasium.

Voters will be asked to approve a $16 million operating budget - a one per cent increase over last year - and $1.2 million in capital appropriations.

"The budget has been scrutinized by a lot of folks, and it's frugal once again," selectman Ray LaPorte said this week.

"It's pretty moderate," confirmed George Balco, chairman of the finance committee. "We asked people to be constrained in this difficult economic time. The schools especially worked hard to keep their budgets down."

Headlining the big ticket items on the warrant is a new $800,000 aerial ladder truck for the fire department. The current truck is more than 40 years old and has been plagued by problems over the past year.

"This is an investment that will pay for itself over time," said Tristan Israel, chairman of the board of selectmen. "We owe it to our fire department and to the town to have the best equipment."

"It's a big number, and it will probably get a lot of scrutiny," said Mr. Balco. He added there may be an amendment to help pay for the truck by earmarking a percentage of the income collected from the 50-cent ferry fee now assessed each passenger departing from the Vineyard Haven terminal.

"The legislation requires that the fee be spent for public safety and infrastructure, and this would be an acceptable and appropriate way to spend that money," said Mr. Balco.

To greenlight the purchase of the truck, voters also will have to approve a related ballot question April 27 asking for an override of Proposition 2 1/2.

Also under capital appropriations, the police department is seeking $60,000 for two new police cruisers - a request that was turned down last year.

In separate articles, the police chief is also asking for $5,000 to lease a motorcycle for the department and for $4,000 to train and equip new officers.

Voters will be asked to endorse a $60,000 feasibility study for a new emergency services facility. The study would include an assessment of the town's immediate and long-range needs and would consider housing the fire, police and emergency services departments jointly.

"With the current siting of the two facilities, they are difficult to access for emergencies" said Mr. LaPorte, who is a member of the committee that is studying the issue. The volunteer EMTs and firemen have to drive through heavy traffic. Taking it outside of the congestion of the Five Corners area would be a great relief. The same thing applies to the police department and the ambulance services," he said.

On several fronts voters will be asked to support the new Martha's Vineyard Emergency Medical Services Community Plan. The cooperative plan proposes an Islandwide upgrade of ambulance services to include paramedics, the highest level of emergency care, along with the purchase of state-mandated ambulance equipment.

To participate fully in the plan, Tisbury must allocate $20,000 in new equipment for its ambulances, including a cardiac monitor and defibrillator. Another $40,000 will go toward funding a new full-time paramedic position for the town.

Each of the Island towns is then being asked to contribute $6,100 (one-sixth of the annual cost of a paramedic position) as part of a shared staffing initiative to ensure full nighttime paramedic coverage for the Vineyard.

The town shellfish constable is asking for $20,000 to pay for Tisbury's share of enrolling the Lagoon Pond in the Massachusetts State Estuaries Program - a collaborative effort aimed at assessing the overall health and specific nutrient loading capacity for estuaries in southeastern Massachusetts.

"This will be instrumental in setting long-term policies to ensure the pond's water quality is protected," MVC water resources planner Bill Wilcox said Wednesday at a meeting about the program.

Studies of the nitrogen levels in the Lagoon are already under way, and - if project participation is approved - a comprehensive analysis with recommendations for improving the pond's health will take about two years.

Tisbury Waterways Inc. already has stepped in to fund a hydrodynamic study of the Lagoon, one element of the estuaries program. The study is being fast-tracked so the data can be used to assess the impact of the Lagoon Pond drawbridge replacement project.

Residents also will be asked to authorize the sale of the Lake street apartments to the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority for $170,000, a sum below fair market value.

Though under the management of the housing authority, the apartments will be reserved for affordable housing for Tisbury residents in perpetuity. Funds from the sale will be designated for future affordable housing development in Tisbury.