Edgartown Convenes on Tuesday

By JAMES KINSELLA

Proposals including emergency repairs to the Edgartown public library, the construction of a public well, a change in quorum requirements and a 4.1 per cent increase in the operating budget will come before Edgartown voters Tuesday at the annual town meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Whaling Church on Main street. Philip J. Norton Jr. will moderate the meeting.

The meeting warrant contains 69 articles, most of which concern spending requests.

The printed warrant contains 68 articles, but the board of selectmen voted Monday to add a last-minute article that would transfer $71,423 from free cash for emergency repairs to the library. The library board of trustees is requesting the money to remove and replace walls infected with mold and shoring up the first floor to meet building codes.

Earlier in the meeting, voters are slated to consider a $22.7 million town operating budget for the coming fiscal year - a 4.1 per cent increase over the current budget.

The largest dollar increases in the operating budget can be found in the education budget, which would rise from $3.9 million to $4.7 million; the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School assessement, which would increase from $2.5 million to $2.7 million; the town's share of its employee health insurance premiums, which would rise from $1.76 million to $1.9 million and the police budget, which would go up from $1.6 million to $1.75 million.

The operating budget also shows areas that would decrease from the current year, including salaries in the selectmen's office, which would decline from $164,000 to $134,000.

Voters also will be asked to allow the town to borrow up to $1.97 million to help fund a new public water well near Pennywise Path and a new fire truck. The proposed borrowing would include $1.5 million for the well and $465,000 for the truck.

If two-thirds of the voters at the meeting approve the proposals, they will go before the voters at the annual town election Thursday, April 13. The election is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at town hall on Main street. Simple majorities at the election would suffice for their passage.

The voters also will consider requests to fund a variety of projects, including the rehabilitation of the Dark Woods trolley lot and the annual operation of the dredge program. No borrowing would be required. The projects would funded during the fiscal year starting July 1.

Should voters at town meeting approve these projects with simple majority votes, they will come before voters at Thursday's town election. Simple majorities at the town election would suffice for their passage.

The votes at the town meeting and town election are required under Proposition 2 1/2, a state law that restricts annual increases in the town property tax levy.

Borrowing for the proposed well would cost an estimated $1.33 per $1,000 assessed valuation in the first year, based on the town's current assessed valuation of $5.9 billion. The loan would be repaid over 20 years.

Borrowing for the proposed fire truck would cost an estimated $1.33 per $1,000 in the first year. The loan would be repaid over five years.

Rehabilitation of the Dark Woods parking lot would cost an estimated $3.91 per $1,000 as a one-time cost. Operation and maintenance of the dredge program would cost an estimated $3.80 per $1,000 as a one-time cost.

Voters at the annual town meetings Tuesday also will consider a slew of funding proposals to be funded through free cash.

They include $70,084 to address shortfalls in accounts; $68,406 to fund the operation of the local drop-off at the Martha's Vineyard Refuse and Resource Recovery District; $40,000 for a valuation update of commercial property by the board of assessors; and $30,000 for a new police cruiser.

The emergency proposal submitted by the library trustees calls for about $56,000 to treat extensive mold discovered March 9 in the children's section in the basement. The work includes removal and replacement of the sheetrock, eliminating mold from books and repainting the area. The children's section has been closed since shortly after the mold was discovered.

Another $15,000 would go toward simultaneously strengthening the ceiling of the basement and the floor of the first floor. Library director Felicia Cheney said tests revealed that sections of the floor will support half the weight for which the floor was designed. While Ms. Cheney said the floor is in no immediate danger of collapse, the issue needs to be addressed.

On Monday, the board of selectmen unanimously approved placing the proposal on next Tuesday's warrant, but not before questioning the expenditure in light of a $15 million library renovation that has been proposed by the trustees.

"We're moving toward a new library," said Arthur Smadbeck, chairman of the board of selectmen. "Why would you want to spend money on something that is going to be torn down anyway?"

But following a lengthy discussion, the selectmen said the town should do what is needed to keep the library open. "It's a matter of restoring what is safe and structurally adequate," selectman Margaret Serpa said.

Also Tuesday, for the third time in recent years, voters will consider whether to change the quorum requirement for town meetings. At present, the town requires five per cent of the registered voters in town as of the last registration day before a meeting. With 2,897 voters registered as of March 22, that translates to a quorum of 145. Town clerk Wanda M. Williams has proposed a quorum of 100.

"At special town meetings, we can never get a quorum" on the initial night, Ms. Williams said. Two or three nights typically are needed to attract the necessary quorum, she said.

In contrast, Ms. Williams said, quorums are not an issue for annual town meetings, which she said draws an abundance of voters.