A straw vote in West Tisbury on Wednesday night saw overwhelming approval for restoration of the Mill Pond, following a public forum hosted by the town selectmen. Residents who attended the forum also suggested that a restoration plan include an ongoing maintenance component.
Eighteen of the 24 residents in attendance raised their hands in support of dredging Mill Pond following an hour of discussion led by selectman and board chairman Glenn R. Hearn. No comment was heard against the restoration. Mr. Hearn said the project can be completed for $125,000 to $150,000, well below initial estimates of $500,000 to $600,000 heard earlier this year. He also said the project could be completely underwritten by Community Preservation Act funds, less contributions from community groups and individuals.
The town preservation commission has been steadily building its reserves and now has more than $733,000 in funds that have not been appropriated for use.
Public comment centered around timing and structure of a permitting and dredging plan and the thicket of permitting agencies involved. Details of the approval processes bewildered many in the audience but selectmen, assisted by conservation commission chairman Prudy Burt, produced two potential scenarios.
First, selectmen must approve an application to the town community preservation committee for community preservation act funds by Oct. 31. Next, town voters must approve the funding either at a special town meeting or the annual town meeting in April.
The Wednesday forum group decided on a fast-track, two-part funding plan, with a first phase for permitting funds and a second phase for funds to dredge the two-and-a-half-acre pond.
The town will then request bids for an environmental consulting company to prepare a preliminary design plan. Permitting costs are estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 and the remaining $100,000 would be used to complete dredging work.
Mr. Hearn said he developed new cost estimates after reviewing a similar project conducted on a three-acre pond near Westport. “That project was a lot more complicated than ours and it cost $300,000,” Mr. Hearn said. Audience members and selectmen also discussed the possibility of renting an innovative portable dredge that a group of private landowners on the Edgartown Great Pond plan to buy for dredging that pond.