You could hardly accuse the drafters of the town of Tisbury’s Municipal Needs Assessment of understating the town’s planning problems.
“All the town’s major public buildings,” including the fire department, police and ambulance services, town hall and annex, says the first of the report’s findings, “are in a poor location and/or poor condition.”
Furthermore, the report goes on, in most cases they are not large enough for current purposes, let alone future needs. Most departments need about double their current space. But centrally located, easy-to-access alternative sites are hard to come by and expensive.
And while the town does have some alternative property which might meet the specific location and space needs of a particular department, it is often already being used for some other, less appropriate purpose.
“In order to arrive at an appropriate long-term pattern of use for these facilities,” the draft report says, more mildly, “we will need to move some things around.”
Easier said than done, however, for every solution, it seems, brings a new problem. The 26-page draft assessment, which has been a year in the making, does however, suggest solutions to most of them, and goes a long way to at least prioritizing the town’s many needs.
At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Tisbury Senior Center, the planning board will present the report for public discussion. Following that, the board will seek approval to present the report at the town meeting on March 25.
The first priority identified in the board’s plan is the ambulance and fire department. The current buildings are both poorly located, it notes, in the most traffic-snarled parts of downtown, and in poor condition. The fire department building literally cannot fit new vehicles.
Now separate, they have overlapping responsibilities and so should be co-located.
For which they would need about an acre of land, on a major street, with good access to all parts of town.
Fortunately, the draft plan finds, the town does have one parcel of land which would meet the requirments. Unfortunately, that parcel is the site of the current town hall annex on Spring street, right across from the elementary school.
To meet concerns about safety for school children who might otherwise be endangered by hastily arriving and departing emergency services personnel, that would mean reorganizing access, parking and playground facilities at the school.
It would also mean moving the town hall annex, and the departments housed there — the building inspector, health inspector planning board and zoning board of appeals. The suggestion is that they go into a new building, at least until a new town hall is built, at the current department of public works site off High Point Road.
The police could later move to another small site on Spring street, which is now a storage site, and the current police department building adjoining the Stop & Shop parking lot could become town-owned retail and commercial space.
And so the re-shuffling of town properties goes on. But when it gets to the big one, the location of a new town hall, the options become both more numerous and more problematic.
It could perhaps go on the old fire station site — but the site is smallish and also a possible flood risk, which could limit it to being used as a parking lot.
Alternatively, the town hall could be built where the Church street tennis courts now are, and the tennis courts moved to the back of the current Spring street annex site.
Or maybe a deal could be struck to purchase the Roman Catholic church property at Franklin and Clough streets, which would provide space enough to combine the functions of the town hall, the annex and maybe even the police.
It would be expensive though. The property, the report says is probably worth more than $3 million.
The possibilities are many, and the planning committee, as co-chairman L. Anthony Peak explained, did not set out to be prescriptive about a master plan, but to get a handle on exactly what the town owned, what it was worth, what the present and future needs of various departments were, and where priorities lay.
Past efforts at addressing in piecemeal fashion, one or other of the various needs of the various departments had not been successful, he said, as shown by town meeting’s rejection last year of a plan to spend $1.6 million to buy land for a new fire and ambulance building.
“We left with the feeling what the town wanted to see was an assessment of the assets the town had, some work to perhaps estimate present and future needs, and if there was a way to play with those two sets of factors,” Mr. Peak said.
“We sent out a survey ahead of time to all the various boards, and the forms were actually filled out during a personal interview with a representative of each department as to their employee needs, space needs, what they felt was and was not adequate.
“We also compiled a list of all town properties and their assessed values. And we started playing with the various options,” he said. “And this is the result.”