Oak Bluffs selectmen Tuesday elected a new chairman, hosted a public hearing on a state plan to resurface several downtown streets and heard updated plans to repair the crumbling waterfront and dredge Sengekontacket Pond.
The meeting began with a presentation by MassHighway officials on a $1.3 million proposal for improvements along Oak Bluffs and Lake avenues that includes the installation of new crosswalks, curbing and sidewalks. The upgrades will provide wheelchair ramps and new bike lanes and reconfigure parking along several roadways in the heart of the downtown corridor.
Project engineer John Diaz said work would begin this fall and take approximately five months. He said the new travel lanes and parking configurations would improve traffic flow, while new curbing — called bump-outs — will enhance pedestrian safety.
Selectman Kerry Scott asked if the new sidewalks could be raised, to eliminate steps in front of several buildings like the Little Dipper ice cream shop and the Strand movie theatre that cause problems for the elderly and people in wheelchairs.
Mr. Diaz said doing so would require the entire corridor to be regraded and at a significantly higher cost.
Anson Krickl, the associate commissioner for handicap affairs for Dukes County, urged the state to consider improving access to as many buildings as possible. “It would be a shame to miss this one-time opportunity to make it better for everyone,” he said.
The public hearing on the plan was brief and largely positive. State officials said they would try to incorporate public comment into the final plans as much as possible.
Selectmen next turned to choosing a new chairman and unanimously elected Ron DiOrio with little discussion or fanfare. Selectman Gregory Coogan will take over as vice chairman.
Next, members of the Dukes County charter revision commission took the floor to explain that after nearly 18 months and numerous public hearings and meetings, the panel is close to voting on final recommendations for changes to county government.
Paddy Moore, co-chairman of the charter commission, said the panel earlier this year unanimously agreed to recommend keeping county government in one form or another. Ms. Moore said the commission is also leaning toward recommending eliminating the county manager in favor of a commission chairman form of government.
Selectman Roger Wey, who is also a county commissioner, said he had concerns about eliminating the county manager position in favor of a commission chairman.
“The county manager is professionally trained . . . I’m not saying a chairman wouldn’t be capable . . . but having someone without that level of expertise concerns me,” Mr. Wey said.
Mrs. Moore said final recommendations will need approval both from Dukes County voters and the state legislature.