West Tisbury selectmen want to clarify whether the town can restrict private companies taking water from public land.
Selectmen this week approved a request by conservation commission chairman Prudy Burt to ask town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport to review the town’s authority to regulate or prohibit water taking.
Ms. Burt said she had seen a dramatic increase in landscaping companies filling water tank trucks from the Mill Brook on Scotchman’s Bridge Lane.
“There has historically been occasional use of town water by residents and others, but we see landscapers filling their tanks almost on a daily basis,” Ms. Burt told the board. “We are also concerned that landscapers may be flushing their tanks, releasing contaminants into the water supply.”
She attributed increased demand for water to the growth in hydro seeding, a planting process using a slurry of seed and mulch, and caterpillar spraying by landscapers.
The Mill Brook is the primary source of water for the Mill Pond at the junction of State Road and the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
Ms. Burt and the board are concerned that the water level of the Mill Pond would be drastically affected by a combination of water taking and drought in late summer.
“We simply don’t know whether we have jurisdiction here but we would be derelict in our duty if we didn’t call attention to this situation,” she said.
Ms. Burt said some towns designate a specific site for water taking. Vineyard Haven has designated a metered hydrant at the Park and Ride lot for the purpose, she said. Vineyard Haven issues users a $350 annual permit and a key to the hydrant. The town has installed a meter that monitors water use at the hydrant, according to Lois Norton, Tisbury water systems administrator.
In other news, selectmen voted to create a yet-unnamed committee to plan a system that would pull together the town’s pedestrian and bicycling paths. The aim is to better integrate West Tisbury’s paths with the Island bus system and with paths owned by the state and other Island towns.
As proposed, the committee will not replace any committees such as the bicycle path committee, the path beside the road committee or the byways committee — though members of those committees will be asked to participate in the new committee.
Finally, the board reviewed and agreed, with one exception, on 10 guidelines for town committees to use in their work.
Selectman Richard Knabel disagreed with language that would prohibit selectmen from soliciting individuals for service on selectmen-appointed committees.
The guidelines have been sent to all town committees for review and comment. About half have responded to date.
The guidelines, initially proposed by Mr. Knabel, call for committees to write down goals, purposes and operational rules; prepare a summary report for the town report; and meet annually or as needed with selectmen. They also would require term limits for committee members and end dates for temporary committees. All committees would have an odd number of members with staggered terms.