The lights have been on late at the Old Whaling Church this week as artist Margot Datz hurries to finish trompe l’oeil murals on the side and back walls of the church in time for next Tuesday’s annual town meeting.
When voters gather within the newly painted walls next Tuesday, they will take on a town meeting warrant with 66 articles and a $30.7 million town budget.
“I don’t think we have anything too controversial,” selectman and board chairman Margaret Serpa said, noting that the town took on some big spending items in previous years. “We’ve been trying to plan for those expenditures as they come in and try not to hit the whole thing in one year.”
“Hopefully it’ll go smoothly,” she added. “You never know until everybody gets there and you hear what their opinions are.”
Edgartown special and annual town meetings will convene at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 8 at the Old Whaling Church on Main street. The evening will start with a special town meeting warrant with 10 articles, followed by the annual town meeting.
Moderator Philip J. Norton Jr. will preside.
The financial advisory committee recommends a $30.7 million town budget, up about three per cent from last year.
The budget contains “nothing as far as I can see that was earth-shattering,” finance advisory committee vice-chairman Leslie Baynes said, noting that the town has done a good job of keeping expenses down. There will not be a budget override.
Mr. Baynes said the finance committee is not recommending the town’s assessment from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, which is more than $384,000.
Over the past few months, the finance committee has had meetings with the commission about the budget and staffing levels. Mr.
Baynes said he hopes to make those discussions ongoing. “It’s pretty basic, just normal increases,” Mrs. Serpa said of the budget, adding that most departments have kept their budgets fairly level funded. “The town is in good shape so that helps.”
Among the biggest spending items on the 66-article annual town meeting warrant is $350,000 in Community Preservation Act funding for interior improvements at town hall. Exterior town hall renovations were completed over the winter, and the town will now address the inside of the building.
“There’s quite a bit that needs to be done,” Mrs. Serpa said. “It just hasn’t been done for quite awhile and the outside looks so nice, it’d be nice to have the inside looking nice as well.”
The $350,000 includes restoring a plaster relief done by noted sculptor Enid Yandell. The artwork hung at the Old Edgartown School, which was torn down last fall, and the plans is to restore the artwork and display it in town hall.
Other community preservation items include $85,000 to create an adult workout space at the Robinson Road recreation area. The community preservation committee also submitted several affordable housing items, including $250,000 for the next steps in an Edgartown affordable housing committee project to develop affordable housing on Meshacket Road.
Other town meeting spending ranges from $400,00 for building and repairing various town sidewalks, bike paths and storm water drainage systems to $5,000 in community preservation funds to study preserving historic gravestones.
The town will be asked whether to spend $197,000 to replace and upgrade current self-contained underwater breathing apparatuses and related equipment for the police department and $84,000 to purchase and equip two new police cruisers. Other items include $150,000 for rebuilding and resurfacing various town streets and $95,000 to pave a portion of Aero avenue from the intersection of Katama Road to the parking lot at Katama Farm, $131,000 for the town’s 25 per cent portion to upgrade and protect the Dock street sewer pump station against flood damage, and $140,000 to replace a secondary clarifier drive at the wastewater treatment facility.
Edgartown joins other Island towns in looking at several regional initiatives. Each town is being asked to contribute community preservation money for the relocation of the Gay Head Light, which is threatened by erosion. Edgartown’s portion would be $149,704.
The town will also vote on spending $50,000 from the community preservation unreserved fund for the rehabilitation of a Little League baseball field in Oak Bluffs.
Edgartown will vote on whether to appropriate $27,756 from free cash for Adult Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard. ACE MV has asked all Island towns to contribute to their fiscal year 2015 administrative costs through a contract with the All-Island school committee. The funds will not be available unless all six towns vote in favor of the funding.
Each Island town is also going to vote on whether to adopt regulatiuons for a fertilizer control district of critical planning concern. The regulations were developed by Island boards of health in an attempt to protect drinking water and coastal ponds and were approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. The regulations would dictate new guidelines for fertilizer use by landscape professionals.
Following the lead of a few other Vineyard towns, Edgartown will look at amending its zoning bylaws to add registered marijuana dispensaries as a use allowed by special permit in the B-II Upper Main Street district. Approval requires a two-thirds majority.
A short special town meeting will also convene that night to take care of business including adding $35,000 to $40,000 already appropriated to repair the roof at Katama Farm, spending $24,000 to replace two copy machines at town hall, $26,000 to purchase a vehicle to replace a 1998 Ford Explorer used by the assessors department and board of health, and $32,000 to purchase and equip a new truck for the animal control department.
The special town meeting will vote on whether to have the town clerk become an appointed position. It is now an elected position.
Town clerk Wanda Williams advocated for the switch noting that the town clerk must be up to date on ever shifting changes and the job requires a level of expertise. An appointed town clerk would allow the town to hire experienced people from other towns; elected officials must reside in Edgartown. The question is also on the annual town election ballot when voters head to the polls on Thursday, April 10. There are no contested races, and selectman Margaret Serpa is running unopposed for her sixth term on the board. Polls are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the selectmen’s meeting room at town hall.