The town of Oak Bluffs is signalling its seriousness about combatting the threat of nitrogen in Vineyard ponds with a warrant article that begins the process of sewering subdivisions along Lagoon Pond. In the annual town meeting warrant selectmen are asking the town to transfer $150,000 from the town’s wastewater retained earnings account to fund the initial planning of the sewering project.

In the wake of a presentation last Wednesday by the Massachusetts Estuaries Project that illustrated the ailing condition of the Lagoon selectmen discussed the remedies at this week’s selectmen’s meeting.

“The bad news is that the ponds are suffering from the amount of nitrogen but the good news is that it can be fixed,” said selectman and wastewater commissioner Gail Barmakian on Tuesday. “We now have a much more comprehensive understanding of the problem and how to address it.”

Two studies have been completed so far about the health of the Lagoon, one by the Mass Department of Environmental Protection and UMass Dartmouth’s Massachusetts Estuaries Project and one by wastewater engineering firm Wright-Pierce. Both studies revealed that the Lagoon was suffering from the effects of excess nitrogen leached into the pond by Title V septic systems. Excess nitrogen promotes algae growth that both clouds water and robs eelgrass beds of light and depletes water systems of oxygen as it decays, leaving formerly robust coastal ponds lifeless.

Last Wednesday estuaries project technical director Brian Howes said that the problem could be fixed by a combination of sewering along either side of the Lagoon and by increasing the residence time of water in the artificial freshwater pond at the head of the Lagoon.

“Originally we were going to do a study for the County Road section of Lagoon Pond,” Ms. Barmakian said on Wednesday, “but as a result of the report from the estuaries project, we’re now rethinking that, and [if voters approve the funds, the initial planning study would] assess where the most effective location on the pond will be.”

The estuaries project report suggested sewering would be most effective towards the Lagoon’s southernmost end.

Separately, Ms. Barmakian said, the wastewater department had awarded a $462,100 bid to Robert B. Our Company to build a new discharge site off of Pennsylvania avenue to increase the leaching capacity of the wastewater plant.

Selectman Ron DiOrio cautioned that the expansion of the wastewater plant could bring about unintended and unwanted consequences.

“We do not want to wind up with all these McMansions once they are sewered on the pond or on the lagoon,” he said. Selectmen have recommended addressing such unsightly buildout through zoning changes.

Another concern is the likely astronomical price tag of the effort. At a presentation last summer, Michael Giggey, a principal with Wright-Pierce, estimated the cost of dealing effectively with the Island’s nitrogen removal needs at $200 million.

“What we can all be assured of is that the bottom line is going to be very, very expensive,” said Mr. DiOrio. “The good news is that the town starts retiring bonds next year.”

The selectmen also agreed that the effort to revive the coastal ponds would require an unprecedented cooperative effort between the down-Island towns.

“It has to become a huge priority for us in the town and I think it’s also going to be a case where the three towns have to work together,” said selectman Greg Coogan. “We clearly have gone too far.”

Mr. DiOrio suggested that in the short term the selectmen schedule a meeting with the Tisbury selectmen to address the Lagoon.

On Tuesday Ms. Barmakian said that another ailing Oak Bluffs pond, Farm Pond, could be the next to benefit from remediation efforts. A Division of Marine Fisheries report has suggested building two eight-foot wide culverts to increase flushing of the pond and Ms. Barmakian said that carrying out those recommendations was in the works.

“Mass Highway will have to be involved with it to help with all the permits and of course money is the issue but apparently there is grant money available for this type of thing,” she said.

On the special town meeting warrant the town also is asking voters to transfer a significant amount of money from its stabilization fund, including $50,000 to repair the library’s HVAC system, $65,558 to supplement line items for veterans’ services, accounting services, tax collector personnel and building office personnel, and $20,000 to pay for the removal of contaminated soils from Circuit avenue extension that were excavated as part of the Lake avenue pedestrian safety project. At the February special town meeting, town administrator Michael Dutton said just over $1 million dollars was in the so-called “rainy day fund.”

A copy of the special and the annual town meeting warrants are published on page Nine-A of this week’s Gazette.

Also on Tuesday Mr. Dutton said that the town received a decision on a long-running court case that could see the town paying up to $40,000 in attorney’s fees to West Tisbury lawyer Dan Larkosh. The fees stem from a case filed in 2003 which involves Barnes Road neighbors Neil and Carla Rolde and Kerry and Mary Caldon. The Roldes charged that the town building inspector failed to enforce town zoning bylaws when the Caldons converted storage space above their garage to a guest house.

“According to town counsel the town has a number of legal bases to appeal that, so that’s what the board has now authorized town counsel to do,” said Mr. Dutton. “This is a long, long-running case. It predates everybody that’s sitting in this room, it predates everyone that’s currently sitting on the [zoning board of appeals]. We’re comfortable with the appeal as we move forward over the next several weeks.”

In an e-mail on Wednesday Mr. Dutton wrote that if the town lost its appeal it would budget for the fees at the end of the year.

“Any legal judgments will get raised on the re-cap, unless there are budgeted funds available. Most communities don’t budget for adverse legal decisions. Raising on the re-cap means that it’s accounted for just before the town sets its tax rate in December.”

Also on Tuesday the town approved a puppet parade on Circuit avenue on April 2 led by Marsha Winsryg to benefit disabled children in Zambia.

Alison Shaw also announced her resignation from the community development council and the town’s ad hoc financial committee in a letter to selectmen.