Edgartown voters readily approved nearly all articles, including a $32 million town operating budget at their annual town meeting. But they stopped short of spending $2.1 million to buy the Main street Mini-Park from the Hall family.

After Boy Scouts presented the colors, town poet laureate Steve Ewing set the tone for the evening by reading a poem that began “How was your winter?” The 259 voters filling the Old Whaling Church pews responded with laughter.

About 30 minutes into the meeting, friends and neighbors had a chance to catch up during a surprise Australian ballot vote. During review of the town budget, Peter Look moved for an amendment to change the way a new police chief will be selected. The town has appointed labor attorney John (Jack) Collins to serve as interim chief and help the town in the search for a new chief to replace Antone Bettencourt, who recently retired.

Meeting snagged at the start over amendment and Australian ballot. — Maria Thibodeau

Mr. Look proposed a seven-member committee made up of selectmen, patrolmen, and others to choose the new chief. “I think the process is wrong. It desperately needs the light of day,” he said.

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck said the town’s selection process has worked well in the past. “I don’t see any reason to upset the apple cart at this time,” he said.

Mr. Look’s motion got a second, and longtime moderator Philip J. Norton agreed to his request to conduct the vote by Australian (secret) ballot. The room filled with conversation as rows of voters filed to the front to cast paper ballots. In the end the motion failed 149-97.

Murmurs went around the room that with 76 articles on the warrant, the meeting might go to a second night. But under the guidance of longtime moderator Philip J. Norton, voters sped through the next 48 articles on the ballot, easily approving them all, most unanimously.

The budget, which includes making the position of fire chief a full-time job, was easily approved.

Old Whaling Church center stage occupied by selectmen, town officials. — Maria Thibodeau

Throughout the meeting, Mr. Norton showed that two traits of a good moderator might be humor and a good memory.

A proposal to spend $25,000 for an integrated pest management program drew a question about whether the program included ticks. The answer was no.

“This is for what, rats?” Mr. Norton said. “There are no rats around here.”

“I used that last year, didn’t I,” he said, to laughter from the crowd.

Voters approved several community preservation spending projects, including $223,000 for studies, testing and mapping to proceed with an affordable housing project at Meshacket Road, $250,000 in improvements at Memorial Wharf, and projects to install a boardwalk to the Edgartown lighthouse, to restore items and make improvements at the Whale Tail park, and $3,400 to restore an 1830 portrait of Ichabod Norton.

“Any relation to the moderator?” came a voice from the crowd. “My uncle,” Mr. Norton responded without missing a beat, moving on to the next item.

The town also approved $40,000 for the annual Fourth of July fireworks, $100,000 for a new generator for the Edgartown School, two new police four wheel drive vehicles, a new fire truck and a jet ski for the fire department, and $575,000 to resurface town streets and build and repair town sidewalks, bike paths, and storm drain systems.

Longtime moderator Philip J. Norton Jr. presides with a sure hand and ready sense of humor. — Maria Thibodeau

Voters also easily approved two large regional projects, a plan for the county to purchase a building to house the Center for Living and a proposal to building a new facility for the schools superintendent. The town also approved a regional plan to improve the Edgartown transfer station for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District.

A proposal to appropriate $775,000 to pave Meetinghouse Way provoked spirited debate among residents, some who said the current dirt road was not drivable, dangerous, dusty and loud, and others who said paving the road would increase traffic, encourage drivers to speed, and ruin the character of the neighborhood.

Meetinghouse Way resident Brian Byrne gathered signatures to place the paving project on the town meeting warrant. “I get woken up every morning by trucks and traffic,” he said, adding that paving the road would help the Island cope with population growth. The proposal was before the town, he said, “Because we as concerned citizens wanted it to move forward.”

Planning board member Alan Wilson said his board should review the project. “The biggest problem that I foresee is that’s the major access to the beaches of Edgartown. That will become a throughway, not the back road you know now,” he said.

Other said they were concerned about whether paving would allow for bike paths or bridle paths. Town administrator Pamela Dolby agreed to place a town meeting article next year to create a bike path on Meetinghouse Way.

Island Grove resident Sam Sherman said “beautiful dirt roads” are disappearing on the Island. “That is one of the major dirt roads we have left,” he said. “What will that road become? It will become the West Tisbury Road, it will be so clogged in the summertime, the noise from the traffic will be nothing compared to the noise you have on the dirt road.”

The vote went in favor of paving the road 158-32, above the required two-thirds majority. The paving project also needed approval at the town election Thursday.

Peter Look proposed amendment to the way a new police chief will be selected. — Maria Thibodeau

The town was less amenable to a proposal to spend $2.15 million to purchase or take by eminent domain the Mini Park on Main street. The town currently leases the property from the Hall family.

“Is this adversarial to the owners or with the owners’ consent?” someone asked. “What do you think?” Mr. Norton responded.

“We always hope that in any negotiation like this that it can be a friendly feeling, but there’s no way to know that until we would actually sit down at the table,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

Benjamin Hall Jr. said the property had been in his family since 1929, and they had started leasing the land to the town in 1979 with an agreement that the town would never try to take it. The family is not interested in selling, he said, adding that he believed the cost to take the property was probably closer to $4 million. “The lease is up in May. We’ve provided a new lease,” he said.

He urged the town to reject the article and asked for indefinite postponement. That motion failed.

“What is the objection to paying the lease?” Bruce Nevin asked.

Selectman Margaret Serpa said rent and taxes for the property since 1979 have been $384,053. “And it keeps going up and up every year that they renew,” she said. She said the conservation commission put the article to the community preservation committee, and it was overwhelmingly approved after a public hearing.

The project required a two-thirds majority to pass; it failed 108-66.

The meeting concluded by 10:30 p.m. “Don’t forget to pay your taxes and vote on Thursday,” Mr. Norton said to the departing crowd.