A plan to renovate the ailing Oak Bluffs town hall will get a third chance after voters voiced strong approval for the plan at their annual town meeting Tuesday night.

Budget and most other spending items passed easily. — Jeanna Shepard

Held outdoors beneath the canopy of the Tabernacle, the meeting saw a strong turnout with 239 voters in a historic year. All the voters wore masks, and late-day light trickled through stained glass clerestory windows. Pollen-dusted benches were marked with large taped Xs on to designate six feet of space between voters. Other voters lined the perimeter of the Tabernacle.

The annual warrant was pared down to 20 articles, with only essential spending items in a year of widespread austerity measures, as the town anticipates lower revenues due to the pandemic. The $13.3 million town hall renovation project topped the warrant.

This marks the third try for the town to try to pass muster with voters for a town hall plan.

On Tuesday night there was a video tour presented by town leaders and architects, and discussion.

Bill McGrath, who had been a member of the town committee that developed the last plan that ultimately failed, said the new plan is more expensive and does not measure up.

“I asked for $1.3 million to add to the $9 million that would’ve given us a brand new town hall and 19 months later, we’re at $13.4 million for what, in my option is a lesser building,” he said. “I don’t think, despite all the needs the town has for a new facility, this is the way to go.”

But former selectman Walter Vail urged voters to look forward, not backward.

X marked the spots for sitting six feet apart. — Jeanna Shepard

“I sympathize with what has been said . . . It’s too bad that it didn’t pass [the last time], but in my opinion, this time, as much as people might choke at $13.4 million, this project has to get done,” Mr. Vail said. “It’s time that we bite the bullet. It is time to pass this new town hall.”

In the end the plan was approved 176-30.

The project still needs approval on a debt exemption question at the annual town election Thursday.

Voters easily approved most other articles on the warrant, including A $2.7 million capital improvement plan to repair and replace downtown sidewalks.

A final design has not been decided on yet, and Luke Debettencourt, owner of the Corner Store, wanted to ensure that all businesses would have a way to have their voices heard on the design before it’s approved. Selectman Brian Packish assured him that they would.

Erin Tiernan, an owner of Basics, told a story about her grandmother falling on a downtown sidewalk and breaking her elbow. She said the project needs to be done in order to prevent future injuries like that.

The article passed 156-13.

Voters also agreed to spend $815,000 to buy a parcel of land owned by Eversource abutting the Oak Bluffs Senior Center on Uncas avenue. The town plans to use the property as a paid parking lot. The town’s share ($28,000) of a new dust collection system at the regional high school in the building trades was also approved

Keeping alive the purest form of democracy — the New England annual town meeting. — Jeanna Shepard

A package of spending initiatives using Community Preservation Act funds were also approved totaling just over $770,000, including $51,000 to replace the windows at the Cottagers’ Corner building, $3,500 for the preservation of an historic ox cart at the Agricultural Society, $50,000 for the restoration of a historic pipe organ at the Union Chapel, $49,500 to restore Hartford Park, and $200,000 for the Sunset Lake project.

An amended $32.4 million town operating budget was approved, with no cost of living increases for town employees. Town administrator Robert Whritenour said the budget had been trimmed by $500,000 and bolstered by free cash. And he assured voters that this would be a year of fiscal responsibility in Oak Bluffs.

“We will emerge from this town meeting in a very strong financial condition. I anticipate that the revenues will hopefully not go down the entire amount we’ve reduced from the budget,” Mr. Whritenour said. “We’ll be back in the fall to re-gauge things, see where we stand and continue to be cautious and that is how we’ve generated that positive performance in the last seven years.”

He concluded: “The key thing is the local property taxes aren’t in any threat whatsoever, those can continue to be strong in Oak Bluffs. So, any of the projects here in front of you, you can be confident that they will not be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Moderator Jesse (Jack) Law 3rd gaveled the meeting to order two hours before sunset. By the time the meeting adjourned, darkness had descended on the Camp Ground, still quiet this year.

More pictures.