Aquinnah voters backed spending for a raft of improvements at the Aquinnah Circle at their annual town meeting Saturday, capping a sprawling two-month political season on the Island.

A total of 60 voters attended the meeting, held on the tarmac outside the town fire station Saturday. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Held outdoors on the tarmac at Aquinnah fire station on a muggy June day, the last annual town meeting of the year in the Island’s smallest town found voters in an argumentative mood from time to time.

A total of 60 voters attended, with hats, long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses the only defense against the sun. Longtime town moderator Michael Hebert presided.

The meeting began with a standing ovation and warm words honoring departing selectman Jim Newman for his six terms on the board. Mr. Newman is not seeking re-election this year.

“I just want to take a moment to recognize Jim Newman for the 18 years he has served as a selectman . . . I’ve found him to be thoughtful, creative, honest and a real dedicated servant to the town of Aquinnah,” said town administrator Jeffrey Madison.

Also before taking up the warrant, select board member Juli Vanderhoop took note of the Juneteenth national holiday marking the official end to slavery in the U.S.

“Soon the day will come when in unison we will say forever and ever all Americans will celebrate Juneteenth, the freedom holiday,” she said.

Longtime moderator Michael Hebert guided voters through the 28-article warrant. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Voters rattled through the 28-article warrant mostly without dissent, approving a slate of school spending articles and Community Preservation Act projects. But the meeting bogged down over a request for town hall upgrades, an affordable housing project and the sale of a town-owned piece of land off Lighthouse Road.

The town has struggled for years to find accord on a plan to dispose of a 3.6-acre parcel of land at the end of Pancake Hollow Road. An article on Saturday’s warrant asked voters to allow the town to put the property up for sale at a minimum price of $450,000. If approved, it would rescind previous town meeting votes in 2004 and 2008 to allow the sale. A two-thirds majority vote was needed, and in the end the article failed after voters argued over the details. A motion to table failed, followed by a motion to indefinitely postpone which passed 37-17.

There was argument too over the details of a long-running plan to build affordable rental housing behind the town hall, along with a so-called food forest and a playground, but in the end the measure was approved unanimously.

Ms. Vanderhoop passionately defended the need for rental housing. “These [renters] are the people that serve our community on this Island . . . These are the people . . . that need homes. We cannot cut them out,” she said, drawing applause.

A request for $85,000 to design new bathroom facilities at the Circle and renovations and an addition to town hall, and a second article seeking $20,000 for town hall improvements also saw debate. Adrian Higgins called the cost of the design work “exorbitant.”

Selectmen Juli Vanderhoop (left) and Jim Newman. — Mark Alan Lovewell

But Ms. Vandherhoop advocated strongly for the project.

“We’re not looking to build the Taj Mahal for sure — I get it, I really do — but we’re behind the eight-ball on rehab on these old buildings,” Ms. Vanderhoop said.

The article easily achieved a needed two-thirds majority, passing 51-8.

As a late-afternoon cloud cover crept in the meeting wound down, and 10 school-related articles were easily approved, including funding for electric school buses, technology upgrades at the regional high school and capital improvements at the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools.

Funding for work at the Manning property and Vanderhoop Homestead also passed without ado.

A $5.6 million operating budget was approved — a 6.5 per cent increase over last year — but voters were unable to review the budget line by line after it was discovered that the budget mistakenly had not been printed in the town report.

The meeting adjourned just after 5:30 p.m.

The annual town election is June 24, with contested races for seats on the select board and board of health. Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m.

More pictures.