Chilmark Voters Dispatch Town Business
By MAX HART
A busy week in Chilmark began Monday with voters moving briskly through the annual town meeting, continued Wednesday with high turnout at the ballot box and ends today with another bit of important business - the reopening of the Chilmark Store.
And so goes the short and relatively quiet political season in the small up-Island town.
A total of 405 voters - or 50 per cent of the 806 registered voters in town - turned out on a bright and sunny Wednesday to cast their ballots in an election that featured two contested races. Jan Buhrman, a write-in candidate, defeated Robert B. (Bart) Thorpe in a race for the board of health seat left vacant by Matthew E. Poole, who stepped down after 16 years of service. Ms. Buhrman received 221 votes to Mr. Thorpe's 172.
"I am really looking forward to delving in and working with the board, the agent and rest of the town," Ms. Buhrman said Thursday. The caterer admitted she was surprised by the outcome, which she did not learn about until almost 11 o'clock Wednesday night, adding:
"It was a wonderful process and a great opportunity to meet the people who live here, too. The whole thing made me even more excited and proud to live in this town. I am looking forward to having fun," she said.
Voters also returned incumbent selectman Frank M. Fenner Jr. to office for another three years. Mr. Fenner had little trouble defeating challenger Steve Gallas, 282 votes to 104. Mr. Fenner now enters his third term as a selectman.
Voters also approved borrowing $550,000 for repairs to the West (Filled) Dock in Menemsha. The Proposition 2 1/2 override ballot question passed 305 to 63.
Monday night saw less voter participation, with only 120 voters, 15 per cent of those registered in Chilmark, turning out for the annual town meeting - a small number for a town that usually attracts a full house.
But with little discussion, little dissent and in surprisingly little time, they breezed through the 22-article warrant in just over an hour. By the time moderator Everett H. Poole banged the gavel to adjourn, voters has approved an amended and reduced operating budget of $5.88 million, 10 spending requests totaling almost $500,000 and several nonbinding resolutions. A round of applause and some laughter rippled through the Chilmark Community Center as Mr. Poole's gavel fell.
The evening opened with a bouquet of flowers and a resounding thank you for the service of Catherine A. Thompson, the Chilmark Public Library director who is retiring this year after 17 years of service. Selectman Warren Doty presented Mrs. Thompson with the flowers, praising her dedication.
Voters then tackled the operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. Several line items prompted questions, but when selectman J.B. Riggs Parker amended the budget to reflect last minute reductions that totaled $6,746, the questions ceased and the budget was approved.
From there, it was relatively smooth sailing.
Every article passed with unanimous support, and there was barely a whisper from the voters. In fact, only three residents - former town treasurer Judith Jardin, Jay Lagemann and Bonnie George - questioned any of the articles.
Ms. Jardin pressed selectmen on three of the first four articles. She first questioned the board about several items in the budget, including a $10,000 increase in the selectmen's unclassified fund for maintenance in the operating budget and an increase in the administrative assistant salary for the board of health.
Ms. Jardin then asked about the Engley House, the Middle Road property the town purchased almost four years ago. There has been no activity with the property, which selectmen say has been tied up in executive session.
"At this point, we are not doing anything with it," Mr. Fenner said, responding to Ms. Jardin. "We don't have any plans for it, but anything we decide to do, we will come back to the town."
From there, voters cruised through the rest of the warrant. Among other things they approved transferring $75,000 in free cash into the town stabilization fund; spending $5,000 for new acoustic ceiling treatments for the community center; spending $8,000 on new computer software for the town hall, and spending $13,750 for the town's share in enrolling the Tisbury Great Pond in the Massachusetts Estuaries Project.
The next pause in the proceedings came with only four articles left. Mr. Lagemann offered an amendment to a proposed bylaw that would allow the town to charge homeowners for false fire alarms. Mr. Lagemann wanted to change the language to include incremental fee increases for each false alarm. Mr. Lagemann's amendment was passed, as was the bylaw.
Regarding an article that would allow the Tri-Town Ambulance committee to begin charging and billing insurance companies for ambulance runs, Mrs. George inquired as to how much one run costs. Mr. Doty read a statement from the committee which put the figure at $600, and voters approved the article unanimously.
After a request for $684 to pay an old bill was indefinitely postponed, the final request for $2,000 was also unanimously approved, and Mr. Poole adjourned the meeting at 8:38 p.m.
Elected without contest on Wednesday were:
Leonard Jason Jr., assessor, three years; William J. Meegan, Mitchell Posin and Timothy W. Lasker (write-in), planning board, five years; Frank S. Yeomans, finance and advisory committee, three years; Jane N. Slater, library trustee, three years; John O. Flender, cemetery commissioner, three years; Mitchell Posin, fence viewer, three years; Keith Emin, tree warden, one year, and Pamela S. Goff, Chilmark representative to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank, three years.