Votes on School Budget Refuse District Purchase Come Before Two Towns
By MIKE SECCOMBE and JULIA RAPPOPORT
The approval of extra money to fund the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School budget will be recommended to Edgartown and Chilmark voters alike, but the prospects for the approval of more than $1 million to buy land to expand the regional refuse transfer station are looking less certain for at least one of this week's special town meetings.
Edgartown and Chilmark both hold special town meetings on Thursday night to take up the respective questions of funding for the high school budget and land acquisition for the refuse district. The Edgartown meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Whaling Church with moderator Philip J. Norton Jr. presiding; the Chilmark meeting gets under way at 7:30 p.m. at the town community center with moderator Everett H. Poole presiding.
The Edgartown financial advisory committee will recommend the appropriation of an extra $86,000 for the school budget, although only as a matter of expedience.
The extra funds are needed because of a new formula imposed by the state this year that changes the way town assessments are calculated for the regional high school.
Three towns so far have approved the amended high school budget; only one more is needed to ratify it. Tisbury voters will make their decision at a special town meeting tonight. If Tisbury rejects its assessment, the decision will rest with Edgartown and Chilmark on Thursday.
Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck said he believed the expedient thing for the town to do now was approve the extra money and hope that some of it could subsequently be recouped through reimbursement under what is known as the state pothole fund, a special fund set up to reimburse towns for unanticipated expenditures.
"Three of the towns have now voted the budget. If one more town votes it, the school has the budget and then they can go ahead and apply for the pothole money," Mr. Smadbeck said, adding:
"The problem with not voting it is that Chilmark is recommending it. If they do vote it, then there is a budget. If Edgartown hasn't voted the money, we still owe it, and we've got to hold another special town meeting. It's just more expense to the town. The budget is eventually going to get funded, it's just a question of how and when."
In fact Chilmark selectmen have not taken a formal position on the warrant article which would provide an extra $75,258 for the high school - they did not meet last week - but chairman Warren Doty said he personally hoped voters would support it.
"It's time for a yes vote," Mr. Doty said.
He too said he believed there was a good chance the town would then get relief through the pothole fund.
Mr. Doty also advocated a vote in support of the only other article on the Chilmark warrant, which would allow the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District to borrow $1.5 million to acquire land for the expansion of the central transfer facility on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
He said the Island needs to improve its refuse disposal and encourage more composting and use of recycled materials.
But the prospects for the waste disposal facility remain uncertain. The Edgartown financial advisory committee is not supporting it, out of concern about the allocation of costs among the towns.
Edgartown would pick up 69 per cent of the expense of buying the land, with West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah to share the balance between them. Edgartown's share would be just over $1 million.
While costs have been apportioned relative to the amount of waste generated by the four towns, the fact that Oak Bluffs and Tisbury are not part of the deal have caused some to question the benefit of the expansion project.
Oak Bluffs and Tisbury are not members of the regional refuse district, and while leaders in both towns have said they are open to talks to rejoin the district, a joint vote by selectmen in the two towns two weeks ago to award an independent contract for trash hauling gave the opposite appearance.
"I think the impetus to buy that land is not there if you don't have Tisbury and Oak Bluffs participating," Mr. Smadbeck said.
Although he had initially supported the purchase of the land, Mr. Smadbeck said the arguments put forward by the advisory board are well reasoned.
"This [proposal to buy the land] at all came about prior to Oak Bluffs and Tisbury voting not to use the district. Unfortunately for the district that really takes the need away to buy that land. They may never need it. Also Edgartown, beacuse of the formula, would pick up 70 per cent of the cost. The majority of thinking in the room was that was not fair," he said, concluding:
"In all likelihood, I feel the town will agree with the finance committee and the people who think we should wait."