with permission, MV Times

by Sam Bungey

Though it contains some important housekeeping matters, next Tuesday’s Aquinnah special town meeting warrant is noteworthy more for what has been removed than for what remains.

Voters will be asked to help pay for town legal fees using $25,000 left over from a variety of completed projects. The money will help cover some $35,000 in legal costs from this spring. A $3,000 request would begin a project to install six air vents at the town landfill which are a safety requirement. If voters approve next Tuesday, the money will fund installation of the first air vent. And voters will be asked to approve $3,000 to buy and install a new computer in the selectmen’s office.

Walter Delaney will moderate the meeting, set to begin at 7 p.m. at the old town hall.

Until last week, the warrant also included a controversial request to build a performance stage, and another unrelated request to refinance a botched effort to bury power lines, both at the Cliffs.

Both items have been withdrawn, leaving the 15-article warrant a relatively spare affair.

The project to bury power lines at the Cliffs began at the annual town meeting last year when voters approved spending $15,000 from the town Community Preservation Act fund for the project, intended to improve scenic views at the westernmost edge of the Island perched above the sea. Work began on the project last year but was never completed, partly due to problems with the power company NStar and its specifications. The work was also never put out to bid, even though this was required.

Now the project is on hold and voters will be asked next week to return some $8,587 to the general Community Preservation Act reserve fund while selectmen sort out the problems.

At a meeting last Monday selectmen removed an article from the warrant requesting $4,000 from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) budgeted reserve fund to go toward the burial of the power lines. If it had been approved, the $4,000 request would have triggered an amendment to a companion article, upping the amount to $20,000.

The true cost of the project is $24,000, according to estimates from the town CPC.

But last week selectman Camille Rose said it was way too much money to ask from taxpayers during a tight budget season, and she suggested that a more accurate estimate of the work be performed before the issue is taken back to voters.

Meanwhile, there is a lack of clarity from town hall about what has transpired on the job so far.

It is known that some mistakes appear to have been made during the work by Deca construction. Work was halted last fall on the project with the lines yet to be buried or the poles taken down.

It is unclear who was in charge of central decision-making at the town hall, though town coordinator Jeffrey Burgoyne confirmed that Ms. Rose was involved in the process. Ms. Rose confirmed that the work had been done without a proper bidding process but said she preferred not to comment further until the issue is discussed at an official meeting.

Selectman and board chairman Jim Newman said he was away in New York at the time and had no knowledge of proceedings.

It is also unclear whether there were other reasons, beyond the aesthetic concerns, for wanting to do work on the power lines.

Last summer’s Aquinnah Music Festival used power from the electrical service at the town bathrooms. Town wire inspector Peter Dawley said he felt that if summer events at the Cliffs were ever to become a regular fixture, permanent electrical service should be installed. Beyond saying that there was no safety concern, he refused to give a reason for his recommendation.

“I just wanted it done, why do I have to explain myself?” he said yesterday.

Ms. Rose said this week that though a final decision has not been made, she expects the exposed conduits at the Cliffs will likely be cut and capped as a temporary solution.

Also last week selectmen killed a proposal to build a performing arts stage at the Aquinnah circle. The proposal was originally planned for the special town meeting next week.

The Circle proposal was pulled off the warrant by selectmen amid sharp eleventh-hour public protests over the plan. Backers Jim Glavin and Ted Cammann of Circle Productions LLC. said last week that the plan is dead, at least for this year.