Citing concerns over the rising number of coronavirus cases on the Vineyard, the Aquinnah selectmen followed in the footsteps of Oak Bluffs Tuesday, voting to cancel their Saturday special town meeting.
The meeting had originally been scheduled outdoors in the town fire station’s parking lot, with a quorum requirement of 43 Aquinnah residents. Town officials had planned to space chairs six feet apart on the tarmac during the meeting, and town administrator Jeff Madison was also planning to hold an informational Zoom forum Thursday for residents with questions about the warrant in hopes of speeding up procedure.
Despite the safety and social distancing precautions, selectmen on Tuesday felt that holding the meeting would be inappropriate considering the recent spike in Island coronavirus cases.
“We have to have a minimum of 43 people at the meeting,” selectman Jim Newman said. “That’s a large gathering. Even though it’s outside, I question the feasibility and the safety aspect of it. Particularly now with the increase in cases on the Island.”
The most substantial articles on the warrant included $35,000 to begin the engineering, planning and design process for renovations and additions to the town hall, and $20,000 to begin the same process for new restrooms at the Aquinnah Circle.
There were also articles on the warrant to pay the sums owed on several town accounts. The largest outstanding bill is $24,119 to cover the cost of deep-cleaning the restrooms at the Aquinnah circle throughout the summer.
After discussion regarding the logistics of the meeting and the town’s ability to achieve a quorum, selectmen Juli Vanderhoop floated the idea of going ahead with the meeting as planned.
“We could still post it and let the people show or not show, being as democratic as that may be. We’re either going to get a quorum for the half an hour to 40 minute meeting and move through it or we will not,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “If we put it off, we’re not doing business.”
But Ms. Vanderhoop ultimately came around to cancelling the meeting, agreeing that public safety was a top priority.
“We just want everybody to be healthy,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “One way or another we’ll get through this and all those bills can wait.”
Selectmen and other meeting participants also brainstormed solutions to the gathering issue should cases on the Island continue to climb, including emailing out the warrant or holding the town meeting over Zoom.
Mr. Madison then said he would bring all the ideas to town council Ron Rappaport and report back to the selectmen what the town’s options are going forward.
In other business at the meeting, the selectmen gave unanimous support to Mr. Madison to engage in talks to repair the revetment at the end of Lobsterville Road and Red Beach.
Mr. Madison said he’s gotten multiple calls recently about the revetment, hearing that it has collapsed.
“The water has risen in recent years and it has undermined the stones there so they’ve shifted. In some instances they’ve moved to a point where there are rocks sticking up and people trip or stub their toes on them. The revetment has to be restructured or pretty soon the highway is going to be undercut and collapse,” Mr. Madison said.
Before adjourning, the selectmen also unanimously appointed Forrest Filler as Aquinnah’s new emergency manager. Mr. Filler replaces Gary Robinson, who Mr. Madison said “spoke very highly of [Mr. Filler].”