Land Trust awards stewardship bids

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 5:45pm

The Block Island Land Trust has opened its bids for stewardship for some of its properties for the new year.

As happened last year, there were only three bidders: Reevo, Connelli Land Improvement, and Islandscape, which is owned by Harold “Turtle” Hatfield, who recused himself from voting on the bids. The bids are for mowing and stone wall clearing at various Land Trust properties. The mowing bids were split between the three, with the Land Trust awarding the lowest bidder with each job. Islandscape was the only one to bid on the wall clearing.

Conserved land on the island now totals 46.7 percent, with a stated long-term goal of conserving 50 percent. Should that goal be increased? How should conservation land be used? Are people satisfied with current uses? All those questions and more could be included in a “public priorities poll” the Land Trust will be conducting in the not-too-distant future. 

How a question is phrased is also important. Chair Barbara MacMullan said: “We need to be careful so as not to raise certain expectations.” (At the previous meeting she used as an example the difference between asking this question: “Do you want a fitness center?” Or phrasing it this way: “Would you be willing to pay more property taxes for a fitness center?”

The Land Trust derives its revenues from a transfer tax on sales of real property on the island. Transfer fees collected in November were $433,965, on sales of $15.2 million. MacMullan said that was the second highest monthly total in Land Trust History. The highest month was October of 2004, when approximately $531,000 was collected. She added that there have been a few months when zero fees were collected. The Land Trust was founded in 1986. 

The trustees elected officers for the upcoming year. Except for the office of Treasurer, which Trustee Wendy Crawford agreed to take on, officers will remain in their positions, with MacMullan as chair and Denny Heinz as vice-chair. Heinz said he only agreed to serve “As long as you, Barbara, keep coming to meetings.”