News in Brief
Motorcyclist fails to outwit Oak Bluffs police
A speeding motorcyclist fled from Oak Bluffs police Sunday and then tried to scam officers by claiming that he was not the driver, that his motorcycle had been stolen earlier in the day, Lt. Tim Williamson told The Times yesterday.
According to a police report of the incident, officer Steven Pupek was parked on Sea View Avenue when his radar unit clocked two motorcycles traveling north at 55 miles per hour (MPH) in a 25 mph zone. He stepped out of his cruiser and motioned for the operators to pull over.
Officer Pupek said the driver of a black and gray street bike shook his head in agreement and started to slow down as he passed the police cruiser then sped up and turned down Tuckernuck Avenue. The other motorcyclist proceeded straight along Sea View Avenue and was not apprehended.
Officer Pupek radioed to officer Jeffrey LaBell for assistance and followed the bike that had turned down Tuckernuck. The speeding motorcyclist estimated to be traveling at a speed of 45 mph went through a stop sign at the Naumkeag intersection and at the intersection of Pocasset Avenue and Circuit Avenue and continued onto Masonic Avenue and drove into the backyard of a residence, where the officer could not follow, according to the police report.
Officer Pupek lost sight of the motorcyclist. As officers Pupek and LaBell slowly searched the neighborhood, the search took an unusual twist.
A man wearing a black and white jacket waved down officer LaBell and told him his motorcycle had just been stolen. The man, later identified as Wesley M. Silva, matched the speeding motorcyclist described by officer Pupek, who arrived at the location and recognized the man's clothing.
A neighbor approached the officers and told them he had seen Mr. Silva walk from behind the house next to his. The officers found a black and gray Honda street bike in the backyard with no key in the ignition, warm exhaust pipes, and a helmet.
Mr. Silva said he had been in a friend's car looking for his motorcycle. "Officer LaBell and I believed Silva wasn't being truthful," wrote Officer LaBell in his report. "We observed that Silva had marks consistent with the pressure from recently wearing a helmet on his face. When asked for a license, Silva stated that he didn't have one."
The officers placed Mr. Silva under arrest. During their search of Mr. Silva, the officers found in his pocket a key to the motorcycle Mr. Silva said had been stolen.
Mr. Silva, 25, of Colonial Drive, Tisbury, was charged with failure to stop for a police officer, unlicensed operation, trespassing with a motor vehicle, speeding, failure to stop at four stop signs, and operating to endanger.
According to Edgartown District Court records published in The Times, on Aug. 15, 2005 a charge of unlicensed operation of motor vehicle against Mr. Silva was dismissed, and Mr. Silva was ordered to pay $100 court costs and complete eight hours of community service. On Oct. 31, 2005, a charge of unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle was dismissed upon payment of $50 court costs and completion of 12 hours community service.
Edgartown fire destroys work shed, three antique cars
The smell of smoke early Monday led to the discovery of a fire in a barn housing three antique automobiles off Pine Street in Edgartown.
Edgartown Fire chief Peter Shemeth said the call came at 2:49 am. Firefighters, roused from their sleep, responded quickly, but the barn, the former work shed of Milton Jeffers, was already engulfed in flames.
Windy conditions created a hazardous situation, Chief Shemeth said. Oak Bluffs, asked to provide assistance, responded quickly.
"We were dealing with wind, small spot fires, and a large amount of ash," said Mr. Shemeth.
Brian Nelson is the owner of the house. Lenny Donaroma owned the cars, Mr. Shemeth said. The cause is undetermined, and the fire remains under investigation.
Chief Shemeth praised the firefighters from both departments for their professionalism and their response to the early morning call.
New hospital gets its footings
The construction of a new Martha's Vineyard Hospital moved a big step forward Friday. Cement trucks began arriving in the morning as pouring commenced for the footings that will support the three-story $42 million building.
"We are on our way," said hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh. "This is the end result of a lot of effort by a lot of people on and off the Island."
Kerry pushes bill that SSA says would slow ferries
At the Steamship Authority (SSA) monthly meeting held in Vineyard Haven Tuesday morning boatline general manager Wayne Lamson said that legislation introduced by Senator John Kerry could dramatically affect boatline operations if right whales are sighted near the islands.
The sparsely attended public meeting included an optimistic report on SSA traffic numbers for the Vineyard, an update on the Oak Bluffs terminal reconstruction project and changes to the boatline advertising policy.
Mr. Lamson referred to legislation sponsored by Senator Kerry when asked by The Times to provide an update on bills that have been floating around in the Massachusetts legislature. He said bills pushed by boatline union leaders that would change the SSA board membership and force the SSA to engage in binding arbitration are currently dormant.
The "Ship Strike Reduction Act of 2008," co-sponsored by Republican Olympia Snow of Maine, would require Federal authorities to act within 30 days to finalize a rule that calls for vessels 65 long and over to reduce speed to 10 knots when traveling within 30 nautical miles of ports between Savannah, Georgia and Boston during the peak right whale migratory months, November through March.
Mr. Lamson said if the ship reduction act emerges unchanged it would mean that a right whale sighting anywhere near Nantucket would require the SSA to slow to 10 knots and suspend high speed ferry service. He said it is unclear what the final language will be and nobody has seen the final rules.
The federal rule enforcing the speed limits, known as "the Ship Strike Rule," was first proposed in February 2007, but the rule has been buried in the regulatory process for over a year.
In a press release announcing the act, Senator Kerry blamed the Bush administration for the delay in finalizing the protections. The bill does not specify what specific regulatory measures need to be in the final rule, just that the administration needs to stop foot-dragging, with at least the level of whale protection contained in the rule, said a spokesperson for Mr. Kerry
In other business, the members unanimously approved extending the SSA advertising policy to encompass the boatline's website, brochures, schedules and video informational displays.
The boatline will also prohibit advertising for alcoholic beverages in keeping with state regulations prohibiting such advertising on vessels licensed to sell alcohol.
In one more change, the members agreed not to accept advertising from competitors unless the general manager determines that the revenue will offset the potential loss of ridership income.
Referring to former Nantucket member Grace Grossman, SSA board chairman Flint Ranney, Nantucket member, said his predecessor was violently opposed to advertising, but nobody on Nantucket seems to be opposed anymore. He invited public comment, but not one of the few people present spoke.
Carl Walker, SSA director of engineering, provided an update on the Oak Bluffs terminal. He said that despite delays it would be operational when service begins on May 21.
Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member, raised the topic of the lift decks on the Island Home. He said some people are uncomfortable driving up on the ramps and asked that people be asked before they are placed on the upper decks. Vineyard terminal manager Bridgett Tobin said terminal employees are told to ask and she said she would tell them to ask all the time.
The only public comment came from Lisa Rusche, owner of the Clarke House Inn located near the intersection of State Road and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Ms. Rusche was concerned about early morning truck noise, a problem compounded by work on the Lagoon Pond drawbridge.
She suggested SSA officials eliminate the 6 am run from Woods Hole or try to direct more trucks through Oak Bluffs. Mr. Lamson explained that the trucks needed to arrive early in order to make timely deliveries. For now it appears there is no solution.
VCS grant gets SSA onboard with recycling
The Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS) and the Steamship Authority (SSA) have teamed up to provide specially designed bins so that travelers can recycle their bottles, cans, and papers.
VCS, an advocate for improved waste management on the Island, found a ready partner in the Steamship Authority, according to a VCS press release. Last summer the two organizations began working together to identify an appropriate bin design, research cost-effective options and arrange for Vineyard-based recycling services.
The project received a $5,000 grant from VCS's Nellie Mendenhall fund, named for a former VCS director who is credited with the beginning of recycling efforts on the Island some 30 years ago.
Several sets of bins have been installed both inside and outside the Vineyard Haven and Woods Hole terminals and on the ferries Island Home and Martha's Vineyard.
The bins are made entirely from recycled plastic milk containers and carry the message "the Vineyard recycles!
Chilmark Police step up seat belt enforcement
Chilmark Police will be paying particular attention to seat belt use as part of a statewide "Click it or ticket" campaign funded by the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau. The up-Island department will be providing increased patrols through June 4.
The police focus will shift to drunk driving (Over the limit, under arrest) in July and again in August. The only goal, according to a press release, is a reduction in traffic accidents and fatalities and an increase in the use of seat belts.
Oak Bluffs extends bar closing times to 1:30 am
Last call and closing time at bars will be extended by a half hour in Oak Bluffs, but the front doors of local establishments will close at the same time, following action by selectmen at Tuesday's meeting.
The board voted unanimously, following recommendations from police chief Erik Blake, to change the cut-off time for serving alcohol from 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm, and require that everyone leave the bar by 1:30 pm. However, chief Blake said police will strictly enforce a no-admittance policy to any establishment after 12:30 pm, the same time Edgartown bars offer last call. The intent is to prevent people from traveling from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs to catch last call.
"No admittance after 12:30 is the most important part," said chief Blake. "You have 1,500 to 2,200 people enjoying the establishments, and you have 500 to 600 people there to see the show."
Chief Blake said he believes people who gather to watch the spectacle will not wait around an extra half hour.
"The desired effect is that it will lessen the amount of people on the street."
The new policy will go into effect on June 1, and be reviewed by selectmen at their July 8 meeting, when a decision will be made whether to make the trial regulations permanent.
Also Tuesday, selectmen directed Chief Blake to examine whether regulations allowing taxi fees to be doubled late at night are discouraging people from taking a cab when they have had too much to drink.
In other action, selectmen authorized the Oak Bluffs Association to stage a fireworks show as part of the Harborfest and summer solstice celebrations scheduled for June 21.
Susan Stephenson was granted a license to operate a bed and breakfast afloat, on a boat that will be docked in Oak Bluffs harbor throughout the summer.
Former West Tisbury library director sentenced to prison
Former West Tisbury Library director Howard Curtis, who suddenly left his job in April 2007 amid unexplained circumstances, received a four- to six-year sentence in state prison last week for sexually abusing a child. He had faced the possibility of life in prison.
Mr. Curtis, 58, pled guilty in Salem Superior Court to two counts of sexual abuse of a child under 15. According to a news story in the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, the plea came as the result of a complaint by a New Hampshire man who said that when he was a child in Haverhill in the 1980s, Curtis forced him to perform sexual acts.
Mr. Curtis was charged with two counts of raping a child during his tenure at the Haverhill library. The victim charged that he was sexually assaulted by Mr. Curtis when he was a Boy Scout and Mr. Curtis was an assistant leader, and later as a library page. Mr. Curtis was indicted by a grand jury in June and arraigned in Salem Superior Court, where he pleaded not guilty on August 29, 2007.
West Tisbury hired Mr. Curtis after a nationwide search. He was hired out of Corona, Calif., where he was the public library director for 10 years.
The library board first learned of the Haverhill allegations against Mr. Curtis from town counsel Ronald Rappaport on Feb. 20, 2007, when he told the board he had received a report from the West Tisbury Police Department. Mr. Curtis resigned on March 21 and agreed to move out of his office on March 23. A separation agreement between the library and Mr. Curtis was signed April 26, and he was paid his full salary through April.
Medicine Shoppe moves to new location
The Medicine Shoppe pharmacy in Vineyard Haven, owned by David and Nellie Perzanowksi, will open in its new location across the street at 117 Beach Road on Monday, May 19.
"After 27 years of serving the Vineyard Haven community, we are excited our new location allows us to grow with the community," said Mr. Perzanowski, Medicine Shoppe franchisee and pharmacist. "The new location will allow us to better serve our customers, with more area and opportunities for expanded product offerings and health services."
The pharmacy's health services include weekly blood pressure screenings and monthly cholesterol screenings. In addition to a roomier facility, the new location offers easier road access and ample parking for customers. The building's entrance features a glass panel etched with a snake wrapped around a staff, the symbol of Aesclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.
The Medicine Shoppe pharmacy's phone number remains the same, 508-693-7979. The store will be open 9 am-6 pm, Monday-Friday, and 9 am-3 pm Saturday.
Commissioner denies FAIR Plan's hikes
The Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan, the state's homeowner insurer of last resort, was denied a 25-percent rate increase affecting coastal homeowners.
In a ruling made by Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes on May 8, she rejected the FAIR Plan's petition for an overall statewide increase of 13.2 percent.
"Through the rate case, the FAIR Plan is required to prove that its request falls within a range of reasonableness and that its proposed rates are not excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory," Ms. Burnes said in a release. "I have found that the FAIR Plan has failed to meet its burden on a number of critical fronts and will not be permitted to charge Massachusetts homeowners these increased rates."
Established by the state legislature in 1968, the FAIR Plan requires that all companies in Massachusetts writing basic property insurance policies participate in it and share losses in proportion to market share.
Although intended to serve as a temporary program for urban and coastal homeowners in Massachusetts, the FAIR Plan became the only insurance option for many on the Cape and Islands, especially over the last few years. Many private insurers pulled out of the coastal market based on hurricane loss projections.
In 2007, the FAIR Plan increased premiums by 25 percent and raised the minimum deductible for wind or hail damage from two to five percent of the policy face value. Another 25-percent rate increase had been proposed for this year.
Attorney General Martha Coakley's office also filed a brief in the FAIR Plan homeowners' insurance rate proceeding, recommending that the insurance commissioner not approve the proposed rate hikes. "The FAIR Plan was created to ensure affordable homeowners insurance remains available in areas where the private market has temporarily failed to do so," Attorney Coakley said. "Many FAIR Plan customers are on a fixed income and cannot afford the proposed drastic annual increases to their homeowner insurance policies." Attorney Coakley also said that the proposed rates were not supported by credible evidence of risk and sought to take advantage of market disruption in areas such as coastal Massachusetts to seek inflated rates. Among her arguments against the rate increase, Attorney Coakley pointed to evidence showing that the FAIR Plan rates are based in large part on a hurricane model not calibrated for Massachusetts weather patterns.
Ms. Burns said in her decision that the FAIR Plan officials failed to use "reasonable, accurate and timely data" to support their rate increase request. She also said that the FAIR Plan filed for new rates before analyzing its current reinsurance needs and actually purchasing reinsurance, the insurance bought by insurers to cover their own losses in the case of a catastrophic event.
Ms. Burnes's decision said the FAIR Plan could re-submit rate filings that would be reviewed "on an expedited basis."