News in Brief
Override decision looms in Oak Bluffs
Oak Bluffs selectmen addressed a variety of issues at their Tuesday meeting, including the start of contingency planning should voters reject three Proposition 2.5 override questions, and three debt exclusion questions on a special election ballot yesterday.
If voters reject some or all of the override questions, town officials may be faced with substantial cuts to the town's $22.5 million operating budget. Selectmen scheduled a meeting for Monday with the financial advisory committee to begin planning.
Also Tuesday, the board approved year-end budget transfers totaling $145,121 to balance the town's books. Most of the transfers came from savings in the health insurance account, realized when many town employees opted to switch to lower cost health plans.
Savings in health insurance and other accounts were transferred to pay for incentive stipends to encourage employees to switch to lower cost health plans, salary increases for some town employees, and accrued sick, vacation, and comp time for two police officers who left the Oak Bluffs force.
The transfers were approved by a vote of 3-1, with selectmen Roger Wey, who is a town employee, abstaining.
Kerry Scott cast the lone dissenting vote.
"I don't like doing business this way," said Ms. Scott. "Taxpayers had no say."
In other matters, the selectmen voted unanimously to appoint a town beach working committee, to address issues with the repair and refurbishment of the Sea View Avenue shorefront. Ms. Scott will chair the committee, to be composed of one representative from the parks commission, board of selectmen, boardwalk to beach task force, conservation commission, harbor management committee, financial advisory board, wastewater commission, and the shellfish constable.
Among the decisions and tasks facing the new committee are to select an engineering firm to evaluate the beach and coastal banks, research and secure funding, and hold public hearings on the design.
Selectmen also noted that the location of their bi-weekly meetings will change to the Sailing Camp for the months of June, July, and August, beginning with the next scheduled meeting on June 3.
Lagoon Bridge stuck up
The often cantankerous Lagoon Pond drawbridge was stuck for more than three hours this past Sunday, causing confusion and delays for motorists in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend.
A new bridge is being built to replace the 1930s era drawbridge, and bridge tender Bob Maciel said construction activity for the new bridge may have caused the problem.
"They vibrated some pilings," said Mr. Maciel. "It loosened up the bridge. Now the tide moves the bridge back and forth."
Mr. Maciel said the bridge would not close completely following the regularly scheduled 5 pm opening on Sunday. He called repair crews from Boston to the Island. They arrived at 8:45 pm, and had to secure lodging for the night before getting to work. They were able to grind off part of the mechanism causing the malfunction.
Mr. Maciel fears the ongoing construction may cause further problems.
The repair crew is scheduled to return this coming Monday to make more permanent repairs.
New rules for Edgartown shellfishing
Edgartown selectmen unanimously adopted new shellfish regulations, following a brief public hearing on Tuesday. The regulations provide a range of sanctions for those caught violating the regulations. The adoption of the new rules, drafted in months of work by the town's shellfish committee, literally elicited cheers from the board of selectmen.
There are few substantive changes in the regulations, except for clear outlines of the sanctions.
The regulations say there will be no warnings issued for violators. The first offense will result in a $100 fine and forfeit of that day's catch.
Second offenders will be required to appear before the board of selectmen in an open hearing. The board will have sole discretion to suspend the shellfish license for one week, and require forfeiture of the day's catch.
A third violation will result in another hearing before the selectmen, and the penalty will range from a suspension of license for one month to one year.
The regulations took effect with the selectmen's vote Tuesday.
"I think they've done a tremendous job," said selectman Margaret Serpa, in congratulating the shellfish committee. "It's something we talked about, we needed."
The call for new regulations came to a head in January, following a stormy hearing in which shellfish constable Paul Bagnall recommended a one-year license suspension for Richard Morris. Mr. Morris, a commercial fisherman, was cited for taking more than his limit of bay scallops.
Selectmen declined to impose any sanction at the January hearing, saying there were no formal guidelines for such suspensions.
Island Home on leave
The Steamship Authority (SSA) ferry Nantucket replaced the Island Home on the Vineyard route this week. Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, said the switch is part of regularly scheduled maintenance and would give Islanders an opportunity to see all of the work done as part of the Nantucket's mid-life refurbishment.
The Island Home will return on June 7. Then it will be the Martha's Vineyard's turn. The Nantucket will return to its regular service route between Hyannis and Nantucket on June 20.
Mr. Lamson said that the breaks provide an opportunity to catch up on required maintenance and clean the ferries prior to the busy summer season.
Photo by Nis Kildegaard
Edgartown Library reopens after six-month cleanup
The Edgartown Public Library has reopened after a closure of nearly six months that was caused by a "puff-back" in the building's heating system over the weekend of December 3 last year.
The library staff shut down their emergency library operation, in the selectmen's meeting room at Edgartown Town Hall, on May 19 and spent a busy week moving computer systems and thousands of books back to the historic library on North Water Street. With Wi-Fi service throughout the building and a new bank of seven public computer terminals, the library reopened at 10 am Tuesday.
The puff-back sent smoky fumes and soot through the building, depositing an oily film on books and material. During the closure, the library brought in a team from Munters, the site remediation company used by public libraries across Massachusetts, for a three-week round of intensive cleaning work - and then for a second round when the children's department downstairs did not pass air quality tests.
On Tuesday, the library got an all-clear for air quality throughout the building, and director Felicia Cheney said this means work can begin on preparing the children's department for public use. The entire downstairs will be recarpeted on June 10. Meanwhile, a temporary children's space has been set up in the periodicals room upstairs.
Speaking for the library staff and its board of trustees, Ms. Cheney expressed her gratitude to everyone at town hall for their support and patience during the library's invasion of their main meeting room, and to voters for advancing the cleanup funds, which will eventually be repaid by the insurance company.
New hours at the library are 10 am-8 pm, Tuesday and Wednesday; 10 am-5 pm, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; and closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Islander in service
After publishing a listing of Islanders in military service in the May 15 issue, The Times received an update on Sgt. 1st Class Kevin M. Devine, who has served in the U.S. Army for 16 years.
He is stationed in Fort Drum, N.Y., and will be deployed for a second tour in Iraq in November. Sergeant Devine is the son of Wendy Oliver of Oak Bluffs and Herbie Devine of Randolph, and the nephew of Janet King of Oak Bluffs.
Driver flips car in accident near South Beach
Edgartown police, fire and rescue units responded Saturday at 10:23 pm to the scene of a single car accident off Herring Creek Road near South Beach involving Dustin G. Gilbert, age 22, of Lewiston, Maine.
Mr. Gilbert was found in his badly damaged 1993 Toyota Corolla in the field at the end of the runway in Katama Airfield, according to a press release from the Edgartown Police Department. He was treated at the scene for possible neck and head injuries and transported to Martha's Vineyard Hospital.
An investigation by Edgartown police officers determined that Mr. Gilbert was traveling at a high rate of speed and lost control of the car while negotiating a curve on Herring Creek Road. The car flipped twice in the field before coming to a rest. Edgartown police will seek charges against Mr. Gilbert for negligent operation, speeding, and a marked lane violation.
Bradley Square review grinds on
After three lengthy and lively sessions, running hours past their scheduled time, the Martha's Vineyard Commission closed the public hearing on its review of the Bradley Square affordable housing project in Oak Bluffs on May 22. However, letters on the controversial project will be accepted for the public record until tomorrow, May 30.
The commission's land use planning committee has scheduled its final review of the project for Monday, June 2. Once that committee makes its recommendation, the full commission will deliberate and vote.
The project is proposed for the corner of Dukes County Avenue and Masonic Avenue, on property which once housed the Island's first African-American church. At last week's hearing, backers of the project submitted a revised plan, reducing the number of affordable housing units form 12 to 11, and increasing the amount of on-site parking.
A new controversy arose over the possibility, considered from the beginning of the project, that the Bradley Square project would be classified as a 40B development. Under that state statute, developers could be granted exceptions to local zoning ordinances for projects that include affordable housing.
Oak Bluffs zoning administrator Adam Wilson has recommended the town boards consider the project under the 40B statutes. "This results in a more streamlined review process at the zoning level," he wrote in a memo to the town's building inspector.
Phillipe Jordi, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, stressed that no matter how the project is designated, backers intend to follow the directives of all town boards and committees that have jurisdiction over the project. "It doesn't matter to us," said Mr. Jordi. "It gives the town advantages as far as flexibility."
Governor Patrick signs Oceans Bill into law
Governor Deval Patrick signed the Oceans Act of 2008 into law during a ceremony held at the Boston Aquarium on Wednesday. Known as the Oceans Bill, the act places review of all development in state controlled waters under the authority of a single comprehensive development plan. It is the first legislation of its kind in the nation. A 17-member Ocean Advisory Commission will draw up the plan, which must be in place by December 2009.
The plan is expected to allow for development in the Cape Cod Oceans Sanctuary, which includes Buzzards Bay and the waters off Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands.
A garden will grow in West Tisbury ... with some help
The Island Grown Initiative, part of the national Farm to School program, is working with a group of local volunteers to create a school garden at the West Tisbury School. The first step is to build raised garden beds.
The effort begins in earnest on Sunday when volunteer carpenters are needed from 9 am to noon to help build the garden beds, according to a press release. Additional volunteers are needed beginning at 1 pm to pick up a shovel and help fill the beds with soil and compost. Organizers said there will be plenty of fun as well as activities for children, refreshments and garden gloves will be provided.
Farm to School programs are designed to connect schools with local farms while providing improved nutrition and educational opportunities. For more information contact Nicole Cabot at 508-693-0248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of OBPD
Two new officers join Oak Bluffs Police
In a brief ceremony at the Oak Bluffs Police Department Wednesday, Chief Erik Blake swore in officers Jermaine Mendez and Steven Conley as members of the OBPD. Both officers are recent graduates from the M.B.T.A. Transit Police Academy.
Officer Conley, 28, is a graduate of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School and a veteran of the United States Army. He served two tours in Iraq and one in Bosnia. He lives in Oak Bluffs with his wife, Kelly, and their twin two-year-old sons, Liam and Adian.
Jermaine Mendez, 35, also a graduate of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, spent three years in the United States Army, serving in Korea. Officer Mendez lives in Oak Bluffs with his girlfriend, Phaedra Ben David. He has two children, Sarah and Jermaine.
$300,000 grant targets Island underage drinking
The Dukes County Health Council Youth Task Force was awarded a $300,000 state grant this week for the prevention of underage drinking.
The money, $100,000 in each of the next three years, will be targeted at seventh- and eighth-graders on the Island.
According to the task force, a 2007 survey of students documented substance abuse at the high school level that is above state and national averages. The study also revealed a dramatic increase in substance abuse between eighth and ninth grades.
At least 10 Island teens have died in alcohol-related automobile accidents over the past decade, according to the task force.
A number of programs are envisioned, including training for teachers, parent education, a large scale social norms marketing campaign, and compliance checks. Part of the funding will be used to publicize data showing that many kids are making good choices, in order to reduce peer pressure from kids who are influencing bad choices
"We're now in the process of designing a media campaign so we can blanket the community with these messages," said Theresa Manning, program coordinator. "We'll use survey data to put out the truth, instead of using fear tactics."
She says some funds will be targeted toward parents of middle school students, in the form of a survey to be mailed out this week. The survey will gather information about parents' views on curfews, informal parental support networks, and other issues.
A photo caption on page 4 of last week's Times mistakenly placed the Vincent Paper Store at the corner of Spring and Main Streets in Vineyard Haven. In fact, it was at the corner of Centre and Main, in the building now occupied by Mardell's Gifts and Jewelry.
A story published in the May 15 issue of The Times, "Foods for energy," incorrectly identified chickpeas as a grain. Chickpeas are legumes.