News in Brief
Aquinnah selectmen approve first beer-wine license
The Aquinnah board of selectmen on Tuesday approved a beer and wine license for Hugh Taylor, co-owner with his wife, Jeanne, of the Outermost Inn restaurant. It is the first license issued by the selectmen, following a May vote that allows for the sale of beer and wine in restaurants.
The license application now moves to the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverage and Control Commission, which will conduct background checks and inspect the restaurant building. That process is expected to take approximately one month.
But that may not be the last hurdle. Prior to the public meeting on the license application, selectmen received a letter, dated June 23, whose writers, Mark and Martha Hurwitz of Barre, oppose the application. The Hurwitzes' property abuts the inn property.
"A full-service restaurant is certainly not what we envisioned as neighbors," said the Hurwitzes, "when the applicant was granted permission to operate a limited bed and breakfast." They said they would "explore with vigor, all legal avenues of action available" to oppose the license.
Yesterday, Mr. Taylor told The Times that his neighbors had opposed the inn in the past, and their opposition to the beer/wine license was not unexpected. Mr. Taylor said he thinks the selectmen have handled the issue of beer and wine sales in a moderate and sensible way. For now, his chef is anticipating pairing wines with specialty dinners.
Mr. Taylor was instrumental in the change in the law that began as a nonchalant petition drive. Following approval by the legislature on May 14, voters approved a ballot question making Aquinnah the third "wet" town on the Island, by a margin of 126-63.
Lack of demand ends Island biodiesel sales
Due to a lack of demand, fuel distributor R.M. Packer Company has quit selling biodiesel, which is made from a mix of soybean oil and low-sulfur diesel, at gas stations in Tisbury and Oak Bluffs.
Three years ago, the Packer Company began offering B100, the base product, and B20, a blend of 20 percent soy and 80 percent low-sulfur diesel, for sale at the Tisbury Shell Station on Beach Road and at DeBettencourt's in Oak Bluffs.
"We spent a considerable amount of funds in making the tankage available, with a special truck," said Ralph Packer, president of the R.M. Packer Company. "We worked hard for three years as part of our commitment to it, but we just have not had any volume of any extent, except ourselves. Our kind of one and only customer in Vineyard Haven was NStar, and we don't expect them to carry the whole operation."
The Packer Company used biodiesel exclusively in its own trucks. "I think it's a good product - as for the environment, it was very suitable, and as for the engine, it was extremely suitable," Mr. Packer said. "We have a lot of diesel trucks and we've had no major problems in three years using biodiesel."
Part of the problem is price, Mr. Packer said. "Right now bio-diesel running between 17 to 20 cents a gallon more than normal diesel fuel. It is a little more expensive, because we never could develop the market to bring a large amount of it to the Island at one time."
However, Mr. Packer said he found some of the higher cost was offset because when he switched to bio-diesel, he was able to stop using expensive additives usually required for most diesel engines.
He has not given up on future bio-diesel sales. One of the new storage tanks being installed at the Tisbury Shell gas station is designated for bio-diesel. "It's a larger capacity tank, so maybe we can receive it in larger amounts and maybe help on the price a little," Mr. Packer said.
Bio-diesel has been touted as better for the environment because it is made from a renewable source of energy and produces less pollution. However, recently bio-diesel advocates have been fighting criticism that production of the fuel has driven up food prices worldwide and that growing crops for the fuel produces more greenhouse gases than it prevents.
A report released in Paris in May urged countries to reconsider bio-fuels policies in the wake of soaring food prices. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer refuted the report, however, in a news conference on May 29, according to an article in the International Herald Tribute.
Mr. Schafer said an analysis by the department of agriculture had determined that bio-fuel production was responsible for only two to three percent of the increase in global food prices, while bio-fuels had reduced consumption of crude oil by a million barrels a day.
Photo courtesy SSA
Steamship Authority's Flying Cloud heads south of the border
The Steamship Authority's (SSA) fast ferry Flying Cloud is headed south to a new home in Venezuela. Boatline general manager Wayne Lamson was more than happy to bid the trouble-prone vessel adios.
The vessel was sold to Gran Cacique II, a Venezuelan company, for $3,900,000.
The Flying Cloud was built in 2000 by Derecktor Shipyards in Mamaroneck, New York at a cost of nearly $8,000,000. In the spring of 2006, new main engines and reduction gears were installed in the ferry in an effort to improve service reliability after 6 years of frequent engine breakdowns.
In 2006 the SSA announced the Flying Cloud was for sale and invited bids at an asking price of $5 million. There were no takers. Last month after two years of effort the SSA found a buyer.
According to SSA management, a recent valuation survey by an independent surveyor placed the current fair market value of the Flying Cloud at an estimated $4,000,000, citing a different market than in 2006 and competition from other vessels for sale in the marketplace.
Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, Vineyard SSA member, said management deserves a great deal of credit for completing the sale at a time when there is no shortage of fast ferries on the world market.
The ferry will operate between the mainland and Margarita Island, a resort island approximately 30 miles northeast of the mainland.
In prepared remarks, Mr. Lamson said, "Given the current market conditions, I am pleased that the Steamship Authority was able to realize an amount from the sale that was close to the value we have been carrying on our books. It was a fair deal for both parties, and we look forward to hearing about what we hope will be its successful passenger service in Venezuelan waters."
The SSA built the Flying Cloud to compete with the successful private fast ferry service offered by Hy-Line on the Nantucket route. The SSA began service with Flying Cloud in summer 2000. But the vessel experienced numerous problems that led to long periods of no service and extensive efforts to correct engine problems.
The Flying Cloud was replaced on the Nantucket route last spring by the Iyanough, built at Gladding-Hearn shipyard in Somerset. The $9.5 million 350-passenger-capacity vessel, named for the chief of the Cummaquid tribe who assisted the Pilgrims, features flat-screen television screens and a separate luggage and bicycle compartment.
West Tisbury School gives bus driver a big send-off
School bus driver Barbara Maciel, who is retiring after 31 years, was all smiles on Jan 19 after receiving a big sendoff from students, staff, and faculty at the West Tisbury School on her last day of work. Principal Michael Halt told Ms. Maciel he needed to go over some paperwork with her in his office, in order to distract her so the students could assemble and line up in front of the school buses parked out front. When Ms. Maciel walked out a few minutes later, a student presented her with a dozen roses while everyone cheered and clapped.
"She was an excellent employee and the kids loved her," said Martha's Vineyard Public Schools transportation manager James Flynn. "She drove a couple of generations of Island children to school. She was very, very dedicated to me and the Martha's Vineyard Regional School District."
He and superintendent of schools James Weiss presented her with a certificate in appreciation for her long years of service and a job well done.
"Snack shack" razed for emergency beach repair
Oak Bluffs town workers demolished the popular "snack shack" on the town's public beach Tuesday morning, the first step in an emergency repair plan to shore up the unstable coastal bank along Sea View Avenue. The board of selectmen unanimously approved the emergency repair plan last Friday evening, in a joint meeting with the parks commission and the conservation commission.
The building, which was partially refurbished last year, was a point of contention among town officials, including a dispute about whether the selectmen or the parks commission had jurisdiction over the beach.
"We have an emergency situation," said town administrator Michael Dutton. "The selectmen have charge of all buildings. That building happened to be sitting on a park, but the selectmen have the authority to act."
At the Friday meeting, CLE Engineering offered three plans for emergency repairs. The Marion firm conducted testing earlier this month and determined the coastal bank, which extended from behind the "snack shack" about 200 yards toward the Steamship Authority pier, was in danger of collapse. The recommended repairs were termed temporary by the engineering firm, designed to make the coastal bank safe for this summer.
The first plan called for steel supports to brace the wall, both inside the building and along the length of the bank, and a timber stairway to provide access to the beach, at a cost of $176,000.
The second plan called for steel supports inside the building, and a sand berm along the rest of the bank, at a cost of $121,793.
The third option called for demolition of the "snack shack" and a sand berm along the entire length of the unstable wall. Cost for that plan was estimated at $88,740.
Selectmen voted for least costly plan, and reduced the expense further by eliminating the timber stairway.
Grumbling voters approve Oak Bluffs budget transfers
Oak Bluffs voters, 56 of them, approved more than $200,000 in routine year-end transfers in a single warrant question, at a special town meeting on Tuesday evening. The transfers are to balance the town's books at the end of the fiscal year by moving unspent funds from some accounts to other accounts that ran over budget. The action did not involve any new appropriations.
The bulk of the transfers came from the budget line item for medical insurance. The town saved $98,010 during fiscal year 2008 by convincing town workers to switch to less expensive health plans. Those savings were used to fund a variety of relatively small items, ranging from negotiated salary increases to computer supplies.
Several town officials grumbled privately about the need for the special town meeting. Oak Bluffs, and others with similar forms of town government, routinely make these sorts of transfers with approval of the board of selectmen. Earlier this year, the board of selectmen and the financial advisory committee approved nearly all of the transfers presented at the special town meeting.
After concerns raised by selectmen Kerry Scott about the transfers, the state department of revenue advised the town in an informal opinion that the safest, foolproof legal course was to have the transfers approved by town meeting voters.
At 7 pm, the scheduled start of the meeting, there were only 20 voters in the Oak Bluffs school gymnasium. Fourteen of them were selectmen or town department heads that routinely attend town meetings as part of their official duties. Following a half hour of phone calling by several town officials, more voters began arriving. At 7:43, a quorum was achieved when the 50th voter arrived at the registration table to the cheers, whoops, and applause of the other 49 voters. Eventually 56 voters were registered. The town meeting lasted only ten minutes, there was no discussion from the floor, and the voice vote to approve the transfers was nearly unanimous.
Oak Bluffs retailer faces drug paraphernalia charge
Oak Bluffs police are requesting a charge of distribution of drug paraphernalia against Lori Katsounakis, owner of 3rd World Trading at 52 Circuit Avenue.
According to police reports, a credit card fraud investigation led police to believe drug paraphernalia was being sold out of a back room at the clothing and gift store. On June 11, an undercover police officer entered the store in plain clothes and reported that he purchased a marijuana pipe from Ms. Katsounakis.
"I observed her walk into a back room of the store and return with two boxes filled with approximately 50 glass pipes," wrote the undercover officer in his report. "I chose one of the glass pipes and told her that I wanted to purchase it. Katsounakis charged me for the pipe, and her associate then began to wrap the glass pipe in plastic."
Police officers later returned to the store and seized 426 pieces of identifiable drug paraphernalia, including rolling papers, pipes, bongs, and scales, most with price tags attached. Police say the total value of the seized items was $10,701, according to the value on the price tags. Police say Ms. Katsounakis was warned in 2006, after police investigating a burglary said they found drug paraphernalia in her store. She was not charged with any crime during that investigation, but warned that future violations would result in prosecution.
Under Massachusetts laws, someone convicted of distributing drug paraphernalia faces a jail term of from one to five years, or a fine of from $1,000 to $5,000, or both.
State House News Service
Island housing bank tax bills clears Senate
The state senate voted 23-10 and 24-10 early Tuesday night to allow new fees on certain Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket housing sales to pay for affordable housing. The bill would create housing banks funded by a 1 percent tax on sales of more than $750,000 on the Vineyard, and sales of more than $2 million on Nantucket. Supporters say the bills, which have local support, represent an innovative way to pay for affordable housing in communities where teachers and police officers can't afford to live.
Critics say the legislation unwisely sets a tax policy precedent that other communities will look to follow and targets only owners of valuable properties to pay for a benefit for entire communities. Senate Republicans, after initially failing to secure support for a roll call on the bill, obtained that support and picked up a few votes from Senate Democrats, but not enough to prevent the bills from moving on to the House, where they ran into tough opposition last session.
Nationwide salmonella outbreak hits the Bay State
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced this week that seventeen cases of salmonella in Massachusetts have been linked to the nationwide outbreak associated with certain types of raw tomatoes.
According to the FDA, the outbreak, which affected more than six hundred people in the country, has been traced to the consumption of certain types of raw red plum, red Roma, and red round tomatoes. The FDA recommends that consumers throw out these types of tomato and check the FDA website (www.fda.gov) for more informational about the outbreak.
The seventeen cases were reported in Massachusetts between May 30 and June 8, with at least two of the cases requiring hospitalization. There have been no reported cases of the disease in Dukes County.
Salmonella is a bacterial disease that infects the bowels and is commonly found in uncooked animal food products. Last year the DPH reported approximately two thousand cases of Salmonella in Massachusetts.
IEH appoints Ann Wallace new director
Ann Wallace has been appointed executive director of Island Elderly Housing, members of the IEH board announced this week. Ms. Wallace has served as interim executive director since the retirement of Carol Lashnits on September 1, 2007.
Newly-elected board president John Early said, "Ann's extensive experience working in the non-profit sector, her knowledge of and commitment to IEH as a long-standing member of the board, and her ability to work effectively with both our staff and our residents made her our obvious choice. We are very fortunate to have her with us."
IEH has 165 housing units on three campuses, Hillside, Woodside, and Aidylberg Villages, as well as the Margaret C. Love House in Vineyard Haven. IEH provides more than just quality affordable housing for more than more than 170 Island elderly and disabled - it also provides support to enable residents to continue to live independently for as long as possible by sponsoring community meals and providing van services to medical appointments, the grocery, other community programs and services.
Bicycle Rodeo will include free helmets
The Edgartown Police Department will give away complementary bike helmets at the Bicycle Rodeo this Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Edgartown Elementary School's parking lot. The helmets were awarded to the Edgartown Police Department as part of the 2008 statewide bicycle safety program sponsored by the Executive Office of Public Safety.
The Bicycle Rodeo aims to instruct riders on bicycle safety and traffic laws. State law requires that any person under the age of sixteen wear a helmet when operating a bicycle, in-line skates or skateboard. For more information on bicycle law and safety tips go to www.mass.gov/ highwaysafty.
West Tisbury landowners agree to pay $6,760 for wetlands violations
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) has reached a settlement with Maureen White and Steven Rattner of Obed Daggett Road in West Tisbury, concerning violations of the Wetlands Protection Act. The settlement includes a penalty of $6,760, according to a MDEP press release.
The couple cut and cleared brush on their property, in violation of regulations designed to protect wetlands buffer zones and a denial by the West Tisbury conservation commission in 2001 and 2002.
The fine and settlement followed a MDEP site inspection on August 9, 2007. "The vitality of bordering vegetated wetlands (BVWs) is a matter of public concern," said David Johnston, acting director of MDEP's Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville in a press release. "BVWs provide a critical task, helping to manage floods and filter groundwater, as well as maintaining a minimum flow level in our rivers and streams during dry periods. We need to respect and protect this natural resource."
In addition to the penalty, the couple have agreed to install four permanent signs marking the wetland area, post "caution" tape before and after any scheduled trimming, and notify MDEP and the conservation commission 30 days in advance of any plans to trim and within 72 hours once trimming has been completed. The conditions remain in effect through April 30, 2011.
The couple owns a house in the Cedar Tree Neck section of West Tisbury. In 2006, the planning board referred the Rattners' plans for a proposed 15,575-square-foot house to the Martha's Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact. The commission voted not to accept the nomination.
Mr. Rattner is a financier whose investment firm, the Quadrangle Group, is based in New York. His wife, Maureen White, is a co-chairwoman of finance for Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Holistic Retreat will open Main Street annex
Roni Deluz, owner of the Martha's Vineyard Holistic Retreat on Franklin Street in Vineyard Haven and co-author of "21 Pounds in 21 Days, The Martha's Vineyard Diet Detox," plans to open a new location.
According to a press release, to satisfy the tremendous demand for state-of-the art weight loss treatments and wellness programs, she will open an office at 4 Main Street, Vineyard Haven, designed for walk in therapeutic treatments as well as an offering of wellness-detox products. For more information call 508-693-0001 or visit www.mvholisticretreat.com.
Moonstone Jewelers holds retirement sale
Moonstone Jewelers on Main Street in Vineyard Haven is doing something it has never done in 23 years of business. It is having its first ever 30 percent off sale on all gemstone and diamond jewelry.
Owner and gemologist Sherryl Schrader said she made the decision to have a sale because she is working towards retirement. Ms. Schrader said she has decided to take the slow approach to retirement by having a sale on something of unique value. For more information call 508-693-3367.
Real estate instructor tapped to advise
Robert M. Sawyer of Tisbury recently participated in a meeting of select real estate experts to update the state licensing exam for real estate salespersons and brokers in Massachusetts, according to a press release. The primary focus of the meeting was to review content, structure and performance statistics of the Massachusetts real estate exam questions based upon accuracy, level of difficulty, and relevance to laws and regulations.
The State Examination Review Meeting was sponsored by Pearson VUE, the official testing firm for real estate examinations in Massachusetts.
Sharky's hires new director of operations
Sharky's, the popular Mexican restaurant with locations in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, has hired Terry Ward to be director of operations.
According to a press release, Mr. Ward has more than 15 years of experience in multi-unit and chef-owned ventures. His immediate focus will be the Edgartown restaurant and the development and growth of both locations.
He most recently worked for Starr Restaurants, overseeing such acclaimed restaurants as Morimoto, Buddakan and Tangerine.
Yankee Magazine names Islanders to select list
The July/August issue of Yankee Magazine features a travel story compiled by editors and contributors that includes a list of "25 People You Must Meet This Summer." According to a Yankee Magazine press release, the feature introduces readers to unforgettable New Englanders across the six-state region.
The must-meet people from Martha's Vineyard include Mike Creato, pilot of the vintage bi-plane tour company Classic Aviators, and Menemsha charter captain Dick Vincent of Flashy Lady Charters
For more information on the 25 people and their contact information, visit YankeeMagazine.com
Vineyard Complementary Medicine adds practitioner
Vineyard Complementary Medicine announced that acupuncturist Iris Gold will join the staff in July. Ms. Gold has practiced integrative medicine in Mill Valley, Calif., for 25 years. Her specialty is women's health, according to a press release. For more info call 508-693-3800.
A Calendar listing published in the June 19 issue of The Times incorrectly noted meeting information for a Slowfood Martha's Vineyard potluck supper. The June 21 meeting discussed plans for a future talk by Michael Pollan, who will speak on July 2.