Complaints made against Tisbury harbormaster
The agenda for the Tuesday night meeting of the Tisbury selectmen contained mostly routine fiscal year-end business and committee appointments. There was no indication of any fireworks.
So the three selectmen were taken aback when Gene DeCosta, the former owner of Vineyard Marine, asked to speak and promptly accused Tisbury Harbormaster Jay Wilbur of impropriety.
The episode began following routine reports by department heads. Mr. Wilbur began his report by describing "a fairly eventful couple of weeks." That included a helicopter crash off Lake Tashmoo on June 21 and the collision of two boats on June 29 at the entrance to Tashmoo.
As the report turned to the newly refurbished Owen Park pier, Mr. DeCosta caught everyone off-guard with accusations about the harbormaster's work hours and disposal of old planking from the Owen Park pier.
Mr. DeCosta said he had a couple of questions.
The two men have frequently clashed publicly over harbor issues. Most recently they crossed swords at the selectmen's meeting on June 19.
At that meeting Mr. DeCosta had questioned why the Tashmoo Management Committee had been allowed to override the selectmen's decision to paint a designated no-docking area at the refurbished Lake Street dock on Lake Tashmoo.
Mr. Wilbur, who had explained that paint would not stick to the new pressure-treated lumber used on the deck, commented that the last time Mr. DeCosta did any work for the town, he used inferior lumber, and that the selectmen shouldn't entertain any comments from him.
Referring to that meeting Tuesday night, Mr. DeCosta said that Mr. Wilbur had accused him of "defrauding the town."
Waving what he said were Mr. Wilbur's timesheets, Mr. DeCosta told the selectmen they should examine the documents. He said the harbormaster had claimed to have worked four hours when he was not on the Island.
He also said he observed assistant harbormasters, who are paid $14 an hour, pulling nails out of old planking from the Owen Street dock. He said the lumber is now stored at Mr. Wilbur's house. The wood belongs to the town, Mr. DeCosta said, and it should be determined whether it has any value for reuse.
The selectmen agreed that town administrator John Bugbee, who oversees personnel, should look into Mr. DeCosta's allegations.
Offered an opportunity to respond by chairman Denys Wortman, Mr. Wilbur said he would prefer to discuss the issues with the selectmen and Mr. Bugbee at another time.
However, he went on to say that he stored the wood at his house in an effort to save the town on disposal fees the contractor would have charged to haul it to the dump.
In other business, the selectmen approved reserve fund transfer requests to cover budget shortfalls in several departments to close out fiscal year 2008. These included $5,500 for equipment repairs, decontamination of turnout gear, utility bills, and diesel for the fire department; $3,500 for overtime, part-time and shift coverage for the ambulance department; and $666.46 to cover overtime expenses for the shellfish department.
Shellfish constable Derek Cimeno said his department will be return $2,000 to the town from unused funds this year. Fire Chief John Schilling pointed out that his department returns on average $4,800 in salaries not taken.
In response to a request from Mr. Wilbur, the selectmen approved creating a crosswalk on the north side of Owen Little Way, which Selectman Jeff Kristal said the planning board approved last year after holding a public hearing.
In other reports, tax collector Tim McLean noted that compared to last year, as of June 30 the town was about $235,000 behind in tax collections. Although over 96 percent has been collected, Mr. McLean said the increase in outstanding taxes affects free cash in the new fiscal year. He suggested that taxpayers with outstanding taxes should contact him to work out a plan, which could include an arrangement for partial payment.
Police Chief John Cashin said his department has been very busy, particularly with handling traffic. He requested permission to fill a vacancy by offering Special Officer Joe Ballotte, who has been with the department since last August, a full-time appointment. The selectmen advised Chief Cashin to put his request in writing.
Turning to a lengthy list of candidates for fiscal year 2009 committee appointments, Mr. Kristal recommended against reappointing Daniel J. Seidman to the housing committee because he has taken legal action against the town regarding a decision by the town's zoning board of appeals (ZBA). Mr. Kristal served on the ZBA at that time.
Mr. Wortman and Mr. Israel disagreed. They said the zoning matter had nothing to do with Mr. Seidman's participation on the housing committee and voted to reappoint him.
Mr. Wortman also questioned whether Jeffrey Robinson should be reappointed to the Harbor Management Committee because his mooring is not in compliance with town regulations. After discussion, the selectmen agreed Mr. Robinson should be given the opportunity to resolve the issue and that it should not affect his standing on the committee.
In Mr. Bugbee's report, he provided an update on plans to put up bus shelters at the Park and Ride lot and the Vineyard Transit Authority stop at the rotary at the end of Water Street. With a budget of $40,000 for two shelters, he said it has been difficult to find something in the town's price range that will be both durable and attractive, but hopes to narrow it down by the next meeting.
At the meeting's end, Mr. Kristal submitted a working document, which he did not describe, to the board outlining a proposed bylaw regarding sex offenders. Mr. Kristal's proposed bylaw was discussed for the first time in a joint meeting with the public works commissioners and selectmen the previous night.