News in Brief
More than $1 million for housing
The Island Affordable Housing Fund had raised $1,037,800 as of 8 pm Sunday evening, according to executive director Pat Manning. IAHF's 3-day telethon was this past weekend.
IAHF is a non-profit organization that acts as "the voice of affordable housing on the Island and its chief fundraising arm", Mr. Manning said yesterday, in a press statement. Mr. Manning, along with event co-chairmen Kenn Karakul and Suzanne Lanzone, staff, board members, and volunteers, filled 27 hours of television with entertainment, guest hosts, and giveaways on PlumTV, along with a party on Saturday night. The events took place at the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury.
The organization's projected goals were surpassed twice this weekend, the press statement explained, but it was an anonymous $350,000 gift that put the campaign over the $1 million mark, only 20 minutes before the end of the telethon. Mr. Manning said the fund's total breaks all records on the Vineyard for summer fundraising events. He added that the fund and its telethon organizers were "humbled."
"I think what you see are the fruits of the labors of several dedicated individuals who have spent the last ten years educating Islander and summer resident alike of the need for safe, decent, affordable housing on Martha's Vineyard," Mr. Manning said. "What this tells me is that despite the gloom and doom one hears regarding the economy, people are willing to give to causes they believe in and to help the Island that they love. The Island Affordable Housing Fund will now dedicate themselves to helping our brothers and sisters in the non-profit community in any way we can to make their fundraising efforts successful this summer as well."
"Although we raised a historic amount of money, this is merely the first step in our efforts to raise $5 million over the next 18 months to give more than 70 families the ability to buy a home and stay on the Island," said Bob Wheeler, co-president of the Island Affordable Housing Fund. "These are people that keep Martha's Vineyard's lights on and streets safe, and this success just doubles our resolve to reach our goal."
Mr. Manning offered special thanks to Plum, Comcast, Cronig's, and Colonial Reproductions for underwriting the event and making the telethon possible. The Island Affordable Housing Fund will announce an August fundraiser this Wednesday at midnight on their website, islandaffordable.org.
Photos by Alex Bell
Three-car accident closes Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road
Shortly after noon on Friday, Tisbury police and fire departments responded to a three-vehicle accident on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road near State Road.
Kaleena Strelecki, 22, of Edgartown became distracted while diving and rear-ended a white Mustang convertible driven by Jose Chavez, 45, of West Tisbury, according to Tisbury Police.
Mr. Chavez's car was forced into the oncoming lane, striking a pick-up truck driven by Robert Shaw, 78.
Four people involved in the accident, including two passengers, were transported to Martha's Vineyard Hospital by ambulance for precautionary reasons and treated for minor injuries.
The Tisbury Police issued Ms. Strelecki a citation for following a vehicle too closely.
The accident closed Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road for approximately an hour between Skiff Avenue and Mt. Aldworth Street.
Failed switch causes brief power outage
NStar spokesman Michael Durand said a 115,000-volt power switch in a substation in Mashpee failed Monday morning, causing a brief Vineyard power outage.
Mr. Durand said most Island towns lost power for about one minute but there were exceptions. Tisbury lost power for about 20 minutes, as NStar changed from one power delivery line to another.
State Police act on federal warrant
State Police officers Sgt. Jeff Stone and David Parent yesterday arrested an Edgartown man at his home in Dodger's Hole on federal drug charges.
Police acted on a Drug Enforcement Administration warrant issued by a California court against Eric A. O'Connell, 35, on charges of possessing 100 kilograms of marijuana.
State Police Sgt. Neal Maciel said Mr. O'Connell was taken into custody without incident and later transferred to federal custody.
Edgartown restaurant adds energy surcharge
The Main Street Diner in Edgartown has added an energy surcharge of five percent of customer's bill. A sticker on the menu informs patrons of the extra fee.
Some customers have objected, partly because the cash register system labels the surcharge a "secondary tax." "What we have to do on each bill is cross out where it says tax and write energy surcharge there instead," said owner Glenn Ward this week.
Spiraling costs for propane and electricity prompted him to institute the new surcharge this season, rather than raise his menu prices substantially, Mr. Ward explained.
"Our biggest problem is energy - from last year to this year, the price for propane has exactly doubled, and electricity costs doubled in the last two years, as well," Mr. Ward said. "Restaurants are a price-sensitive business - the only thing we can do is add an energy surcharge, and hope to eliminate it one day."
In addition to paying higher energy costs, Mr. Ward pointed out that he also is paying fuel surcharges on deliveries.
"Everything we get delivered, there's a surcharge, and we deal with about 25 vendors, from beer to food to bread, including the propane," he said. "I'd have to guess, but I would say we're charged at least $200 a week in surcharges."
Mr. Ward, who subscribes to several restaurant magazines, said, "I read that many restaurants across the country are having to add up to a 10 percent surcharge - the last thing you want to do is go up 10 to 15 percent in prices across the board."
In discussion with his staff before opening this season, Mr. Ward said they decided the energy surcharge offers more flexibility, because it can be eliminated if costs go down.
"We only do a new menu once a year, and once prices are on the menu, we're stuck until we revise them the next time," he said.
Food prices also are rising dramatically, Mr. Ward pointed out. "The cost of eggs has tripled, since 2006 until this season," he said. "How would you pass that on to customers? How could you explain to them that you've tripled the cost of an omelet?"
He estimates that because of the lagging economy, his business is down about 15 percent from last year, as is the case with other restaurant owners he has talked to. A decrease of about 50 percent in tour groups visiting Edgartown has hurt business as well, Mr. Ward said.
"One of the choices some restaurants are making to keep costs down is by cutting the quality of what they're selling - I'd close the doors before I'd do that," said Mr. Ward, who has owned the diner five years.
In keeping track of customer comments from April through July, he noted, "A total of six people have actually said something that would resemble a complaint. We see 400 to 500 people a day, so six people over four-month period, we're pretty happy with that."
Helicopter turns up pot during Island search
State and federal police officials conducted a helicopter search of the Island this week, as part of a joint drug enforcement effort designed to find cultivated marijuana plants.
As of yesterday afternoon the sweep had yielded more than 265 marijuana plants from locations around the Island, said State Police Sgt. Neal Maciel. He estimated a full grown plant has a street value of approximately $1000.
"There is no doubt that the plants we recovered were planted with the intent to harvest and distribute," said Sgt. Maciel. "This year's sweep was very successful, because we deprived some individuals of the chance to sell a lot of narcotics. This wasn't just your neighbor growing a plant on their porch, this was an organized effort to cultivate marijuana for distribution."
According to Sgt. Maciel, the operation is still underway and more marijuana plants will likely be confiscated. No arrests have been made, but Sgt. Maciel said that several individuals are being sought on criminal complaints in connection with the plants.
The joint drug task force included officers from the State Police Narcotics Unit, Island State Police, Oak Bluffs Police Department, and the Martha's Vineyard drug task force.
The aerial search, conducted using an unmarked Air National Guard helicopter, has become an annual summer occurrence that often generates stares and questions from Islanders curious about the low flying aircraft.
Diaper load leads to arrest
A Cheetos bag containing a diaper filled with cocaine led to the indictment of David A. Perez on charges of trafficking cocaine. The indictment was returned by an Edgartown Superior Court Grand Jury, on July 22.
Mr. Perez, age 27, of West Tisbury, is being held at the Dukes County jail on $100,000 bail.
According to a news release from the West Tisbury police department, Mr. Perez turned himself in to the Dukes County court on July 1.
West Tisbury police officials had issued an arrest warrant for him on May 29, following an incident that took place the previous day.
While on patrol at 10 am, on May 28, West Tisbury police detective Daniel Gouldrup noticed that Mr. Perez, whom he knew, appeared to be asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle, parked at the entrance of Blackthorn Road.
When Detective Gouldrup stopped to check on him, Mr. Perez woke up and explained that he was sleeping in his vehicle because his young baby had been keeping him up at night.
Familiar with Mr. Perez's history, Detective Gouldrup asked for and received consent to search the interior of his vehicle. After speaking further with Mr. Perez, the detective advised him to leave, and Mr. Perez did.
But, before Detective Gouldrup drove away, he noticed a small orange object wrapped in electrical tape about 15 feet from where Mr. Perez's vehicle had been parked. He opened the object, which turned out to be a Cheetos bag, and found a diaper inside in which a plastic bag containing a white powdery substance was enclosed.
A subsequent field test of the substance tested positive for cocaine, with a total weight of 60.39 grams and a street value of $6,000.
West Tisbury police officers went to Mr. Perez's residence to speak with him, and although his vehicle was nearby, he was not home. A search warrant was obtained for Mr. Perez's vehicle that day, and a general broadcast issued for Mr. Perez.
An arrest warrant was issued for him on May 29. West Tisbury and Island police continued to look for Mr. Perez, until he turned himself in on July 1.
Penelope - next Vineyard osprey in odyssey
After a five-and-half hour wait, University of North Carolina ornithologist Rob Bierregaard caught two ospreys yesterday morning at Long Point Wildlife Refuge in West Tisbury. As the ospreys landed in their nest, they became entangled in a "noose carpet" trap made of chicken wire with more than 100 fish line slipknots attached to it.
Mr. Bierregaard, after hooding and straightjacketing both birds, untangled one adult male and one young female from the trap. He let the adult male go; the fledgling was what he wanted for his research. Tagging ospreys before they migrate is important to osprey research in determining how ospreys navigate their first time in flight, as opposed to following their own familiar migration paths.
He named the fledgling Penelope, after Odysseus' wife in Homer's Odyssey. Penelope's half-brother, Homer, was tagged in 2005 and named after Homer Pond on the south shore of the Vineyard (but has lived up to his name with his confused migrations since then).
Penelope's solar-powered GPS transmitter will track her exact path down the East Coast as she migrates South this winter and then north back to her nest on the Vineyard.
Vineyard Gazette names new managing editor
The Vineyard Gazette this week announced that Lauren Martin, Gazette calendar and features editor, will assume the title of managing editor.
Ms. Martin arrived on the Vineyard and joined the Gazette two and a half years ago, after leaving Canberra, Australia, where she was a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Ms. Martin, an Ohio native, replaces Gazette news editor James Kinsella, a Cape resident who joined the Gazette in 2002, as well as the ranks of commuters who regularly travel to and from the Vineyard.
Ms. Martin is married to Mike Seccombe, a native of Australia and reporter for the Gazette. Mr. Secombe holds the title of senior writer. The couple has two children.
Gazette publisher Richard Reston, a resident of Sarasota, Florida, advised his new managing editor to maintain her sense of humor and not take herself too seriously. "Nurture your sense of detachment about the swirl of community events around you," said Mr. Reston. "It is that quality of yours that will allow you to remain a fair and impartial observer of Vineyard life."
Oak Bluffs and Tisbury win housing grant
Oak Bluffs and Tisbury have been awarded $615,909 to rehabilitate 18 units of affordable housing through the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, according to a recent press release from state Rep, Eric Turkington's office.
"This is a great example of how two Island communities, working together, can produce real results," Mr. Turkington (D-Cape and Islands) stated.
This year the department will distribute $26.7 million in grants to 55 Massachusetts communities. Repair and improvements to infrastructure and housing rehabilitation for low- and middle-income families are the two largest spending categories. Some 256 private housing units statewide will be rehabilitated using the grant funds.
Alice Boyd of Bailey Boyd Associates wrote the grant application for Oak Bluffs and is the administrator of the current grant. Because regional applications are accepted, when she wrote the town's first grant application six years ago she suggested the idea of including Tisbury, and the Oak Bluffs selectmen agreed.
The funds help many families and elderly homeowners strapped for money to make critical home repairs that address code and safety compliance issues, as well as improvements that provide handicapped access, Ms. Boyd said in a phone call last week.
Oak Bluffs and Tisbury were awarded funding to rehab 18 units of housing owned by low- to moderate-income residents or landlords willing to sign long-term deed restrictions to keep the houses affordable, she explained.
"It's a good program that does great things for people," Ms. Boyd said. "It offers a zero-percent, deferred-payment, forgivable loan that is reduced by 1/15 per year for 15 years. At the end of 15 years, the loan is forgiven."
The rehabilitation work is put out for bid, Ms. Boyd said. The Resource Inc. (TRI), based in Vineyard Haven, has been awarded the contract to operate the program. "We use all local contractors, which means that over a half-million dollars will go into fueling the local economy," Ms. Boyd said.
House panel cuts firearm license hikes
The House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday cut a series of firearm licensing hikes from a draft version of Gov. Deval Patrick's supplemental budget.
Island hunters and target shooters would have seen the cost of a firearms license increase from the current $100 to $200 had the proposed hikes remained in the budget. The governor proposed the increase to help balance the fiscal year 2009 budget.
All Massachusetts gun owners are required to possess a firearms identification card or license to carry. Both are issued by local police departments and must be renewed every six years.
The fees were projected to bring in $2.8 million this year, an estimate built into the fiscal 2009 budget passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this month.
Many lawmakers blasted the fees as unaffordable for some and said they would unfairly penalize law-abiding citizens.
In comments after the fee was first proposed Senator Robert O'Leary, who represents the Cape and Islands, said, he was not sympathetic and the increase was a bit of a grab.
Teammates to set sail for Bermuda
Two standout competitors on the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School sailing team will join the crew of the sail training sloop Spirit of Bermuda, in a voyage back to the Island nation.
The 110-foot sloop stopped in Vineyard Haven this past weekend, tying up at Tisbury Wharf Company for a reception organized by Sail Martha's Vineyard. The vessel left Martha's Vineyard, bound for Mystic, Connecticut, earlier this week.
As part of an exchange program between Sail Martha's Vineyard and its sister organization in Bermuda, high school students Caleb Gregory, a sophomore this fall, and Solveig Sayre, a junior, will join the Spirit of Bermuda crew in Mystic. From there, they will learn the ropes with other young crew members on a voyage of more than 700 miles to St. George, Bermuda.