Chappaquiddickers have a complaint or two
Edgartown selectmen invited seasonal residents to air their concerns and complaints last week in a meeting scheduled in the Baylies Room of the Old Whaling Church.
About 40 people attended, and most expressed appreciation for the selectmen's decision to hold a meeting specifically for seasonal residents, the first in recent memory.
Many in the room were from Chappaquiddick, and tops on their list of gripes was the residency requirement required to qualify for discount ferry tickets. Several pointed out that residency requirements for the privately owned Chappy ferry were far more stringent than state standards, or even standards for the Steamship Authority. Historically, residents must stay on Chappaquiddick for all but 45 days out of the year to qualify for heavily subsidized passage rates. Peter Wells, the new ferry owner, has put a moratorium on resident rates while evaluating fares. He assured those at the meeting that he takes the views of seasonal residents into account when he makes decisions about ferry rates.
"I have a lot of people that I talk to about what I'm doing," said Mr. Wells. "I'm not in a vacuum."
Paul Majane, a seasonal resident, estimated that taxpayers on Chappaquiddick contributed about $2.5 million to Edgartown's annual tax revenue, estimated by selectmen at approximately $18 million. Others estimated that seasonal Edgartown residents pay about two-thirds of the total tax assessment
Mr. Majane challenged selectmen to justify the return Chappy residents get for their tax dollars.
Mr. Smadbeck ticked off a list of public services, including schools, town administration, police and fire services, among others.
Mr. Majane, countered with his own list. "We educate eight or nine kids, we built the firehouse," he said.
But, after the first two items on Mr. Majane's list, selectman Michael Donaroma interjected "You're already over budget," which drew a hearty laugh from the crowd.
A number of residents questioned the condition of roads on Chappaquiddick, including Litchfield Road.
"It's a washboard two days after it's graded, and when it rains, it's a quagmire," said one resident who lives on the road.
The possibility of paving the road drew an immediate reaction from Steven Raichlen, a well-known cook book author, television host of the public television program Barbecue University. His objections illustrate the sharp division that has made consensus difficult on the isolated island. "There are very few places on Martha's Vineyard, or in America, where you can have the rural pleasure of living on a dirt road," said Mr. Raichlen.
Mr. Smadbeck, when asked about the board's view, said if Chappy residents want the road paved, it would be paved, if not, it would remain a dirt road.
A number of Chappaquiddick residents protested the influence of the Chappaquiddick Island Association (CIA) in decisions made by the selectmen.
"If you go to the CIA and you listen to only one point of view, controlled by the winter residents, we don't have a voice," said one seasonal resident.
Also discussed was the possibility of creating bicycle paths on Chappaquiddick. Town administrator Pam Dolby said she is gathering information about the feasibility and financing for bike paths, and said a preliminary plan could be ready for next spring's annual town meeting.