News in Brief
State awards Edgartown Library $4.6 million
An omnibus state bond bill signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on Sunday awarded $4,593,557 to the Edgartown Free Public Library to carry out its expansion project.
Library officials plan to move the historic 1904 Carnegie library building 30 feet closer to North Water Street. Moving the building forward from where it lies now at the edge of the property line will allow for 22 parking spaces behind the library, accessible by a driveway on the east side of the building with an exit on the west.
David Blackburn, chairman of the trustees, explained that the idea for expansion came up when the former Daggett House property adjacent to the library became available. A survey revealed that the vast majority of residents preferred expanding the current library rather than rebuilding it elsewhere. Edgartown residents voted at town meeting to buy the former Daggett House property in 2005, for $3.5 million.
The grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners comes as part of the nearly $140 million appropriated for improving libraries in Massachusetts. Edgartown's share will cover 25 percent of the estimated building costs, which, Mr. Blackburn said, will total between $12 and $15 million. The library trustees are now in the process of raising private donations through a silent campaign to cover the rest of the cost. Their goal is to have the money by December of next year.
"Having seen how other campaigns on this Island have worked and the amount of money they've been able to raise, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't reach our goal," said Mr. Blackburn.
And the expansion is needed, librarians say.
"On a rainy day in the summer, we are absolutely mobbed," said Edgartown Library assistant director and childrens' librarian Deborah MacInnis, recalling seeing more than 300 visitors crowded into the library earlier this week during a storm. And there are only 14 public computers with Internet access.
"They are never empty," she said. "We often have lines of people waiting to use the computers."
She noted that the library is one of few places where Edgartown residents and visitors can connect to the Internet, if they don't own a computer.
The physical space of the building, Ms. MacInnis says, is a huge limiting factor: "For every book we buy, we have to throw one away, because we have no shelf space. The number of books keeps growing, but the building's size is finite."
The Friends of the Edgartown Library will host an open house tonight at 7 pm at the library to present an update on the capital campaign for the new library.
Martha's Vineyard Museum erases 2007 debt
An anonymous donor has erased the Martha's Vineyard Museum's 2007 operating deficit of $135,000 with a single check. Executive director Keith Gorman told The Times that the gift will save the Museum further interest payments on the debt, which was in the form of a line of credit. The Museum's fiscal years end on Jan. 1.
Mr. Gorman reports that so far this year the Museum is doing well, with income coming from both fundraising events such as "An Evening of Discovery" and from multi-year commitments from supporters, and he expects to end 2008 in the black. In addition, the Museum's staff have been successful in seeking grants for specific programs, including a $200,000 grant for a project on the history of whaling.
The Museum is also considering a capital fundraising project to find better space to house its exhibits and collections. The present facility on School Street is overflowing and cannot be sufficiently expanded. While preliminary work on a capital campaign is already underway, the board must first decide whether to continue announced plans to build a museum in West Tisbury or to retrofit the old Edgartown School for that purpose, a new option. The Museum's consultants have found the Edgartown school building structurally sound for the purpose, but there are several problems with modifying classrooms to fit the Museum's needs.
Although the decision must be made carefully, Mr. Gorman says he has told the committee that the decision needs to be made "in a timely way," so that the capital campaign can go forward.
TBA sponsors summer movie ticket giveaway
The Tisbury Business Association has come up with a unique invitation designed to entice shoppers to Vineyard Haven over the tax-free weekend.
Shoppers who purchase goods worth $25 or more at any Vineyard Haven business this Friday, Saturday or Sunday will receive a free movie ticket good for any show at the Capawock movie theater on Main Street in Vineyard Haven on Sunday August 17th.
Shoppers only need to present a sales receipt at Kennedy Studios, Mediterranean restaurant, Bowl & Board or Martha's Vineyard Heart to pick up a ticket according to a press release.
SSA board meets Tuesday in Oak Bluffs
The Steamship Authority (SSA) is scheduled to hold its August monthly business meeting on Tuesday at 10:30 am in the Oak Bluffs Public Library meeting room.
SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said the main order of business would be a vote on proposed 2009 winter and spring operating schedules.
Beset by rising fuel costs, management has been looking for ways to reduce the number of scheduled trips in order to trim fuel consumption.
At the July meeting in Hyannis management presented a set of proposals that included eliminating early and late boats at certain times throughout the week. The changes were published in local newspapers and the public was asked to comment.
In a telephone conversation Tuesday Mr. Lamson told The Times that after considering the public comments and further study of the various effects of the changes management had decided not to eliminate the 8:30 pm trip during the week from Woods Hole and the 9:45 pm trip from Woods Hole on the weekends.
For example, said Mr. Lamson, the fuel cost savings realized by eliminating the 9:45 pm trip turned out not to be significant and are offset by current traffic.
There would be no crew cost saving because the crew is paid based on an 18-hour day even if the SSA does not operate that many trips. Under the current contract it is either a 12-hour operating day or an 18-hour operating day said Mr. Lamson.
"To get down to a 12-hour operating day which is where the significant savings would be Mr. Lamson said would require starting one of the larger boats later in the morning so the 12 hours ended in the evening or stopping in the afternoon because the day begins at 5:30 am. Either scenario would result in longer waits between departures, he said.
The current proposal calls for the SSA to eliminate the 6 am trip from Woods Hole on Saturdays and Sundays and the 9:30 pm trip off the Island on Friday and Saturday nights. The late boat would still sail on Sunday night so it will be in position to leave Woods Hole at 6 am Monday morning carrying trucks.
"There is a lot that goes into making changes," said Mr. Lamson.
Year to date SSA numbers are up
Steamship Authority passenger, automobile, and freight (truck) traffic has turned in a solid 2008 year-to-date performance, outdistancing traffic volumes for 2007 in each category. Buoyed by the Vineyard numbers, which have made up for declines in Nantucket traffic categories, the boatline as a whole is also slightly ahead of calendar 2007 numbers, except in freight, as of the end of July.
Passengers on Vineyard routes are up 3.5 percent, autos up 2.3 percent, and freight 1.6 percent. Freight and passengers on Nantucket routes are down significantly.
SSA revenue is up in all three customer categories: 1.2 percent for passengers, 3.1 percent for autos, and 2.3 percent for freight.
Sales tax holiday is this weekend
Shoppers get a break this weekend. There is no five-percent Massachusetts sales tax on Saturday and Sunday under legislation Governor Deval Patrick signed last month. It is the fifth year in a row certain purchases will be exempt from the 5 percent sales tax.
The two-day summer sales tax holiday is effective August 16 and 17 and applies to items costing $2,500 or less.
As in previous years, sales of telecommunications services, tobacco products, gas, steam, electricity, motor vehicles, motorboats, meals, and items priced over $2,500 remain subject to the sales tax.
A customer may purchase multiple items tax-free as long as each item costs $2,500 or less. There is no upper limit on the tax-free amount on each purchase and separate invoices are not required.
However, that does not mean that when an item exceeds $2,500, the sales price is reduced by the threshold amount. For example, a $3,000 item will be taxed on the full amount, not just the amount that exceeds $2,500.
Clothing purchases present another complication, however, as clothing ordinarily is not taxed unless the sales price exceeds $175. However, on the sales tax holiday, if a bride-to-be purchases a wedding dress for $2,550, for example, the amount subject to tax will be $2,375.
Excluded from tax-free shopping are motor vehicles, motorized boats, utility payments, tobacco products, telecommunications services, gas, and meals. However, that still leaves mopeds, motorized bicycles or vehicles incapable of speeds in excess of 12 miles per hour available to purchase without sales tax, as well as canoes, kayaks, rowboats and other type of watercraft with no mechanical propulsion.
Rentals of tangible property except motor vehicles and motorboats also are eligible for the sales tax exemption, even if the rental period covers days before or after the holiday, providing payment is made in full during the sales tax weekend.
For special orders or Internet orders that involve a later shipping date, items that are paid for in full sometime on August 16 or 17 will be exempt from the sales tax.
Oak Bluffs residents follow-up wins selectmen praise
Oak Bluffs selectmen held the second of two meetings focusing on the concerns of summer residents on Tuesday, reporting substantial progress and earning praise for addressing issues raised at the first meeting, held three weeks ago.
Yvonne Gordon offered thanks for the removal of two boats parked on public streets near her Rowland Avenue home. "I'm here to thank you so much," she said. "I was at a party, and I left especially to tell you that."
Chairman Ron DiOrio explained that after satisfying legal requirements to notify the boat owners, the two boats were towed to a highway department facility. If they are not claimed in one year, the town will dispose of the vessels.
Another issue raised at the previous session was health code violations on private properties. Janet Zeller of Cedar Avenue was extremely critical of the town's health department, which signed off on required corrections to health violations done over the past several weeks.
"They did quite a lot of work, but it is absolutely not acceptable," said Ms. Zeller. "There's all kinds of potentially harmful stuff all over the property."
However, Mary Tahmoush, whose land abuts the Tucker property, had a different view.
"I'm very pleased to see that it has been cleaned up, there is substantial change," said Ms. Tahmoush.
Belleruth Naparstek of Saco Avenue asked selectmen to help resolve the controversial issues surrounding the Moujabber garage, a building project that has been tied up in courts and the local permitting process for several years.
"A lot of people think the issue has been resolved," said Ms. Naparstek. "My concern is that it's going to get shuffled around."
She said she feared the issue would be delayed until she and other summer residents with an interest in the project, are off-Island for the winter.
Reward offered for Hart Haven fence destroyer
Two associations representing residents of the Harthaven community in Oak Bluffs are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of the person who is repeatedly destroying a fence which marks the beginning of the community's private beach.
According to Alfred Woollacott 3rd, president and treasurer of the Harthaven Community Association, the split rail fence has been destroyed six times over the past several years.
"It's not storm damage, it's cut in half," said Mr. Woollacott. "I suspect it's someone that hates to see beach being restricted. I think the vast majority of people respect private property, there's plenty of wonderful public beaches here. I suspect that someone just sees fences on beaches, and it sends people over the edge."
The fence is near the Farm Pond culvert, at the end of the seawall along Oak Bluffs public beaches. The Hart Realty Trust owns the private beach. That organization, along with the Harthaven Community Association, offered the reward.
The trust has given development rights for the part of the private beach to the Vineyard Conservation Society, to establish a wildlife refuge primarily for piping plover and oystercatcher nesting grounds.
Most recently, the fence was reconstructed just before the 4th of July, at a cost of about $300.
"By the end of July it was cut down," said Mr. Woollacott, who believes a chain saw or circular saw is being used to cut the rails. "We've had signs there saying that it was private property. Those signs got ripped up. Without the signs and without the fence, people don't know. It's the first stretch of beach as you walk out of Oak Bluffs. It's not public beach."
Agreement reached on Estuaries Project data
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and UMass-Dartmouth Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding that will end an impasse over the Massachusetts Estuary Project (MEP).
The agreement is good news for organizations and communities that have been on the losing end of a long-running contractual dispute between DEP and the UMass.
The two agencies had been unable to agree on who would control the data compiled by the researchers on the six-year-old project. The standoff left communities that had participated in the project waiting for information and data on their estuaries, bays, and ponds.
The agreement enables MEP "to move forward and provide the MEP communities with the scientific information and analysis necessary to develop the plans and solutions to restore estuaries throughout Southeastern Massachusetts," according to a DEP press release.
"I think its great news and we are finally going to start moving forward," said Bruce Rosinoff, Martha's Vineyard MEP co-coordinator.
The dispute had delayed the issuance of a final report on the health of the Edgartown Great Pond, the first Island pond to be studied, and delayed work on Sengekontacket and Lagoon ponds. Eventually all of the Island's great ponds are expected to be included in the study.
Mr. Rosinoff said he expects to soon have a schedule for the release of the final Edgartown Pond report and draft versions of the Sengekontacket and Lagoon reports. "At this point I think we are still trying to get up to speed," he said.
The final Edgartown pond report is expected to show that pond water quality is significantly affected by heavy nitrogen loading, and that the biggest single contributor is household septic systems.
The MEP was established to address the impact of excess nutrient-loading in 89 Southeastern Massachusetts estuaries. This nitrogen contamination presents serious long-term environmental problems, such as loss of eelgrass and fisheries habitat, as well as potential economic impacts, including a decline in fishing and shellfishing, tourism and property values, said a press release.
The goal of the project is to provide a consistent, economical approach to address nitrogen pollution in the estuaries and bays.
The agreement establishes several means for managing and accessing the MEP data.
State repaints crosswalks, highway lines
They came in the middle of the night, a Mass Highway crew sent to the Vineyard to repaint crosswalks and other faded lane markings on state roads.
The crew began with the notorious Vineyard Haven intersection at Five-Corners on Tuesday evening. Barely distinguishable crosswalks received a new white coating.
The Water Street turning lanes and arrows that lead vehicles from the Steamship Terminal also received a fresh coat of paint.
A member of the crew, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak, said the crew would be repainting lines and crosswalks around the Vineyard but only on state roadways.
Why wait until the middle of August to do work on Martha's Vineyard? The only answer was that the state works in mysterious ways.
Chicama Vineyards closes after 37 years
Many Islanders and visitors raised a glass to say goodbye at Chicama Vineyards' final sale and closing party on August 9 and 10.
The occasion marked the end of a 37-year run for the Island's only winery. Catherine and George Mathiesen founded Chicama Vineyards, the first bonded winery in Massachusetts, after moving to West Tisbury with their six children in 1971.
In addition to providing an answer for that oft-heard question - "Where's the vineyard on Martha's Vineyard?" - the local winery's vintages such as Oceanus, Sea Mist, and Summer Island Red became prized as souvenirs and gifts reminiscent of the Island.
In 1991, when the imminent arrival of an infamous storm named "Bob" prompted the quick harvest of chardonnay grapes, Hurricane Chardonnay joined the lineup the next season.
After Mr. Mathiesen's death in 2005, his wife became partners with her children in the business. Son Michael died only a few months after his father. After Ms. Mathiesen died last year in October, the five remaining siblings decided none of them wanted to continue running the winery. In May 2008, they signed a purchase and sales agreement with Vineyard Meadow LLC.
The buyers do not want their names disclosed, according to family member Tim Mathiesen. However, he did say that the new owners plan to keep horses on the farm and have asked for instructions on how to maintain the grapevines.
The roughly 50-acre property straddles Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury. The Mathiesen family protected its agricultural use and prevented future subdivision and development by selling four acres to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank in 2001. In 2003, the Land Bank bought a trail easement and agricultural preservation restriction on 21 acres of the property located in Vineyard Haven.
In anticipation of closing the winery, Mr. Mathiesen said his family contacted New England merchant associations, and sold many pieces of equipment. "It's nice to know that pieces we used over the last four decades will find a second life in New England, put to use by people who have the same passion Mom and Dad had," he said.
While all of the Mathiesen children worked at Chicama Vineyards at various points in their lives, Lynn Hoeft spent the most time there, going full-time in 1978. Her daughter, Rosemary, represented the third generation of the family to work at the winery. Ms. Hoeft estimated more than one million bottles of wine were sold over the last 12 years.
Ms. Hoeft worked the winery's last hours over the weekend with Tim and his wife, Robin, and their sister Kris McDermet. People were lined up at the door before they opened at 11 am on Saturday morning, and by 3 pm, only about 30 bottles of wine remained to be sold.
The three siblings all said they all felt good about the decision to close and that they thought their parents would be very happy, too, especially since it will bring their family closer together.
"Both Lynne and my wife, Robin, and I purchased houses in the Brattleboro, Vermont, area where Kris and her husband, Stewart, live," Mr. Mathiesen said. "We're looking forward to the next chapter - we've already decided Robin and I will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house, and Kris will serve Thanksgiving breakfast at hers."
He said they hope their centralized location will facilitate visits from their other brothers, as well. Paul, his wife Alex, and sons Hugo and Wyndham live in Toronto, and Sean, his wife Delphine, and son Wyatt live in London.
Mr. Mathiesen said he plans to remain at his job at South Mountain Company through next spring in order to transfer his responsibilities for lighting design and technology to other members in the company.