Trash piles up in Vineyard Haven
An informal survey of trash pick-up in the business and shopping districts of the three down-Island towns shows trash barrels in Vineyard Haven consistently overflowing, smelly, and unsightly. Surveyed during roughly the same hours, on the same days, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown managed to keep trash barrels emptied regularly and neat in appearance, even in trash trouble spots near ferry terminals or take-out restaurants that generate a lot of paper trash.
Merchants along Main Street and elsewhere in Tisbury indicate trash pick-up along public streets is a chronic problem, an issue that the town's public works department is failing to address adequately, they say.
"It's disgusting, it's really bad," said Alana Pagnotti, store manager at Jenni Bick Bookbinding on Main Street. "It's too bad, it's a nice little town."
"I've noticed it the last couple of years. It's kind of hard to put your trash anywhere if it's full," said Peter Cronig, whose business, Cronig's Real Estate, is located on Main Street. He says the problem is sometimes so bad, he has moved trash from overflowing barrels, to other receptacles. "It needs to be done a lot more."
"It's reflective on our town, that's the big issue. It needs to be clean. Cleanliness makes you feel welcome," said Leslie Hewson, who heads the Tisbury Business Association. "What good is a trash barrel if it's not emptied?"
Fred LaPiania, Tisbury's director of public works, said he has had very few complaints about trash this summer.
"For the downtown area, we pick up once a day, every morning," said Mr. LaPiania. "We do it seven days a week, in the summer." He says if someone calls about an overflowing trash can, a work crew is sent out to pick it up. "The extra pickups are on the weekends. We try not to bring a trash truck downtown during the day," said Mr. LaPiania.
Thursday, August 21, was one of the busiest days of the year on the Vineyard, at the height of vacation season, when the Agricultural Fair, Illumination Night, and the Oak Bluffs fireworks show draws extra visitors to the Island.
In mid-afternoon a trash barrel on Water Street in Vineyard Haven, near the Steamship Authority pick-up and drop-off parking spots, overflowed with garbage. Bags of refuse, loose trash, and cardboard were piled on the sidewalk. Across the traffic circle, near the Vineyard Transit Authority bus stop, tourists sat on benches next to more overflowing trash barrels, with bottles and cups piled precariously atop the funnel shaped barrel covers. On Union Street, another trash barrel was full beyond capacity. On Main Street, most barrels were not overflowing, but afternoon shoppers filed past several barrels near the intersection with State Road piled with refuse.
At roughly the same time, the downtown business district in Oak Bluffs appeared relatively clean. Not a single barrel on Circuit Avenue, Kennebec Avenue, Ocean Drive, or Seaview Avenue near the ferry terminal was filled to the point where any trash was visible. In Edgartown, barrels were neat and attractive along Main Street, Summer Street, Water Street, and near the public waterfront area.
Later in the afternoon, back in Vineyard Haven, the barrel near the Steamship Authority parking spots had been emptied, and the overflowing trash picked up. But just steps away, barrels near the bus stop and on Union Street, already overflowing hours earlier, continued to accumulate trash. The next morning, the barrel by the ferry parking spots was gone, while the other barrels were nearly empty.
A similar survey during mid-evening hours on Tuesday, August 26, revealed no overflowing barrels near the ferry terminal in Vineyard Haven, but several with trash piled high on Main Street. During roughly the same hours, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown again appeared neat and clean. Anecdotal observations throughout the summer, as well as the accounts of local merchants, indicate that the informal surveys of the three down-Island towns accurately represent a picture of inadequate trash pick-up in Vineyard Haven.
Some contend that the Island's tourist-oriented economy, with tens of thousands of visitors straining local infrastructure, make trash pick-up a uniquely difficult problem. Others say money-spending visitors attracted to the Island for its beauty, beaches, and shops are the reason trash pick-up should be a priority.
"A lot of our problems are that people tend to dump their personal trash into barrels," said Mr. LaPiania. "We have somewhat of a unique situation. People leave the Island, they need to get rid of their stuff quickly."
Mr. LaPiania points out that the barrels near the ferry terminal are not on town property. "We do it to help the Steamship Authority out as best we can. That's their property. Really, the Steamship Authority has improved a little bit. The other towns don't have the ferry coming in, other than Oak Bluffs."
Other towns also have illegal dumping of household trash, but deal with it with pick-ups twice and sometimes three times daily.
"That's a real big problem," said Richard Combra, Jr., who heads the highway department in Oak Bluffs. "I would guess that 50 percent of the rubbish that goes into the town receptacles is just household rubbish. Every morning at 6 am, there's six guys from the highway department that go down, they sweep the whole town." Mr. Combra said his crews make another sweep of the town in the afternoon, and he assigns extra evening pickups on days such as fireworks night or illumination night, when crowds are much heavier.
The Edgartown board of trade, which represents many downtown businesses, had no complaints about Edgartown streets.
"They've always done a very good job of cleaning up around town," said Christina Cook, secretary of the board of trade.
Disposing of the problem
While several Vineyard Haven merchants said their requests for better trash pick-up have not resulted in adequate service, public officials contacted by The Times were eager to address the issue.
"The selectmen would be open to any discussion, if people feel there is an issue," said newly elected selectman Jeff Krystal. "I believe Fred's on top of it." Mr. Krystal noted that selectmen have no direct supervisory role over the department of public works. "Some of the most visible things in town, the selectman have no control over, and trash pick-up is one of them," said Mr. Krystal.
Jurisdiction over the department of public works belongs to a five-member elected public works commission. Fred Thifault, chairman of the commission, acknowledged that there have been complaints about trash pick-up services.
"We're trying to do something about it," said Mr. Thifault. "If it's not being taken care of, I can talk to the other commissioners and consider picking up twice a day."
Ms. Hewson expects the topic to come up next month, when the Tisbury Business Association meets to assess the past summer. "I'm sure things will be addressed about what was good, bad, and ugly," she said.