West Tisbury shortens oyster shellfishing season

Friday Afternoon oysters and wings special at Offshore Ale. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

West Tisbury selectmen met last week and agreed with a shellfish committee recommendation to reduce the length of the town’s recreational oyster season by two months in an effort to guard against the bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus, also known as Vibro or Vp, which can cause illness in humans.

The recreational oyster harvesting season, which previously ran from October through May is now the same as the commercial season, November through April. Colder water temperatures are less supportive of the growth of the bacteria that causes Vibrio illness in humans.

West Tisbury oysters are harvested from Tisbury Great Pond. A Vibrio outbreak last summer was responsible for the closing of oyster beds in Edgartown and across the state.

Selectmen held a public hearing on an NSTAR proposal to replace three private utility poles with new poles on Old Stage Road to service the planned solar panel project at the old town dump. Selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter asked whether underground cables had been considered as an option to the new poles.

Town administrator Jennifer Rand said that West Tisbury requires underground lines on designated scenic roads. No one thought that Old Stage Road had that designation.

Selectmen requested information on the height of the poles, and an estimate of the additional cost to run the new cables underground. The NSTAR representative said that the cost of underground cables would have to be paid for by the town and that she would gather the missing information.

The width of planned gravel shoulders for the redesigned Old County-State Road intersection dominated a discussion of the State Department of Transportation (DOT) project scheduled to begin in the fall. Mr. Manter said the pavement should be wider for the shoulders where large trucks might need more room to turn rather than using gravel which would end up on the road and would add to the more rapid deterioration of the road edges.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Mark London said that the state plans should more clearly delineate where the paved shoulders and the gravel shoulders will be. He suggested that the increased shoulder size taper back as soon as possible to the width of the road elsewhere.

The State redesign converts the “Y” shaped intersection to a “T” to increase safety.

Scenic roads

On a similar topic, Mr. London presented a plan to the selectmen to establish an Island-wide scenic/rural roads committee with representatives from each of the towns to establish standards for Island roads which he said could give the Island more control over some projects when the State looks to local guidelines for reference.

He said he hoped the group could meet as early as March to develop an NSTAR coordination committee, “so that we are not blindsided like we were with the big poles issue last year.” Mr. London was referring to the pole replacement project along the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road by NSTAR last year.

He said an NSTAR committee could begin to address the issue of underground cables Island-wide. Acknowledging that the cost of running underground cable could be high, he said that stretching out underground cable projects over 20 years or so might be manageable.

“It may not be possible to underground all of the Island’s cables,” Mr. London said, “but if we start to identify the top 10 or 20 percent of the most critical or the most scenic or for safety reasons, it is not out of the question over a long term. I think there is a major discussion to have about this.”

In other business, selectmen decided to meet with both the town cemetery abutters and the Historic District Commission about the proposed cemetery fence rebuilding project before finalizing plans. Ms. Rand said that the Community Preservation Committee was willing to recommend funding the project from Community Preservation Act funds when the plan is complete and permitted.

Also, selectman Richard Knabel said that he would like to see an article be placed on the town warrant to construct a 30-foot section of sidewalk in front of Alley’s General Store in conjunction with moving the crosswalk 15 feet south of its present location on the corner of Alley’s parking lot. Selectmen decided to postpone the discussion until a site visit and a more definitive plan could be made.

Selectmen observed a moment of silence in memory of Jonathan Revere, who died January 19.  “Jonathan was our faithful videographer and finance committee member,” Mr. Knabel said. “He served on other committees and ran for public office many times and Jonathan was a great friend to many, many people.”