Chris Kennedy, The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) Martha’s Vineyard superintendent, said the nonprofit land trust would continue to manage county-owned Norton Point Beach even as its seeks to resolve contract differences with the the Dukes County Commission over a new county-mandated $15-an-hour minimum-wage requirement.
The contract expires on Thursday, March 31. State and federally protected shorebirds are expected to begin arriving soon along the barrier beach.
Dukes County Commission chairman Christine Todd told The Times in a phone conversation Wednesday that negotiations have resulted in a draft agreement that will require TTOR to incrementally increase its wages for employees who work at the beach. That agreement will not be formalized until the next commission meeting on Wednesday, April 6.
Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Todd characterized the negotiations as positive.
TTOR has managed the beach since 2006 through a series of three-year contracts. Norton Point Beach is a two-mile strip of county-owned barrier beach between the open Atlantic Ocean and Katama Bay that links Katama to Chappaquiddick, and provides an important transportation route and recreational resource. The beach is also considered to be prime nesting habitat for protected species of shorebirds.
Mr. Kennedy said in a phone conversation with The Times Wednesday morning that TTOR will meet a state and federal deadline on April 1, which requires that beach managers take measures to delineate and protect nesting areas.
“We’re not just going to pack up things,” Mr. Kennedy said.
County commissioners voted in November to raise the minimum wage for its employees to $15 an hour, a threshold already exceeded for individuals directly hired by the county. However, the language of the resolution required those who contract with Dukes County to pay the same wage. The unexpected change to the contract impeded the contract renewal, which was set to take place at the same November meeting.
TTOR funds the cost of Norton Point Beach management through the sale of oversand vehicle permits. Mr. Kennedy estimated earlier this month that a sudden wage hike would cost TTOR an additional $20,000 in its upcoming fiscal year. He added that TTOR runs a very tight ship financially, and it cannot afford to operate under a deficit. Norton Point operates with a small surplus, and any excess funds go to other programs, particularly education and shorebird protection.