Chilmark selectmen agree to support an all-Island Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee

Newest FinCom member Rob Hannemann leads the charge.

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The number of elderly Chilmark residents without drivers' licenses is projected to rise quickly. – Courtesy Tri-Town Ambulance

Here’s a recap of what happened at the Chilmark selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 6:

  • Approved proceeding with the Elder Wellness Transport Project with support of Tri-Town Ambulance and an elder-services grant
  • Approved Chilmark joining the Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee (VSEC), and nominated newest FinCom member Robert Hannemann (who has spearheaded the project) to be a committee of one for an “informal” Chilmark energy committee and the VSEC representative. (Chilmark Energy Committee is not a formal committee at this point.)
  • Approved Human Resources Board items, including a 1 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for town employees for the next fiscal year
  • Reviewed special town meeting results
  • Approved the concrete dock plan
  • Approved accepting a piano donation for the Chilmark Community Center
  • Approved a hunting request on town land from Patrick Murphy
  • Heard an update on the dredging project in Menemsha Harbor, which is behind schedule and in need of a repair
  • Heard an update on town center paths
  • Scheduled future selectmen meetings with some changes: The Dec. 20 meeting has been changed to Dec. 21 at 5 pm due to a conflict; Jan. 10 at 5 pm will be the only regularly scheduled selectmen meeting of that month; and in July and August 2017, selectmen will meet the second and fourth Tuesday instead of the normal first and third Tuesday.

Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee (VSEC)

Many Massachusetts towns have established energy committees to provide grassroots leadership for fostering sustainable, renewable, and resilient energy, and the towns of West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and Edgartown already have energy committees. The VSEC is not intended to replace the current energy committees, but will rather focus on things that those committees are not positioned well to address. VSEC is currently in the approval process as an all-Island group.

“I would like to say I’m here to request that the board of selectmen approve the town’s participation in an all-Island sustainable energy committee,” newest FinCom member Rob Hannemann said.

“The background is that a number of citizens concerned with sustainable energy matters and climate change met, starting over the summer, four or five times, and each of the six towns on the Island was represented. The conclusion was there is a need for an inclusive all-Island sustainable energy committee,” Mr. Hannemann said.

According to the VSEC mission statement, “Grassroots efforts and community action are important adjuncts to national and international policy initiatives in responding to the challenge of climate change.”

In July, all six Island towns expressed interest in exploring the possibility of an Island-wide sustainable energy committee. In last week’s West Tisbury selectmen’s meeting, selectmen approved joining the VSEC, and appointed the two energy committee members to be the VSEC members. Mr. Hannemann thought it might be too ambitious to require all six towns to participate, but thought that if four towns made the commitment, that he would proceed with the project. Chilmark is now the second town to commit to VSEC and to appoint a representative, which for Chilmark is Mr. Hannemann.

Chilmark does not have a formal energy committee, but Mr. Hannemann agreed to be a “committee of one” in the interim.

Mr. Hannemann stressed that the Martha’s Vineyard towns are small, but that if they could unite as one all-Island unit, that solid work could get done.

“Let me give an example that just came to my attention the other day,” Mr. Hannemann said. “Four towns in the commonwealth have each received $350,000 to pilot the use of electric school buses, and we, none of the towns, understood that that grant program was available, and even if we had, a single town would not be able to participate in that program, but an umbrella organization, like an all-Island committee, can presumably be better positioned to handle that than the individual energy committees.”

Board chairman Warren Doty mentioned that he thought the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) is possibly experimenting with electric buses.

The VSEC working group that met over the summer consists of Rob Hannemann from Chilmark; Bill Lake and Mike Herbert from Aquinnah; Paul Pimentel, Barbara Conroy, and Jim Oaks from Edgartown; Richard Toole from Oak Bluffs; Bill Straw and Peter Cabana from Tisbury; and Sander Shapiro and Sue Hruby from West Tisbury.

According to the slide show, initial VSEC activities will be to “provide an ongoing and information-sharing forum for sustainable energy efforts, in coordination with existing town energy committees, and to develop and maintain an Island-wide sustainable energy master plan, using the energy section of the 2010 Island Plan as a starting point and framework.”

According to the VSEC mission statement, “It is becoming increasingly apparent that even with the aspirational goal of limiting global warming to 2° Celsius, it will not be sufficient to avoid many of the results of climate change, some of which (such as sea-level rise) will directly and seriously impact our Island home.”

VSEC will aim to measure and account for progress in implementing the plan, and would handle related ad hoc town projects. VSEC will hold monthly meetings and issue an annual report. It will also be sponsored by and report to selectmen.

The VSEC plans to “proactively and cooperatively” work with Cape Light Compact, Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative, Vineyard Power, and the Vineyard Energy Project. According to the slide show, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) may also work with the VSEC.

Selectmen approved a motion to support the establishment of the Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee, and they appointed Rob Hannemann as the town’s representative. “Everything you said just made perfect sense to me,” selectman Bill Rossi said.

Elder wellness transport project

A $6,000 grant for federal fiscal year 2017 under the Older American Act Title III was received by Tri-Town Ambulance (TTA) Chief Ben Retmier from Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands to provide wellness transport services to residents of the three up-Island towns. Chief Retmier referred to the project as the brainchild of Alan Ganapol, who is a TTA emergency medical technician (EMT) and the director of Martha’s Vineyard Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

“Alan Ganapol and I worked and applied for an elder services grant for a wellness transport project,” Chief Retmier said. Both men were on hand to discuss their project. Mr. Ganapol is spearheading the effort, and Chief Retmier is “helping him out.”

“The core of the grant is that Tri-Town Ambulance would be providing wellness transports for citizens of the three up-Island towns, and only the three up-Island towns,” Mr. Ganapol said.

The idea is to help Martha’s Vineyard’s skyrocketing elderly community by providing a service that would give an elder, defined as age 60 or over, a ride to a doctor’s appointment, chiropractor’s appointment, or any wellness appointment. This service would also include a ride to pick up medication from a pharmacy. Users need to register with the transport service, the rides require a 24-hour notification, and all rides are for on-Island travel only. “Not for going off to Boston or Falmouth,” Mr. Ganapol said.

To be eligible, a requestor must be 60 years old, and then must simply ask. That’s it. “I’m not going to ask to see them walk — I think that would be inappropriate,” Mr. Ganapol said. “If they need to have a transport and say, ‘Hey, Alan, I need to get a transport,’ that’s sufficient in my mind.”

Technically, a client would have to indicate that they cannot drive “for whatever reason” — but just to “claim” they cannot drive (maybe on meds, maybe afraid, etc.), is good enough for Mr. Ganapol.

Board chairman Warren Doty asked if people were still eligible even if they had a car and could still drive. The answer was yes.

The need is there

The tri-town community of West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah had an elder population of 685 people in 1990; this number is projected to be 2,236 people in 2020, a 90 percent increase in that age cohort. The rate in the state of Massachusetts is projected to grow at 37 percent over the same period.

“The elder population is [growing] by leaps and bounds — way beyond the state,” Mr. Ganapol said.

“Not everyone in my age cohort is unable to drive, but maybe a license has been taken away by family members for reasons we are all too familiar with, or maybe they feel they can’t drive anymore and they need help getting out of the house,” Mr. Ganapol said.

“The primary goal is the removal of individual, social, economic, and/or physical barriers which impede the independence of older persons,” according to the same Nov. 9 slide presentation.

There would be additional training for EMTs and paramedics to do the transport, as they know how to get people into ambulances, but maybe not how to get people into cars.

“So in the training, not only are we doing some advanced training on geriatric care and geriatric health issues, but we’re also [having] a student physical therapist, who is also an EMT, instructing us on how to properly move somebody who needs help to get out of their house and into a car, beyond what we would normally do with taking somebody out in an emergency situation,” Mr. Ganapol told The Times Friday evening.

“What distinguishes this from using the LIft or a taxi service is [in those cases] there is no medical professional who is handling the transport, nor do any of these services have the ability or knowledge about how to safely move people from their house into a car, and we do and will, and we’re also keyed into knowing if there’s anything other than this non-emergent transport to their PCP or dentist or any healthcare provider, if there’s an emergent situation, we’d be able to very easily handle that as well by calling for 911 and an ambulance,” Mr. Ganapol said.

The EMTs and paramedics would get $15 an hour for the transport, and it is assumed a full transport would take four hours and could take one or two EMTs or paramedics.

A $15 donation is suggested, but it is assumed that some clients will pay nothing, and that the average will be a $10 donation to transport. The $15 an hour will come out of the TTA budget (or technically, the town of Chilmark, which runs the finances for TTA). Tri-Town Ambulance will be donating, in kind, the use of the response vehicle ($1,560), the cost of supplies ($200), and training ($200). The vehicle use includes insurance, gas, and depreciation and wear and tear on the vehicle.

“If they have a Rolls-Royce parked in front of their 90-kajillion-dollar house and they don’t want to give us the 10 bucks, that’s fine — it’s up to them,” Mr. Ganapol said.

“I’ve been able to get the word out to various stakeholders on the Island, and they are all buggy-eyed — yes!” Mr. Ganapol said; he is ready to begin helping as a private citizen, but there are still “bugs and fine-tuning to do.”

“I think it’s a great idea. I have one logistical question,” selectman James Malkin said. “To what extent could this negatively impact Tri-Town Ambulance staffing or its vehicles in responding to calls?”

“It will not affect our 911 staffing or coverage — this will be a stipend EMT or paramedic. If you want to sign up to do it, great, these are the hours we are going to operate it from; it will not affect our ambulances. We are potentially looking at using one of our ‘chase’ vehicles — we have two,” Mr. Retmier said, who added that if a transport arrived and a person was really very ill, that an ambulance would be called.

The Elder Wellness Transport Project does not receive a check for $6,000, but rather must first spend the money, and then Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands will reimburse TTA on a monthly basis up to $6,000.

The grant is for $6,000, and there is $6,900 in the budget for overtime that at least initially will come out of the Tri-Town Ambulance budget, as well as from donations to offset the cost.

“So you’re on the hook for $6,900 — that’s the worst-case scenario,” executive secretary Tim Carroll said to selectmen, in case client donations and outside contributions do not cover the $6,900.

“The Tri-Town Ambulance board has already approved this, and they request that we approve it,” Mr. Doty said.

Selectmen approved the effort.

The transport project will require donations to help seed the project, and Mr. Ganapol will be seeking contributions to offset the expenses. “The $6,000 doesn’t cover everything, so I have lined up some likely donors,” Mr. Ganapol said.

“I think it might be a good thing to get to know the community personally — that’s going to be a real benefit to you,” Mr. Rossi said. “I think it’s a very positive step, and I’m really happy you’re doing it. I wish you great success and luck.”

“Thank you for the work,” Mr. Malkin said.