Aquinnah selectmen renew lighthouse tour contract with Martha’s Vineyard Museum

The Martha's Vineyard Museum will continue to lead tours at the Gay Head Lighthouse. —Ezra Newick

Aquinnah selectmen voted to renew the contract with the Martha’s Vineyard Museum (MVM) that has the museum managing the tours at the Gay Head Lighthouse. The profit-sharing agreement with the MVM is projected to net the town $26,000 in the coming year. Phil Wallis, the executive director of the MVM, was on hand at the Tuesday meeting to answer questions about the agreement.

Elise Lebovit, owner of the Duck Inn bed and breakfast in Aquinnah, argued against renewing the agreement. “We’re taking a job away from someone in our town,” she said. “We need to keep things that have been lost over the years by not running our own lighthouse.” Ms. Lebovit suggested that the experience of telling the town’s history during the lighthouse tours would build character.

Ms. Lebovit also took issue with the budget presented by the MVM. A museum employee, she said, devoted three hours per week to managing the reservations for the lighthouse tours. During the four-month period during which tours were offered, the museum was paid $10,500. Selectman James Newman disagreed with her understanding of the budget, and urged his fellow selectmen to accept the agreement.

“Our focus has been 100 percent on restoration,“ Julianne Vanderhoop, chairwoman of the BOS, said. “It has been fairly seamless with the museum [managing tours] so far. I’d like to keep it seamless for now.” Ms. Vanderhoop said that she would like the town’s energy to remain focused on restoring the buildings around the lighthouse. At a special town meeting on Nov. 29, the residents in attendance voted to borrow $300,000 from the Community Preservation Committee to pay for improvements to infrastructure and buildings surrounding Aquinnah Circle.

“We here at town hall are not prepared to run the lighthouse,” Mr. Newman said. He offered a resolution to renew the agreement for two years. Selectman Gary Haley recommended renewing the contract for only one year. This amended version of the resolution received a unanimous affirmative vote.

In other business, town administrator Adam Wilson told the selectmen that he was working on collecting the necessary permits for an emergency dredge of the West Basin of Menemsha Pond; the navigation channel at the entrance to the basin needs to be deepened. Mr. Wilson said he would like to take advantage of the presence of J-Way Southern, a contractor that is presently dredging Menemsha Harbor on the Chilmark side of the pond. The town administrator said that he has the necessary state and local permits, and now must speak with the proper person at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.