Aquinnah town clerk informs selectmen of retirement

Board votes to approve Vineyard Power letter of recommendation.

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Town administrator Jeffrey Madison and selectmen Jim Newman and Gary Haley discuss the departure of town clerk Carolyn Feltz.

Aquinnah town clerk Carolyn Feltz is retiring. In a brief letter to the board of selectmen, Ms. Feltz wrote that Dec. 31 would be her final day.

Ms. Feltz was not present at Monday’s meeting. Selectman Juli Vanderhoop was also absent.

Town administrator Jeffrey Madison said Ms. Feltz chose to depart for personal reasons, and that she would bow out as assistant to the building inspector, too. “She did everything here,” Mr. Madison said. “And I mean everything …”

From beach parking management to town hall tidiness, Mr. Madison pointed to her many roles. She will be “terribly missed,” he said.

The selectmen announced they would begin a search for her replacement. Though they discussed the vacancy that would be left in the building department, they did not declare an additional job search.

Reached by telephone, Ms. Feltz told The Times that she opted to wrap up her 12-year tenure as town clerk for pressing personal reasons, and that she wished circumstances were different. “I love my job. I love my town,” she said. “I’m very sorry to have to go.”

Despite her departure from town government, Ms. Feltz said she plans to remain in Aquinnah.

Vineyard Power president Richard Andre came before the board with a request that they endorse his organization’s bid to construct a wind farm with development partner Offshore MW. To that end, he touched upon the benefits the partnership would bring to the Island. “We’re going to build an operations and maintenance facility on the Vineyard,” he said. The facility would be in Vineyard Haven, and could bring up to 50 jobs, he noted.

“When you build these wind farms, the construction jobs are about 18 months to 24 months, and then they’re gone,” he said. “But the operation and maintenance goes on for the life of the wind farm — 25 years at a minimum — could be a lot longer than that. So those are the jobs that are going to stay here on the Vineyard. They could have been placed anywhere, but we got them to come here.”

Mr. Andre said he anticipated two 85-foot vessels going in and out of Vineyard Haven Harbor daily.

Another carrot Mr. Andre dangled before the selectmen was the development of a wind technician course at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). The course would be affiliated with Bristol Community College for certification purposes and with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy for marine safety curriculum.

The incentives Mr. Andre brought to the Aquinnah selectmen contrasted with what wind farm competitor Bay State Wind brought to Chilmark earlier in November. Bay State Wind’s request for an endorsement from the Chilmark selectmen was prefaced by a description of a construction facility in New Bedford and the possibility of an operations facility on the Vineyard. Former Aquinnah town administrator Adam Wilson, the representative for Bay State Wind who pitched the endorsement in Chilmark, said Bay State Wind was exploring options for Island education and training. The lack of concrete economic and educational benefits for Islanders were contributing influences on the Chilmark selectmen’s refusal to formally support Bay State’s bid.

Mr. Andre also outlined another gift, “Island Resiliency Fund” solar storage panels. The Oak Bluffs Fire Station and MVRHS were two places on the shortlist for panels that he said would store power for emergencies like storms.

Wind farm construction would start in 2020 or 2021, Mr. Andre said. He noted that Vineyard Power built a solar panel array at the old Aquinnah dump, and that an option for the town to own those panels at the halfway point of their lease was approaching. He also said he planned to ask the board at some point in the future about other possible investments that could be made in Aquinnah. He did not specify what types of investments might be on the table.

Lastly, Mr. Andre said State Rep. Dylan Fernandes and State Sen. Julian Cyr have both endorsed the partnership’s bid.

“Speaking for myself, [I] certainly support your organization, Vineyard Power,” selectmen chairman Jim Newman said. “We’ve worked closely with you before, and certainly will continue to work closely with you.”

“For sure,” Selectman Gary Haley said.

They voted to endorse the bid.

In other business, the selectmen voted to accept the gift of a 1.8-acre lot on Lighthouse Road for use as a park. According to Chilmark real estate agent Russell Maloney, who explained the gift to the board on behalf of donor Hannah Malkin, tree-cutting funds would also be set aside to open up a scenic overlook.

Reached by telephone after the meeting, Mr. Newman said the gift was generous, and would eventually provide a beautiful vista of the Menemsha Bight and the Elizabeth Islands.