Authors Posts by Barry Stringfellow

Barry Stringfellow

Barry Stringfellow

Gosnold addiction treatment center.

This is the sixth installment in a continuing look at opiate abuse and its effect on the Island community. The series began on Jan. 2 “Opiate addiction hits home,” and was followed on Jan. 22 “Martha’s Vineyard police and physicians confront opiate abuse,” on Feb. 12 “Opiates, a love story,” and on May 7 “Battling Addiction on Martha’s Vineyard,” and on June 5 “Section 35—when addiction calls for drastic action.”

Addiction doesn’t just take over an addict’s life. It also takes over the lives of their loved ones. As their world becomes more cluttered with the wreckage that the addict leaves behind, anger and resentment builds, along with the constant worry that every time the phone rings, it’s bad news. When the promises of sobriety have been broken so often they’ve lost all meaning, a planned intervention provides a way for friends and family to tackle the addiction head on.

On Island help

There is a dearth of on-Island professionals who are qualified to lead interventions. Dr. Charles Silberstein, resident psychiatrist and addiction specialist at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is one of the few.

“Intervention is a very powerful way to break through an addict’s denial,” he said.

Dr. Silberstein meets with the friends and family before the intervention and advises them on the combustible encounter that lies ahead. “I ask that they don’t tell the addict what’s best for him or her because it comes across as controlling,” he said. Saying, ‘’I love you so much, I’m angry with you all the time. If you can’t go into treatment I can’t live in the same house,’ is much different than saying, ‘You need help.’  When you communicate from a place of anger it never works.”
Dr. Silberstein sometimes recommends a planned intervention, where the element of surprise is eliminated and the addict actually helps to organize the event. “The problem with surprise interventions is it can leave people traumatized,” he said. “The nice thing about a planned intervention it that it can feel empowering and it doesn’t feel like an attack. With any intervention, the goal is the same — to intervene on the destructive behavior and to design solutions to the problem. People go through stages of readiness for change. Once you have a dialogue you can bolster the addict to make the change they want to make. There’s a part of every addict that doesn’t want to be an addict. It’s not  a pleasant life.”

Dr. Silberstein added that if someone is in imminent risk to themselves or to others, the best course of action is to call 911.

Deborah Pigeon, a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) based in Vineyard Haven, can also supervise an on-Island intervention. Before going into private practice on the Island, Ms. Pigeon worked at Gosnold addiction treatment center and a satellite facility, Emerson House for Women in West Falmouth.

“Interventions now are approached a different way,” she said. “They’re not as much about the shock value as they used to be.”

Since there are no inpatient facilities on the Island, Ms. Pigeon and Dr. Silberstein arrange for a bed in an off-Island facility and a friend or family member to accompany the person before the intervention. Although Ms. Pigeon is no longer solely dedicated to treating substance abuse, she estimates that at least 75 percent of her patients are directly or indirectly affected by it.

Off-Island help

Holly Carroll, an intervention coordinator at Gosnold addiction treatment center, has supervised interventions on the Cape and Islands for the past seven years. As is usually the case with recovery, it all begins when someone picks up the phone.

“It starts with a call to my cell phone — 774-313-0662 — from a friend or family member and I listen to their concerns,” Ms. Carroll said in a phone interview with the Times. “I tell them about the services we provide and we discuss things like family history. After the initial interview we schedule a time to meet. In most cases this involves immediate family, but I urge people to think outside the family system. It can help to hear from a wider spectrum of people, like a high school friend or neighbor or athletic coach.”

She said. “My job to be flexible and work within their time frame because crisis can’t be planned.”

Once Ms. Carroll is enlisted, the process moves quickly. “I like to meet with family and friends the day before and have the intervention the next morning,” she said. “In the planning session we discuss the who, what, when, where, and why of how the day’s going to work. Some families are not as cohesive as they need to be, and I need to educate them on addiction. Without a cohesive group, intervention is not a good idea. You can end up dividing the family rather than uniting them.”

Ms. Carroll asks everyone in the group to write letters to the addict, which are read aloud at the intervention. “We also talk about what’s going to stand in the way of the person accepting help, and we address it,” she said. “People often say they can’t go to rehab because they’re afraid of losing their job, but you can’t lose your job based on getting help. It’s the law. If they have a dog or a child that needs looking after, that’s where family and friends step in.”

The actual intervention usually doesn’t last more than an hour. The vast majority of the time, the next step for an Islander will be the trek to an off-Island inpatient facility.

“99 percent of the time, that person needs inpatient help.” Ms. Carroll said. “I encourage families to follow up quickly. Change is not easy. Sometimes people change their minds if you wait. I don’t feel comfortable leaving the family unless I know that patient is on the way to an inpatient facility.”

Ms. Carroll estimated that 75 to 80 percent of the patients are also are battling clinical depression or bipolar disorder, which makes professional inpatient care even more essential to their recovery.

Ms. Carroll usually arranges inpatient care at Gosnold. “I can ordinarily get a bed within 24 hours,” she said. “Not only am I part of the admissions process, but I follow the family and the case throughout the system. That’s a significant advantage when you work under the same umbrella.”

The cost of an intervention is another hurdle Ms. Carroll can help families overcome. “It’s $250 an hour for my face-to-face time, $50 an hour for travel time,” she said. “Ordinarily the cost is not more than $1,000. $3,500 is the industry standard.”

Ms. Carroll stressed that no one is turned away if they don’t have the financial means. “Many of our patients have state insurance [Mass Health]. We can also work with sliding scale when necessary.”

Intervention specialists
Dr. Charles Silberstein, Martha’s Vineyard hospital resident psychiatrist and substance abuse specialist  508-696-1990

Deborah Pigeon LMHC, LMFT,  508-693-7435

Holly Carroll, Gosnold Intervention coordinator,  774-313-0662  Sunday through Thursday.



The Martha’s Vineyard Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed 17 unit Oak Bluffs subdivision.

Proposed site of Lagoon Ridge development.

In 2009, a team of developers unveiled a grand plan for Lagoon Ridge, a 60 unit subdivision on 70 acres in Oak Bluffs. The plan survived review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact (DRI) but the partnership did not.

On Monday night, the development returned to the MVC land use planning committee (LUPC) much reduced in size and scope. A public hearing before the full commission is set for July 17.

Commissioner Linda Sibley of West Tisbury chaired the meeting, which was attended by four other commissioners. Fred Hancock was the only Oak Bluffs commissioner present.

The proposed Lagoon Ridge development is roughly half the size of the originally planned Lagoon Ridge.  Davio Danielson, owner of the property with his five children, intends to build up to 25 dwelling units, sited in three different “clusters” on the 32.5 acre parcel.

Cluster A is divided into four large lots with four homes of up to four bedrooms. Cluster B will contain four homes on four standard lots, each with up to three bedrooms. Cluster C will have 15 small lots with up to 17 dwelling units, including two duplexes and six to eight units designated for buyers over 55 years old. One lot may become a community house with space for group activities and extra rooms for visiting family.  Cluster C is considered “Phase 2” and will be financed by sales of clusters A and B.

“We want to make homes that are accessible to the over 55 folks who are downsizing as well as homes that are affordable to working men and women who service the community like tradesmen, teachers, and police and firefighters,” Mr. Danielson said in an interview with the Times. “The MVC is really concerned about year-round housing. These homes are built to be inhabited 12 months of the year, and they’re well insulated so owners don’t pay too much for heat.

Subdivision divided
Planning for the original 70-acre version of Lagoon Ridge began in 2009 when Mr. Danielson and the Proskauer family, owners of an abutting 37.5 acre parcel, began initial negotiations. The permitting procedure began in May 2011 and 60 dwelling unitswere eventually approvedby the Oak Bluffs Planning Board and referred to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for review as a DRI.

In late 2012, the co-venture between the two families fell apart.

“It’s hard enough for one crazy family to get things set up,” Mr. Danielson joked. “They stopped dealing, they walked away. I was spending money hand over fist for both of us and they stopped answering emails and phone calls. It was a shock. God knows real estate ventures are always fraught, so one shouldn’t be too surprised when something like this falls apart. It was almost too good to be true.”

New site plans of a scaled down Lagoon Ridge with 25 dwelling units were presented to the Oak Bluffs Oak Bluffs Planning Board in July 2013 and were approved under the town’s flexible zoning bylaw that was approved by voters in 2003. The bylaw permits more densely planned development than conventional zoning allows in exchange for preserving open space and creating affordable housing and elderly housing.

The bylaw requires that 10 percent of the units are affordable to families earning less that 50 percent of median income or 15 percent for families earning between 50 percent and 80 percent of median income.

Long negotiations with MassWildlife over rare moth habitat recently ended in agreement to a “two-thirds take” meaning that less than 11 acres can be developed or disturbed in any way.

Mr. Danielson has developed family land before, also with an eye on conservation. “My mother and I and my cousin Emmett Carroll did Tower Ridge in the 1980s, and we were very proud of that. Seventeen acres were kept in buffer zone as natural land, which we felt was better than most of the other developments that had been done at that time.”

Mr. Danielson said he would like to have a builder in place by the end of the year. “We’re planning to vet some contractors that we know that can do “green” work, Mr. Danielson said. “We’d love to have builders with LEEDS-certified or HERS-value homes get in touch with us. This is going to be jobs for the Island and places for working men and women to live.”


Building inspector James Dunn will seek a professional survey to assess the condition of the Circuit Avenue building.

The Island theater is in need of structural repairs.

In a move that took town officials and the building owner by surprise, this week outgoing Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn prepared to declare the Island theater building at the foot of Circuit Avenue unsafe, setting the stage for its possible demolition by the town, or a lawsuit over its fate.

Tuesday morning, Island Theatre co-owner Brian Hall walked into Mr. Dunn’s office to inquire about building permits needed for ongoing repairs to the roof. Mr. Dunn told Mr. Hall that he was preparing an order to demolish the building.

On Wednesday, in a conversation with the Times, Mr. Dunn indicated he was taking a slightly different tack. That afternoon, Mr. Dunn presented a “make safe or demolish and remove” notice to Brian and Benjamin Hall, co-owners of the theater.

“To be fair, we’re going to establish a board of survey to make this decision,” Mr. Dunn said in a memo to town officials dated June 18. “Although we have some reports and conversations regarding the building’s structural integrity or lack thereof, we are putting together a report following the standard procedures for a Board of Survey which requires individual reports from an engineer, wiring inspector, plumbing/gas inspector, the fire chief, a disinterested party and the building inspector. Once completed, this should not take more than a week, I will issue a report based on the conditions cited in the reports.”

In a later conversation with the Times, Mr. Dunn said the Board of Survey has successfully resolved similar situations in residential districts and he felt confident the survey could be done in a week.


Brian Hall said he was blindsided by Mr. Dunn’s action. “This is a complete 180 from what he told me before,” Mr. Hall said in a phone call with The Times on Tuesday. “I asked him if there was any way I could convince him not to send the letter, and he said, ‘No, I’ve made the decision.’ He said it was because repairs were taking too long and that he was going along with the first engineer’s [John Lolley] assessment of the building instead of the second assessment done by Reid Silva.”

Mr. Hall said the demolition order also surprised him because Mr. Dunn recently gave him assurances that he would get a 30-day extension on the summer outdoor construction moratorium for the B-1 district, which began June 1.

“I feel the building is unsafe,” Mr. Dunn said in a phone call with the Times on Tuesday. “I have talked to Brian many times about his building and the Thai restaurant. We make verbal agreements, I go back 30 days later and nothing is done.”

Differing assessments

The Island theater hasn’t shown a movie since August 2012. Winter storm damage that year to the roof and associated water issues created a long and growing list of needed repairs. The sight of the decaying building at the gateway to downtown Oak Bluffs has been a source of frustration for town officials and residents.

Last summer, John Lolley, a civil and structural engineering consultant with 41 years of experience, was engaged by the Halls to make recommendations on repairing a rotted truss. Upon closer inspection, he found critical structural flaws throughout the theater and recommended demolition. “They built the columns and infilled the walls, which means the walls and columns are not connected,” Mr. Lolley said in a June 4 interview with the Times. “I could see daylight coming through some of the cracks. In my opinion, that building was never sound to begin with.”

After Mr. Lolley’s departure, Mr. Hall hired Reid Silva of  Vineyard Land Surveying and Engineering. According to Mr. Hall, he provided the way forward.

“Reid Silva and I and Jim Dunn got together in March,” Mr. Hall said.  “Reid said he disagreed with John Lolley’s comments that this building is dangerous. This building’s not going to come down. He didn’t put his stamp to it, but he said if you tie into these concrete columns and cement in some steel ties that it’s good.”

In a previous interview with the Times, Mr. Silva said he was engaged to make recommendations on fortifying the truss and that he made no official recommendations regarding wall reinforcement.

“That’s not true,” Mr. Hall said on Tuesday. “I paid him extra money to write a letter recommending his solution.” Mr. Hall provided a copy of the letter to The Times. Although Mr. Silva does make recommendations on repairing the walls, he makes no judgement as to the safety of the building.

Mr. Hall challenged the legitimacy of Mr. Lolley’s assessment.

“He [Mr. Lolley] only had verbal communication with Jim Dunn,” he said.

Mr. Hall also questioned if Mr. Dunn has inspected the building since their March meeting with Mr. Silva at that location.

Mr. Dunn said that the building’s condition in March was cause enough for concern. “Water was running down the walls. It was a foot deep in the [orchestra pit] and frozen solid. Generally, overall condition of the structure is very poor. We don’t know where the mortar or the concrete blocks were made. It could have been done with beach sand the same as the crumbling pilings at town hall. Do I think it will fall over tomorrow? Probably not, but I say that very guardedly.”

“This is not a vendetta against the Hall family,” Mr. Dunn said. “Personally, I like Brian, but the building in my view is dangerous.”

Safety at issue

Mr. Dunn’s “make safe or demolish” order puts the town and the Halls on a collision course. The Halls can appeal the order to Superior Court.

Mr. Dunn, who is set to retire at the end of this month, took action without consulting town officials.

Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, said on Tuesday that he was unaware of the building inspector’s plans.

“The law states that in an issue of public safety, Jim Dunn, not the selectmen, has the final say,” town administrator Robert Whritenour said. “It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, but the town has to take some kind of action, especially if the building is considered dangerous.”
“The order says that the building has deteriorated to the point where it is unsafe and must be demolished or made safe immediately. We choose option two,” Brian Hall said. “But if we choose that option, it takes time to get an engineer who can make it safe. To procure the contractor and the materials will take a while. If we had to knock down the building immediately, we’d have to cordon off a large part of Circuit Avenue. If people are really worried about walls falling on the street, a high fence would have to surround the theater, in some places 20 feet from the wall, the cab stand would be gone, half of New York Ave would be lost. It’s patently ridiculous.”

Mr. Hall questioned if safety is really the issue at hand.

“This is about cosmetics, it’s not about safety,” he said. “Just because something’s an eyesore, it’s not a reason to tear it down, especially when it’s based on verbal comments that another engineer disagreed with. That building is not falling over unless someone takes a wrecking ball to it.”

The wrecking ball would be just fine with selectman Walter Vail, who’s consistently been the board’s most outspoken critic of the Hall family’s property management.

“I was in favor of taking it down,” Mr. Vail said. “I still feel that way. This has gone on way too long. I’m not terribly sympathetic to Brian. I’m not about to go against what Jim Dunn says. There’s at least one engineer that thinks it’s unsafe. That’s enough for me.”


Victims of time, the elements and technology, the Strand and Island theaters continue to deteriorate.

On Thursday, painters were busy sprucing up the Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs.

As summer rolls in, two anchor buildings in downtown Oak Bluffs, the Strand Theatre on Oak Bluffs Avenue and the Island theater on Circuit Avenue, remain in disrepair, their marquees that once heralded summer blockbusters now blank.

The Strand houses a bike and moped business. The Island is vacant. Representatives of the Hall family, owners of both buildings, said they are doing their best to address structural and cosmetic issues with both buildings but continue to encounter unforeseen problems.

The Island theater is in need of structural repairs.

The Island theater is in need of structural repairs. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

For Oak Bluffs town leaders it all seems like a rerun. At the conclusion of the May 27 meeting of the selectmen, selectman Walter Vail commented on the continued inaction of Halls to address the situation.

“I don’t know of anyone in town who is not frustrated by the condition of these buildings and how long they’ve been in such a sad state,” Mr. Vail said. “I’m fed up; we’re all fed up. The selectmen have been looking at all kinds of options, but it doesn’t look like anything is going to happen soon. I’m open to any ideas anybody has.”

Paint job

An email exchange earlier in the month and obtained by The Times through a public records request provides a glimpse into the source of Mr. Vail’s frustration.

Jim Tetrealt was busy painting the Strand Theater on Wednesday afternoon.

Jim Tetrealt was busy painting the Strand Theater on Wednesday afternoon. — Photo by Michael Cummo

In an email dated May 20, Mr. Vail wrote to Ben Hall Jr., co-owner of the theaters and the family attorney, “I have not seen any work being done on the Strand theater, as you told me in March would happen this month.  Am I rushing things?”

Addressing the Island theater, Mr. Vail wrote, “It is in such awful condition that it ought to come down and be replaced by a building which could be something you (and Oak Bluffs) could be proud of and even turn a profit!”

Mr. Vail concluded, “We are getting good feedback on how everything on Circuit Ave. is being dressed up, and I am hoping you can also give me an update on your plans for the Island theater. It still looks as awful as it has for years!”
Ben Hall responded to Mr. Vail on May 21. He pointed his finger at tenants of the Strand who he said are responsible for painting and said repairs to the Island theater had been delayed due to various problems with contractors, weather delays, and a town bylaw that prohibits outdoor construction in the B-1 district during the summer.

“Nobody likes to hear excuses, and I am now more disappointed and angry than you are about these matters,” he wrote. “The tenants at the Strand promised me back in March they would have the painting at the Strand undertaken, presumably before Memorial Day weekend.”

Brian Hall, co-owner of the theaters, said in a recent conversation with The Times that the Strand is leased to a moped group managed by Jason Leone. “They’re responsible for maintenance. It’s in the lease that they signed. They keep coming to us saying we want to do this and that, we say ‘Fine, bring us a proposal.’ We have yet to see any proposal from them.”

Town administrator Robert Whritenour told The Times that he had received assurances from Mr. Leone that exterior painting and repair of the sign would take place this week and next. On Wednesday, a painter was busy applying a coat of white paint to the side of the building.

Roof work
The Island Theater’s most recent use as a movie theater was in August 2012, when the Sony Corporation leased the auditorium for a private screening and the Island premiere of the movie “Sparkle.” Almost 200 invited guests attended, including producer Debra Martin Chase, President Barack Obama’s advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Winter storm damage that year to the roof and associated water issues created a long punch list of needed repairs.

“The first thing we have to do is get the roof finished,” Brian Hall told The Times. “We started work on the truss a few days ago. That shouldn’t take that long. How fast the rest goes is out of my control.”

Chris Lowe is the contractor in charge of truss and roof repair, according to Mr. Hall.

Brian Hall said Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn has indicated they could possibly get an extension on the summer outdoor construction moratorium for the B-1 district, which began June 1. “If we have to the end of June, we can make a boatload of progress,” he said. “We can at least get the roof waterproofed, so the tarps would be gone. We’ll go as far as we can with the time we have.”

Brian Hall estimates the repairs to make the Island “leasable” will be in the neighborhood of $100,000.

Asked if the financial liability and the public relations liability that the theaters have become for the Hall family were inducement to put the the buildings on the market, he replied, “We have a lot of people ask ‘would you consider selling?’ Make an offer, we’ll listen. But we never hear a solid offer. I don’t expect a premium, but I don’t expect a low ball either.”

No tear down

In his May 21 email to selectman Vail, Ben Hall Jr. cited contractor issues as the major cause of delays on the restoration of the Island. “We are unable to count on our original contractor to complete the truss repairs and roofing work at the Island for which we finally got specifications and the go-ahead in late March, early April. As you know, we had been stalled until then because we had not found an engineer who could find a solution to the issues seen by others that suggested the building be torn down.”

John Lolley, a civil and structural engineering consultant with 41 years of experience, is the engineer that recommended demolition. Mr. Lolley was engaged by the Halls to make recommendations on repairing a rotted truss last summer.
“In my opinion, that building was never sound to begin with,” Mr. Lolley said in an interview with the Times. “At the time it was built, people knew more about masonry probably than they do now. I was suprised how the masonry wasn’t up to the standards and empirical rules that were used at that time. They built the columns and infilled the walls, which means the walls and columns are not connected.”
Mr. Lolley said the heavy wind load coming off Nantucket Sound and 99 years of Island weather have taken a heavy toll on the structure. “I think it’s dangerous enough that it if it’s not demolished, it should be addressed structurally in a significant way,” Mr. Lolley said. “Just because they inherited problems with the building doesn’t mean they’re not responsible. Something should be done. I’m surprised more hasn’t been done by the building inspector.”

Brian Hall disagrees with that assessment. “His [Mr. Lolley’s] solutions were over the top elaborate,” Mr. Hall said. “The building is not unsafe. It’s not going to be occupiable, but it’s not going to fall over either.”

Mr. Hall said a second engineers report, completed over the winter by Reid Silva of Vineyard Land Surveying and Engineering, provided the way forward.

Mr. Silva said that he made no formal design for the repair of the walls. “I had more to do with the truss repair than evaluating the building,” he said in a phone call with the Times. “There are plenty of items that need to be addressed.”

Building push

In a conversation with the Times on June 6, Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn said he spoke with Brian Hall last week. “I told him he had to get moving,” Mr. Dunn said. “If he doesn’t, I’m going to declare it unsafe and have it torn down.” Mr. Dunn indicated that he could use Mr. Lolley’s engineering report to justify the demolition.

Mr. Dunn agreed to extend the June 1 downtown building moratorium until the end of June so roof repairs could be completed. Mr. Dunn’s definition of completed means weatherproofed and shingled, not just weatherproofed, as Mr. Hall indicated in his conversation with the Times. “There’s no reason the entire job couldn’t be done in three or four days with a professional crew,” he said. “You just have to spend the money.”

Even though he is retiring at the end of the month, Mr. Dunn said he has a personal interest in seeing the situation resolved. “I love this town,” he said. “I live in this town; I want to be involved.”

An asset

In a lengthy email to The Times, Ben Hall Jr. described the history of repair projects on both theaters and the challenge faced by small movie theater operators. He defended his family’s stewardship of both buildings, and he said his family had been repeatedly victimized by news coverage.

“It’s easy to throw stones at the owners of such large places,” Mr. Hall said. “These buildings are significant economic assets and it is ridiculous to even suggest that the maintenance and repair of such buildings are being ignored by the owners.”

Mr. Hall said his family had invested close to $1 million in the past decade in the Strand but the film exhibition business is no longer viable.

As for the Island Theater, Mr. Hall said, the severe wind storms of fall and winter 2012 running on through March of 2013 damaged the roof which then damaged the interior walls of the building. Once repair work could begin, he said, engineers were brought in who questioned the structural integrity of the entire building. “As you can understand, this was a real shock,” he said.

Mr. Hall said that as much as townspeople complain, his family is certain town leaders would not permit the building to be torn down without a viable plan for its replacement.

This spring, Mr. Hall said, his family was able to retain an expert who designed “an elegant, but detailed method to knit the building together. This report was provided to the authorities who approved of the concept, and the contractor was asked to re-mobilize to undertake the needed, but more extensive, work.”

Mr. Hall said work was halted due to a town bylaw prohibiting work in the business district during the summer months. The space is unlikely to be operated as a movie theater in the future, he said. “Like other properties in the business district, the Island Theater building continues to be on the market for a long term lease to permit the prospective tenant to amortize whatever investment they may wish to make on the property with uses that would create an additional diversity of services to the residents and visitors to Oak Bluffs,” he said.


Construction will be limited to four days a week until September 1.

Construction on the future bowling alley in Oak Bluffs is under way.

The negotiating skills of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen were put to the test at their regular meeting on Tuesday night, as they tried to reach a compromise between developer Sam Dunn and a group of abutters of the Uncas Avenue property where Mr. Dunn is building a 13,500-square-foot bowling alley/entertainment center which will replace a long-vacant and recently demolished laundromat.

In a letter to Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn dated May 28, Edgartown attorney Ellen Kaplan, who represents several abutters, asked thatall construction on the bowling alley be halted until September 15, in accordance with a town bylaw that was approved by the selectmen on July 23, 2013.

According to Ms. Kaplan’s letter, the bylaw “was enacted to prohibit construction or renovation of B-1 and B-2  zoned properties in the downtown areas of Oak Bluffs” during the summer, defined as June 1 to September 15.

Following a lengthy and at times heated discussion, selectmen voted 4-1 to allow construction to continue from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Thursday.

Communication breakdown

Initially there was confusion among the board about the geographic and legal scope of the July 23, 2013 vote, which chairman Greg Coogan quickly cleared up. “This was a policy, not a bylaw,” he said, holding up a copy of the minutes from the July 23 meeting. “When we voted, Kathy [selectman Kathy Burton] asked that we change from B-1 and B-2 to downtown, and that vote was unanimous. The original intent was not to block the sidewalks.”

Selectman Gail Barmakian said she had no recollection of the vote, and she maintained that the building moratorium should apply to all of B-1 and B-2 zoned property.
“We voted on July 23  after we discussed it at length as we do with every policy,” Ms. Burton said. “I think several of us believed we were voting for Circuit Ave., Kennebec and Circuit Ave Extension. I don’t understand why it was left in [the printed policy] after we voted on it.”

James Dunn apparently never received the amendment that changed the building moratorium from B-1 and B-2 to the “downtown district.”

“There’s a lot of confusion,” Sam Dunn said, adding that he’d received verbal assurances from town officials this spring that the building moratorium restriction would not apply to the Uncas Ave. location. “It would be great if we had a set of rules.”
In a letter to the selectmen dated June 10, James Dunn wrote, “the policy is very clear; and states; ‘to include all B-1 and B-2 zoned properties,’ applicable to ‘any and all construction, reconstruction, installation, demolition, maintenance, or repair of a building, to include painting.’”

In his letter, Mr. Dunn said he’d met with Sam Dunn three times over the past month hoping to reach a compromise that was “impartial and reasonable to all.”  He suggested three options: stop all work as of June 30and resume on September 15; stop all work on July 14and resume on September 15; or stop all work on July 14 and resume the first week in September. Sam Dunn rejected all three proposals, according to the building inspector.

“A two-month delay has a significant impact,” Sam Dunn told the selectmen. “A steel building has been ordered, deposits have been made. I see nothing in this policy that is intended to protect abutters from noise. It’s about business. I believe we behaved honorably.”

John Folino, the general contractor on the project, also supervised the construction of MVTV building on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, which has a similar steel frame design. He said noise was never an issue.

“We had compliments, not complaints,” he said. “The loudest noise was the demolition, which is done.” Mr. Folino said that the prefabricated steel structure doesn’t require the sawing and hammering of a wood framed building, and that there would be no exterior work once it was erected. He also said the site will be fenced off and that safety and security will be maintained “religiously.”

“I know John, he’s a good builder,” James Dunn said. “I do think abutters deserve a certain amount of summer.”

Mr. Dunn reiterated his preference to stick with the B-1, B-2 moratorium that was on the books, regardless of the July 2013 amendment by the board.

Abutters appeal

Abutters to the Uncas Ave. location were again out in numbers to voice their objections. Noise and safety complaints were repeatedly stated.

“I’ve owned my property for 19 years. My life has changed forever,” abutter David Harte said. “This is five feet from my property. I’ve had my foundation shake, I’ve had my hedge taken down. This has not been easy. Give us a break and let us have our last summer.”

Ms. Kaplan said she had visited the site that day. “A large piece of equipment was moving earth and it was noisy,” she said.
Several abutters and attendees said that the fence surrounding the project was encroaching on the street, making it difficult for two cars to pass on an already narrow thoroughfare.
During the proceedings, Mr. Santoro repeatedly suggested a shortened work week as a compromise — restricting work to Monday through Thursday, and restricting hours from eight am until four pm. After a lengthy and sometimes heated discussion, the selectmen voted to endorse Mr. Santoro’s suggestion, 4-1, with selectman Gail Barmakian voting against.
In addition to time restrictions, the selectmen required Sam Dunn to keep the fences and all personal vehicles and construction vehicles within the property line. Holidays were also added to the work moratorium.

“I have had building on all sides of me for years, so I empathize” Mr. Coogan said. “But to stop a project cold is not fair to other areas in town.”
In response to an email from the Times on Wednesday, James Dunn weighed in on the decision. “I don’t feel the compromise is in keeping with the policy. As it stands, this continues the construction throughout the summer and basically giving eight Fridays of relief from what will be typical construction site activities.”

“It’s not ideal, but we’ll honor the decision of the selectmen,” Sam Dunn said in a phone call with the Times.”We’re going to work as hard as we can to be open by the holidays.”
Ms. Kaplan did not return a call from the Times.

Inkwell woes continue

In other business, citizen anger about the dredge spoils on Inkwell beach also raised the temperature in the room. Although many people, including the selectmen, thought the problem had been solved after the highway department supervised removal of the much maligned beach nourishment on May 23, a piqued group of attendees told the board that there was still a great deal of odiforous black material on Inkwell and State beach.
“I think Richie [highway department supervisor Richard Combra] took as much as he could,” parks commissioner Amy Billings said. “We can’t take any more off right now. It was a mistake and we’re trying to fix it.”

The dredge spoils that have been removed were placed at the town cemetery until a permanent location can be found. The suggestion that the remaining material could be raked and worked into existing sand only served to further chafe the attendees. Selectman Santoro said the selectmen were told that the problem had been fixed.

“You should go there, take your shoes off and walk around,” Oak Bluffs resident Greg Herman said to the selectmen. “Then decide if you think the problem is fixed.”

It subsequently became apparent that none of the selectmen had been to the beach since the highway department took action. “We’ll check into it tomorrow,” Mr. Coogan said.

Until recently, it was assumed by town officials that a solution to the Inkwell imbroglio would be the clean dredge spoils from Little Bridge that were scheduled to be placed on Inkwell beach in the first week of June. However, according to town administrator Robert Whritenour, Little Bridge dredging, which is 75 percent funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been delayed because a new FEMA project engineer has taken over, and the town has had to resubmit all documentation that had been previously approved. Mr. Whritenour said there is no timetable from FEMA, but the town is sitting on bids for the $321,000 project and will act quickly when FEMA signs off, again.

Selectmen voted unanimously to enter into a 20-year contract with Cape and Vineyard electric cooperative (CVEC) to purchase excess capacity from solar projects on the Cape and Islands. According to town administrator Robert Whritenour, the contract will save the town 20 percent on half of the municipal load, essentially saving the town $20,000 a year.
Selectmen also unanimously voted to approve a one-year lease for Angels Helping Animals, a nonprofit dog rescue organization headed by Leslie Hurd, for the empty town animal shelter. Ms. Hurd estimated she will be making $4,200 worth of repairs, which selectmen will allow her to deduct from the rent.

Upper Lagoon Pond in Oak Bluffs is a water source for the town.

The Oak Bluffs board of health held a public hearing at 10 am Tuesday morning to get the temperature of the townspeople about removing fluoride from the town water supply. Leading medical professionals consider the practice to be one of the most effective methods of preventing tooth decay.

Oak Bluffs is the only town on the Island that adds fluoride to its water supply, a practice that began in April of 1991. It’s estimated that fluoridation costs the town $15,290 per year.

“Cost is the least of our concerns,” board chairman Patricia Bergeron said Tuesday.

The board decided to revisit the question of fluoridation at the request of board member John Campbell, a staunch opponent of the practice.

However, only three people showed up, two of whom were avid fluoride opponents.

“We need more input from the people of Oak Bluffs,” Mr. Campbell said. “We’re not going to ramrod this through like it was in 1991.”
Ms. Bergeron said she needed more time to investigate the matter. “As many articles as you find against it, you can find for it,” she said.
“If 95 percent of the people vote to keep it in, we won’t bring it up. But if the vote is close, we’ll put it to the town as a referendum,” board member William White said.

The small turnout prompted the board to agree to hold another hearing at a later date, in the evening, when more people can attend. Despite the board’s decision to punt, opponents of fluoridation took the opportunity to state their case.

Opposed to fluoride

Mr. Campbell, a chiropractor, chaired the Tuesday hearing. He read from a two-page sheet that listed various objections to fluoridation and the alleged injurious effects of fluoridated water cited in various studies.

Those ill effects included, Mr. Campbell said, increased levels of bone cancer in young males who drink fluoridated water.

Mr. Campbell also cited studies that he said show that tooth decay does not go up when fluoridation is stopped.
Mr. Campbell also stated that there’s never been a single randomized clinical trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of fluoridation.

Water district superintendent Kevin Johnson, who also favors discontinuing fluoridation, had a ready answer when attendee John Casey, a strong opponent of fluoridation, asked if the bags containing sodium fluoride were labeled “poison.”

Mr. Johnson nodded. “There’s a skull and crossbones on the bag,” he said. Mr. Johnson added that most of the sodium fluoride used in the Oak Bluffs water supply is imported from Japan.

Harvard is an advocate

In a telephone conversation with The Times prior to the Tuesday hearing, Dr. R. Bruce Donoff, dean of the Harvard school of dental medicine, spoke unequivocally in favor of fluoridation.

“I think it’s one of the greatest public health measures we’ve ever had in this country,” he said, adding, “The anti-fluoride groups are very rigorous in their pursuit.”

Dr. Donoff commented on a 1992 study that Mr. Campbell cited in the morning hearing, which asserted that fluoride increased osteosarcoma, a form of cancer, in young males by 680 percent.

“We’ve been involved in a huge study here at the dental school, supervised by Dr. Chester Douglass, on the safety of fluoride,” he said. “There was absolutely no evidence of any connection to osteosarcoma.”

“Fluoridation of water supplies at proper level is a major public health benefit and should be maintained to reduce caries [cavities] in children and to reduce the burden of dental decay on individuals and on health care providers,” he said.

Dr. Myron Allukian Jr., past president of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and former dental director of the city of Boston for 34 years, and faculty member of Harvard, Boston University, and Tufts Schools of Dental Medicine, also weighed in on the topic.

In a phone call with The Times, Dr. Allukian said the difference in overall dental health in Boston after fluoridation was dramatic. “Before we fluoridated, 100 percent of 17-year-olds had tooth decay,” he said. “We saw 17 cavities average. The change was dramatic after fluoridation, it was like night and day.”

Dr. Allukian said the toxic aspect of sodium fluoride is grossly distorted. “It’s toxic if there’s 200 to 300 pounds per million [pounds of water], not if it’s one pound per million,” he said. “For every million drops of water, you have one drop of fluoride.”

Dr. Allukian asked the people of Oak Bluffs to consider the science before casting a vote. “Every state health department, and every health department of every major city in this country would not support a major health measure that has any adverse effect on the population,” he said. “Are you going to believe reputable or junk science?”
Dr. Allukian said he would be happy to speak at the next Oak Bluffs board of health hearing on fluoridation via speakerphone to ensure that proponents in the medical community were heard.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Water District Superintendent Kevin Johnson as water district commissioner Kevin Sullivan.


The difficult process of placing an addict into involuntary rehab comes with additional hurdles for Islanders.

In order for family members to file a Section 35, they must go to Edgartown Court, or file a petition via fax.

This is the fifth installment in a continuing look at opiate abuse and its effect on the Island community. The series began on Jan. 2 “Opiate addiction hits home,” and was followed on Jan. 22 “Martha’s Vineyard police and physicians confront opiate abuse,” on Feb. 12 “Opiates, a love story,” and on May 7 “Battling Addiction on Martha’s Vineyard.”

The Section 35 commitment is the final stand in the battle against addiction. When voluntary rehab, reasoning, begging and pleading have failed, and an addict’s family, doctor, or local law enforcement officer believe that there’s an imminent threat of serious harm to the addict or to others, Section 35 enables them to request that the court put the addict into involuntary inpatient rehabilitation for up to 90 days.

“Section 35 is the last resort,” said Dr. Charles Silberstein, resident psychiatrist and addiction specialist at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. ”For a lot of people it feels cruel to say ‘you can’t live with me anymore’ for worry that it will backfire. But it’s reasonable to say, from a place of compassion, ‘I can’t tolerate this anymore. I worry I am enabling you and I can’t bear it.’ The problem is when people say it and don’t mean it and it becomes meaningless, or worse, it tacitly says ‘I’m powerless and I’m going to continue tolerating your addiction.’”

On the rise

Due to the increase of opiate and heroin addiction, Section 35 commitments have been rising  steadily in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) there has been a 67 percent increase in the number of Section 35 commitments since 2006. A total of 4,982 Section 35 commitments were made in fiscal year 2013 (FY 13), which began on July 1, 2012. The numbers were particularly grim for the Cape and Islands in FY 13. According to the office of state senator Jennifer Flanagan, there were 975 Section 35 commitments in the Cape and Islands region, which is by far the most in the state. The MetroWest region was a distant second with 597 commitments; there were 218 in Boston, which has a population of roughly three times the Cape and Islands.

An Islander who wants to initiate a Section 35 petition must go to Edgartown District Court and file an application with clerk magistrate Liza Williamson, who will guide them through the process.

“It’s very difficult for loved ones to file a Section 35,” Ms. Williamson said in an interview with The Times. “Our judges, the police, every department here is very sensitive about it.”

Although the  judges are only in Edgartown district court on Monday, Thursday, and Friday, Ms. Williamson said the petition can also be handled via fax.

“We find a way to make it work, no matter what day of the week it is,” she said. Ms. Williamson said the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an excellent resource for family members who are considering petitioning for a Section 35.

It’s not uncommon for police to file a Section 35 petition.

“When I review police reports, if I see we have a lot of interaction with that person and it’s clear that substance abuse is a problem, we can fill out the [Section 35] paperwork,” Edgartown Det. Sgt. Chris Dolby said. He added that the definition of family member is blood relative or spouse.

Live-in companions, even if they have children together, cannot file a petition for commitment under current Massachusetts law.

An Edgartown District Court judge reviews the petition and decides it has merit, a warrant of apprehension will be issued, which enables the police to take the person into custody and transport them to the Duke’s county courthouse. Before a judge can issue a commitment the individual must be examined by a Department of Mental Health (DMH) approved physician. This is where the Island complications arise. There is no DMH approved physician on the Vineyard. Consequently, commitments are handled in Falmouth District Court.

“If the judge decides to issue a warrant, it’s only good for the close of that court day,” Mr. Dolby said. He said he must get the individual on the boat to Falmouth, hope the doctor is available in court, and hope he or she can see the person before 4 pm. “If not, the person walks,” he said. “I had a recent case where the person, who clearly needed help, walked off the boat because time ran out.”

Getting an early start is important. “They’re called sunset warrants,” Ms. Williamson said. “I advise people to file as early in the day as possible. Getting someone off Island is a time-sensitive puzzle with a lot of moving parts. The sheriff’s department makes every attempt to get people transported in timely fashion. The Steamship Authority is as helpful as they can be. Dr. [Jeffrey] Zack and the emergency department at the hospital do a great job coordinating their efforts. But if you get the person to Falmouth and there’s no doctor there, it doesn’t matter,” she said, highlighting a major Island complication.

Island exigencies

“Unfortunately, in order to commit, you need an evaluation from a department of mental health (DMH) designated forensic psychologist, and we don’t have one on Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. Williamson said. “There’s one DMH doctor, Donna Maynard, who does evaluations for the entire region. That covers from New Bedford to the Cape and Islands. Donna does a great job but there’s only so much one person can do. When I get a Section 35 I’ll call her and ask, “Can you help today, yes or no?”

Ms. Williamson works on the Committee for Public Counseling Services with the goal of finding on-Island DMH doctors and psychiatrists. “I’ve reached out to several psychologists and psychiatrists to ask them about getting DMH designated certified,” she said. “But it’s difficult when you already have a very busy private practice. The mental health system on the Island is extremely overburdened.”

If the Islander is seen by the appropriate doctor in Falmouth and committed before the sun sets on the warrant, the judge will order him or her to a licensed inpatient substance abuse treatment facility, such as the Women’s Addiction Treatment Center (WATC) in New Bedford, or the Men’s Addiction Treatment Center (MATC) in Brockton. If no beds are available, which is often the case, men are sent to the Bridgewater Correctional Complex and women are sent to the Framingham Correctional Institution, state-run prisons, where they are kept separate from the criminal population.

“It’s frustrating because there are so few beds available,” Ms. Williamson said. “Sometimes the only beds are at Bridgewater or Framingham. It can be traumatic for someone to go to one of these places but when you get to a Section 35, you’re out of options. You’re trying to save that person’s life.”

Mr. Dolby, a member of the Vineyard drug task force, was sharply critical about the level of support system that currently exists on the Island. “We’re up against it. We’re in a tough situation,” he said. “There’s no rehabilitation on this Island. It’s ridiculous that someone has to go to Falmouth to be evaluated. Addiction is a huge problem here. I see how frustrating it is for the addicts and the families of addicts. New Paths and Vineyard House do good work, but they’re just putting a finger in the dike.”

Roger Wey appeared before selectmen at a meeting on May 20 to discuss a report on his tenure as executive director of the Council on Aging.

Special town counsel John “Jack” Collins updated the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen at their regular meeting on Tuesday night on the progress, or lack thereof, of negotiations with suspended Council on Aging (COA) director Roger Wey and his attorney, Paul Merry.

“People are aware that an effort was made to resolve the differences between the town and the Council on Aging director in executive session,” Mr. Collins said, referring to the three-hour negotiations that took place in executive session at a special selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, May 20. “We came very close, in my opinion, to reaching an agreement.”

Mr. Collins said he had spoken to Mr. Merry about 90 minutes before the meeting and that Mr. Merry indicated he’d been unable to speak with Mr. Wey for the last several days and asked for “a few more days to see whether that agreement or something close to it would be something he could live with.”

Mr. Collins recommended that the selectmen grant Mr. Merry’s request.

“Quite frankly that makes sense to me,” Mr. Collins said. “We’re talking about a lot of litigation and a lot of animosity, the time, the expense and all the bad feelings that go with it that probably can’t be mended very easily.”

Mr. Collins said he felt a final decision was “a week or two away,” and advised the board not to set a final decision date for a disciplinary hearing for Mr. Wey. “You can always do that later,” Mr. Collins said.  “I’d like to have more conversation to see if we can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I think we were very close and I think in this case it’s worth a little bit more effort.”

Mr. Collins recommended that, while they wait to hear back from Mr. Wey’s attorney, the selectmen meet with the COA board of directors, “To find out where they think this thing ought to go. To see whether or not it makes sense to continue the way you are, or to reorganize.”

Mr. Collins suggested that they discuss whether the position of director should be modified as the result of this investigation, and that all job descriptions at the COA be reevaluated. “It’s not a bad idea once in a while to take a look at the whole picture. No matter where we go, obviously you want to work with the town accountant and make sure procedures are understood by everybody.”

Selectman Walter Vail was less collegial about the situation. “As it related to the so-called session we had last week, for my money that’s off the table,” he said sharply.  “We’ve passed over three months of paying the director for administrative leave. The Council on Aging is working just fine. For my money I would just as soon eliminate the director position and move on.”

Mr. Vail’s suggestion elicited a strong reaction from a group of Mr. Wey’s supporters, which required chairman of the selectmen Greg Coogan to call the meeting to order.

Selectman Kathy Burton favored following Mr. Collins’s recommendation and having open and transparent discussions with the COA board, noting that she’s heard about internal rifts in the COA since she first became a selectman.

Selectman Michael Santoro said that, while he appreciated Mr. Vail’s frustration, a more moderate course of action seemed appropriate. “We are looking at the best interest of the senior center,” he said. “But we don’t want to drag this out.”

Council on aging board member Karen Achille said that if recently elected chairman Bob Blythe called a special meeting of the board, “I can guarantee you that members would be present.”

Return of Seas

In other business, restaurateur William Craffey, new owner of Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta, was approved by unanimous vote for a year-round full liquor license. Mr. Craffey and his business partner Lisa Huff purchased the defunct restaurant at auction in April. The transaction included the sale of the Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta name.
“We’re trying to keep Jimmy Sea’s Jimmy Sea’s,” Mr. Craffey told the board.

In an interview with the Times, Mr. Craffey, who also operates Vineyard Pizza Place in Vineyard Haven and The Pizza Place at the Edgartown Triangle, said the new Jimmy Sea’s will have essentially the same menu as the old Jimmy Sea’s and that some of the chefs from the former incarnation will be working there. “We’ll be open year round, except for a few weeks during the winter,” he said. “ I think Oak Bluffs could use a few more options in the off-season.”

Jason Gruner and Tracy Briscoe, the new owners of Benito's, describe the newly renovated shop as "1940s retro meets New York City metro."

New life has been sprouting all over Circuit Avenue this spring. As new businesses like Beetlebung are putting down roots, long-established enterprises like the Lampost are making a statement with head-turning renovations.

New ownership has also breathed new life into one of the best-known businesses on the block — Benito’s Hair Styling, a Circuit Ave. institution that until last year was owned and operated by Benito Mancinone. Known to locals as Benny, Mr. Mancinone operated the business for 22 years.

Even though it's just a pen and ink portrait, it appears Benito Mancinone, aka, Benny, is still keeping a close eye on his shop.

Even though it’s just a pen and ink portrait, it appears Benito Mancinone, aka, Benny, is still keeping a close eye on his shop. — Ralph Stewart

Last summer, Tracy Briscoe and her brother, Jason Gruner, took ownership of the shop. Per Benny’s wishes, they kept the barber shop spirit intact.

“We call it 1940s retro meets New York City metro,” Ms. Briscoe said, while she worked on a client. “I wanted to bring the old school back. Having the hot lather neck shave and massage and a hot towel, that’s how they used to do it. It takes a little more time, but that’s how I like to do it.”

Ms. Briscoe started working summers at Benito’s in 1993, two years after Mr. Mancinone opened his doors, and she returned almost every summer, and a few winters as well. She also has worked in high-end salons in New York City, Naples, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

Family affair

Fittingly, the change of ownership at Benito’s all started with a haircut. I was getting my haircut in November 2012 and Benny says I’ll tell you something, don’t tell anyone: I’m going to retire,” Mr. Gruner, an entrepreneur who splits his time between Naples, Fla., and Chappaquiddick, recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t want this to become a gift shop or an ice cream store. Think your sister would be interested in taking over?’”

“Benny knew Tracy is very good at what she does and she’s very personable,” Mr. Gruner said. “He knew if she took it over it wasn’t going to be a gift shop,”

“I knew for a long time she was going to take it over,” Mr. Mancinone said in his thick Italian accent, on a telephone interview with the Times from his new home in Clinton, Connecticut. “She worked with me a long time. I couldn’t get rid of her, she’s like a tick,” he joked.

“He was Papa Benito,” Ms. Briscoe said fondly.  “He never called me Tracy. It was either ‘that girl’ or ‘Fifi.’”

A new look

On July 1, 2013, Ms. Briscoe and Mr. Gruner took ownership of Benito’s. In late February of this year, Mr. Gruner and his 18-year-old son, Jason Jr., gutted it and along with Ms. Briscoe, gave Benito’s an entirely new look.

The DNA hasn’t changed. The hardwood floors and black and white tiled walls harken back to a previous era. There are posters of Vargas girls, framed Boston Globe front pages from all the Patriots Super Bowl wins, and a pen and ink sketch portrait of Benny, peering down over his bifocals, overseeing the proceedings.

The walls in the front of the shop are papered with thousands of old baseball and football cards, which Mr. Gruner and his son applied by hand. A quick look shows the cards of Roger Clemens, Tony Gwynn, and Jim Plunkett, all barely old enough to shave. “A guy told me there’s at least a thousand dollars worth of cards up there,” Mr. Gruner said. “Only Tracy knows how many there are. I lost count.”

Ms. Briscoe said the first person to guess the number of cards will win three free haircuts. “So far, no one has been close,” she said.

While the vibe is traditional, the amenities in the new Benitos are 21st century. Gone is the limited selection of outdated magazines. Now, a magazine rack overflows with current publications geared for a distinctly male clientele. There are flat screen TVs playing ESPN, and a popcorn machine adds a pleasant aroma.

The old Benito’s had “unisex” on the window, but the waiting room was usually all male, sometimes ten deep — men waiting for a cut or boys waiting for their first wiffle of the summer.  Ms. Briscoe is intent on expanding the female clientele, in particular, wedding parties. “I’ve done hundreds of weddings,” she said, referring to her 10 years managing the Naples Beach Club. Ms. Briscoe says she has plans to open a new business will cater solely to the booming bridal business on Martha’s Vineyard. For now, she’s got a steady stream of customers at the new Benito’s, where, unlike the old Benito’s, you can make an appointment. “His clients who used to say ‘no’ to me come to me now,” Ms. Briscoe said.

Benny lives on

Although Benny is gone, his imprint is everywhere in the new shop. His original barber chair sits in the front window, along with some of his tools of the trade. The original barber poll still spins outside and the old sign still hangs in the window.  A 1954 clock from his Springfield shop with inverted numbering — so clients can read it in the mirror — hangs on the wall.

And Mr. Mancinone still keeps tabs on the place. “He calls every Saturday to make an appointment with himself,” Ms. Briscoe said, shaking her head with a smile as she deftly shaved a client with a straight edge razor.

“I  hate to say goodbye when I leave,” Mr. Mancione said about his departure from the Vineyard. “I have no regrets. I can’t say enough about the place and the time I had there.”

Although Mr. Mancinone says he doesn’t like to look back, he quickly shares some fond memories of fishing with his friend Ed Jerome. “I used to fish from five to seven, then get a shower and go to work. I caught some nice fish, 34-pound stripers, but 11 years fishing the Derby, I never got a bite, not even a bite. My wife wanted to know if I was fishing or not.”

Today Mr. Mancinone plays raquetball, keeps abreast of world soccer, especially his team, Inter Milan, and he goes fishing. “I’d like to cut hair a few days, but I don’t have a license in Connecticut and it takes like three months to get it.”


Police said Benjamin Knight intentionally drove his Toyota pickup truck into the harbor. Quick action by the assistant harbormaster saved the day.

Edgartown Police said Benjamin Knight, 35, circled the Chappaquiddick ferry parking lot twice before he intentionally drove his white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck off the Chappy ferry ramp and into Edgartown harbor just before noon, Monday.

Moments after he drove his truck off the Chappy ferry ramp and into the harbor, Benjamin Knight climbed out of the cab and onto the roof of his sinking vehicle as assistant harbormaster Mike Hathaway raced to his rescue.

Moments after he drove his truck off the Chappy ferry ramp and into the harbor, Benjamin Knight climbed out of the cab and onto the roof of his sinking vehicle as assistant harbormaster Mike Hathaway raced to his rescue. — Richard Gaughan

The swift current swept the truck into the channel and deeper water as Mr. Knight crawled out the window. Luckily, assistant Edgartown harbormaster Mike Hathaway just happened to be nearby in a patrol boat. Mr. Hathaway plucked Mr. Knight from the water and managed to secure a line to the truck and pull it out of the channel to the Chappy shoreline where it was later winched to dry land.

Mr. Knight was transported to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for mental and medical evaluation. He was not injured but was committed for mental evaluation, police said.

The Chappy ferry was not in the slip at the time of the accident. The truck barreled through a safety chain and a wooden lift gate that prevents entrance to the slip until the ferry operator signals vehicles to move forward.

Mr. Knight told officers that the gas pedal had become stuck and he could not stop his truck, according to a police press release.

“Investigation revealed that there had been no mechanical issue with the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck and it was a standard transmission,” police said. “Video footage showed that Knight had circled the ferry parking lot twice just prior to running off the ramp. Officers concluded that this was an intentional act.”

Police said Mr. Knight will be criminally charged “for a number of motor vehicle violations, disorderly conduct, and an immediate threat notification will be made to revoke his operator’s license.”

A security video camera mounted on the Seafood Shanty restaurant captured the truck traveling at a high rate of speed down the roadway and plunging into the harbor sending a plume of water skyward. A bystander who was on the Edgartown side of the channel said he turned to look after hearing a splash. “It was huge. I thought it was a whale,” he said.

The assistant Edgartown harbor master pulled the truck out of the channel to the Chappy shoreline where it was later winched from the harbor.

The assistant Edgartown harbor master pulled the truck out of the channel to the Chappy shoreline where it was later winched from the harbor. — Cooper Gilkes

“I was at home when I got the call from Captain Jeff LaMarche that there was a car in the water on the Chappy side,” Chappy ferry owner Peter Wells said as he piloted the On Time II from Edgartown wharf where emergency crews were at work recovering the truck. “I said, ‘could you repeat that please?’ I was told he drove right through the gate. There was no boat at the site. He floated long enough so the harbormaster could get to him, thank goodness.”

Quick action

The harbor current is quite swift as it rounds Chappy Point. Just off the beach the depth is more than 20 feet.

“That was very smart thinking by the harbormaster to pull it out of the slip before it sank,” Edgartown deputy chief/ambulance coordinator Alex Schaeffer said. After the truck was pulled from the water, Mr. Schaeffer inspected the engine and said the o-rings and head seals held, so there were no environmental concerns.

“It was just right place at the right time,” Mr. Hathaway said. “I was just finishing a routine check of the harbor and out of the corner of my eye I saw a truck coming very fast towards the ramp. I just went after it. If I’d gotten there any faster he would have hit me. It was lucky there weren’t any boats in the water.”

Mr. Hathaway said that when he got to Mr. Knight’s truck, he could see there were no other occupants in the vehicle. Mr. Knight was coherent.

“He was halfway out of the driver side window when I got there. I think his window must have been down. It could have been a lot worse if he had power windows and they were up,” he said.

Mr. Hathaway, a 15 year veteran of the Edgartown harbor department, was roundly praised by first responders for his quick thinking in pulling the truck out of the channel into shallower waters.

“It was just instinct. Luckily the stern of his truck had a tow hitch so that was a big help. I didn’t want to get in the way of the ferry. Once I got it out of the channel, I realized it was starting to go down and might possibly pull me down, so I cut it loose.”

Mr. Hathaway also had praise for Edgartown first responders. “When you look at the video, it’s almost exactly 11 am when it happened and an hour later, they had the truck out of the water.” he said. “One minute there was hardly anyone there, the next minute the harbor looked like the 4th of July. They got there very quickly.”

Mr. Hathaway said he received a call from Mr. Knight’s mother, thanking him for his fast action. “I’m just glad he’s okay,” he said.