Steamship Authority (SSA) management Tuesday recommended a slate of fare hikes they said are needed to help fill a $1,900,00 hole in the boatline’s 2015 operating budget. General manager Wayne Lamson presented the recommendations at a meeting of the Steamship Authority board on Nantucket.
In total, management said it needs $1,900,000 from anticipated rate increases to meet its projected net operating income next year of around $3,619,000. Based on each routes cost of service, $1,400,000 would need to come from the Vineyard side of the ledger and $500,000 from Nantucket, according to a management report of the meeting.
“I think reasonable people will understand,” Martha’s Vineyard SSA member Marc Hanover, told The Times in a telephone conversation Tuesday. “A bunch of things are happening, two of the big boats are going in for dry dock, which is very expensive.”
Under the proposal presented Tuesday, the cost of a one-way adult passenger ticket to or from Martha’s Vineyard would rise from $7.50 to $8. That price does not include the 50 cent embarkation fee charged by port towns.
“Passengers are where the Steamship Authority makes money,” Mr. Hanover said. “Fifty cents, it doesn’t strike me as much. We’re going to need the money next year.”
Round trip auto excursion fares, the discounted vehicle rate for Martha’s Vineyard residents would increase by $4. Regular vehicle rates will not increase, under the proposal presented Tuesday.
“I do want people to understand that excursion rate that they pay covers 37 percent of the actual cost, so they’re getting quite a deal,” Mr. Hanover said. He also stressed that the fares are only proposals at this point, and he is looking at alternatives to raising the cost of excursion fares.
Parking at all of the SSA’s Falmouth satellite lots would cost $15 per calendar day in peak season, from May 15 to September 14, and $13 per calendar day in the shoulder seasons, from April 1 to May 14, and September 15 through October 31.
The cost of parking in the Falmouth lots is currently $13 per calendar day during the prime summer months, and $10 in the off season.
According to treasurer Bob Davis, the Steamship Authority will need $89 million to cover operating expenses in 2015. That represents an increase of $3,354,000, or 3.9 percent, over the estimated operating costs for the current year.
In a report on the board meeting, Mr. Lamson wrote that vessel fuel costs are expected to rise 2.5 percent to $9,669,000; overall maintenance is projected to rise 10.4 percent, or $1,371,000; health care expenses for employees are expected to increase by 5.2 percent or $368,000; and pension expense is projected to increase by 27 percent or $1,182,000. Mr. Lamson said the pension expense reflects recently approved contracts for licensed deck officers and unlicensed vessel employees.
The Steamship Authority raised rates for large trucks and parking in 2013. In 2012 it raised fares for automobiles and year round parking permits. The Steamship Authority last raised passenger rates in 2010.
The board is scheduled to vote on the proposed annual budget, which includes the fare increases, at its October 21 meeting, scheduled for the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven.
Any fare hikes would likely take effect on January 1, 2015.
Members of the Edgartown affordable housing committee promised they will re-evaluate plans for a 30-unit apartment rental complex on a town-owned parcel off Meshacket Road, following a spirited discussion with neighbors and housing advocates at a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 18.
Chairman Mark Hess also told the packed meeting room that the proposal would likely be submitted to a future town meeting for debate and approval, because the proposal has changed since voters approved transfer of the nine-acre parcel to the affordable housing committee at the 2012 Edgartown annual town meeting. At the time there was discussion about creating nine building lots on the parcel, to be sold at below-market rates to qualified buyers who would then build their own homes.
The committee said it ran into engineering and environmental limitations which changed the original concept. The Martha’s Vineyard 2014 Housing Needs Assessment also swayed the committee’s view. That study, funded by the six Island towns, highlighted a greater need for rental units, according to committee members.
Mr. Hess stressed that the committee is not bound by the latest plan for rental housing, and is open to considering other options.
“Our goal is to do what is reasonable, right, and practical,” Mr. Hess said. “The committee has explored many plans, and hasn’t settled on any one plan. We have not made any final determination. It’s a town issue, it’s a town project.”
Some neighbors objected to the density of the current proposal, which would create 52 bedrooms in five buildings clustered close to Meshacket Road. A recreational area and protected habitat would be sited at the rear of the parcel.
Others told the committee they object to the project because they believe it will create more traffic on the narrow, winding roadway.
“The traffic on that road is horrendous,” said Paul Hudson who lives on Meshacket Road. “I can’t walk my dog down that road. I was all for this project, people need housing. But it has turned into something else.”
Mr. Hess noted that nearly all of the correspondence to the affordable housing committee cited traffic as an objection.
Doug Ruskin, a former member of the committee, said traffic concerns are a separate issue.
“Traffic is a problem for the same reason that we need affordable housing,” Mr. Ruskin said. “We have more people arriving all the time. I think the traffic problem needs to be dealt with, but I don’t think you can put the solution to traffic on the backs of developers. You can’t ignore it, but I don’t think a traffic problem should knock a development out of the box.”
David Vigneault, executive director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, said some towns have moved away from creating single-family houses to address the need for affordable housing, because even at subsidized rates, people who may qualify according to income guidelines cannot get financing to buy the homes.
Mr. Vigneault said currently, there are 265 households on the housing authority’s list of people waiting for subsidized rental housing.
“Of those, 50 have current physical addresses in Edgartown,” Mr. Vigneault said. “Forty-three of those 50 current Edgartown residents have incomes below 60 percent of the area median income. That is, depending on the size of the family, $37,000 to $48,000. Banks are not going to lend on these incomes.”
Fern Thomas said she is one of those people who would like to own a home, but sees rental housing as her only practical option.
“When they advertise the opportunity to own my own home, there are quite a few of my equals, my friends got all excited,” Ms. Thomas said. “We went down to the meeting, we can’t meet the criteria. I’m one of the lucky ones that has been able to live at Morgan Woods. Every year my rent goes up. For the past three years, my income has gone down. I don’t need two bedrooms, I’m looking for a one bedroom, that’s not that easy. I am not alone.”
Micah Agnoli told the committee he is the kind of person that the original concept of creating home lots was intended to help.
“I’m one of those young people looking to move back,” he said. “It’s a constant discussion among my friends. They benefit from home ownership, and not necessarily from rentals.”
Several neighbors suggested the Jenney Way development, a cluster of 10 homes off Pine Street in Edgartown completed in 2008, as a more appropriate model for development of the Meshacket Road parcel.
Committee member Melissa Vincent said the demand for home ownership at Jenney Way was less than expected, because few people could qualify for financing.
“We had five subsidies, and we had six applicants,” Ms. Vincent said. “We could have come up with other subsidies, but we didn’t have any more applicants. We were surprised as a committee.”
Selectman Margaret Serpa, who attended the forum, said the town is pursuing several parcels in Edgartown that may be seized because the owners have not paid taxes on the property. She said those lots may present opportunities for homeownership.
“Selectmen are very aware, and are looking into other opportunities with some of the tax title properties coming to the town,” Ms. Serpa told the affordable housing committee. “It’s certainly not something we are, and your committee is, ignoring.”
The committee said it plans to hold further public forums as the plans for the development progress, and invited anyone interested in the issue to attend meetings of the affordable housing committee. The committee meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 3:30 pm, at town hall.
In the original online version of this story, the quote attributed to Micah Agnoli, was incorrectly attributed to Jeff Agnoli.
The fire appeared to start in landscaping mulch and climbed quickly up the side of the vacant wood frame house.
Fire caused heavy damage to a house at 5 Dune Road in the Katama section of Edgartown Friday afternoon. Edgartown police and firefighters found the front of the building in flames when they arrived, shortly before 2 pm. The home was vacant at the time of the fire. There were no injuries.
Edgartown fire chief Peter Shemeth told The Times it appeared the fire started in landscaping mulch near the wooden landing leading to the front door of the 2.5 story wood frame building. He said the flames spread quickly up the exterior of the home.
“Everything is so powder dry right now, and the wind was going right toward the building,” Chief Shemeth said.
The Edgartown fire department responded with four trucks. The Oak Bluffs fire department was called to provide mutual aid and cover stations in Edgartown.
“It’s a hard day personnel wise,” Chief Shemeth said as the volunteer firefighters finished packing up equipment. “All these guys were working somewhere.”
Though the front of the structure was charred and smoldering from ground to roof, the interior of the home was mostly undamaged, except for smoke damage, according to Chief Shemeth.
Edgartown police were trying to locate and contact the owner.
Local merchants say they’ve invested in tighter security systems and training to combat costly thefts.
On a recent morning, Ivana Mihaylova sat in Edgartown District Court, dressed stylishly in a black dress with light pinstripes. Three things looked a bit out of place on the attractive 22-year-old woman, a native of Macedonia, who listed her current residence as Hyannis. First, her hair was a bit disheveled. Second, she had an expression of tired bewilderment. Third, she had handcuffs around her wrists and shackles around her ankles.
Ms. Mihaylova spent the night in jail, awaiting arraignment on a charge of shoplifting.
Less than 18 hours earlier, according to a police report, Ms. Mihaylova and a friend wandered into the Tease Clothing Outlet at 10 Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. She removed several items from the racks, and entered a fitting room to try them on. She left the fitting room, got more clothes, and went back to try those on. She returned most of the items after leaving the fitting room, went to the register, and paid cash for an inexpensive key ring, according to Harry Datta, co-owner of the clothing store. Though he realized Ms. Mihaylova came out of the fitting rooms with one less item than she went in with, no crime was committed until she left the store. He confronted her outside the store, and called police.
“Mihaylova subsequently left the store wearing a tank top that she did not pay for under her outer clothing,” Officer Chris Wiggin wrote in his police report. “I was informed that Mihaylova was still wearing the item. The tank top was valued at $10 and was no longer saleable. Mihaylova told me that she had forgotten she was wearing the tank top when she left. I found this to be implausible.”
Officer Wiggin arrested Ms. Mihaylova and took her to the Dukes County Jail for booking.
Some elements of this shoplifting case are classic examples of how shoplifters steal, and how they get caught. Many shoplifters pay for some items, and steal others in the same visit. Multiple items in multiple trips to a fitting room are a classic technique.
Other elements of the case are more unusual. When confronted by the store owner, and later by police, Ms. Mihaylova was unusually recalcitrant. The owner told police that Ms. Mihaylova’s friend tried to convince her to return the item she had taken. “The unidentified woman offered to pay for the item that her friend had taken and repeatedly asked her to give it back prior to police arrival,” Officer Wiggin wrote.
Ms. Mihayla refused, and even after she was placed in handcuffs, seemed oblivious to the trouble she was in, according to the police report.
“Mihaylova expressed no remorse and only seemed concerned with her travel arrangements,” Officer Wiggin wrote.
Mr. Datta said he often calls police to deal with shoplifters. In this case, he said, because of the low value of the item stolen, he would probably have not called authorities if Ms. Mihaylova had returned the item.
“She was wearing the tank top, and she still told police she didn’t take it,” Mr. Datta said.
In court, still apparently a bit confused about the whole ordeal, Ms. Mihaylova stood when the clerk called her name for arraignment. Presiding justice H. Gregory Williams asked her if she was willing to settle the case that day. The prosecutor agreed to dismiss the charges upon payment of $50 in court costs. A court officer stepped forward to remove the handcuffs, and Ms. Mihaylova walked downstairs to pay the fees and walked out of the courthouse.
Several merchants interviewed said they have taken measures to prevent shoplifting in recent years, including installing security cameras, training staff, and using anti-theft tagging devices on merchandise.
“It used to be a big problem,” said Ann Soper, owner of Nell and 20 Main, neighboring women’s clothing stores on Main Street in Edgartown. “But we have security cameras now, and the word got out.” Before the new security measures, she remembers chasing shoplifters down the street, and once encountered a professional shoplifter who was caught after stealing hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise from several stores.
Sheila Allen Styles, who owns a women’s accessories shop in Edgartown, originally installed cameras to keep an eye on her small shop while she or her staff were working in an office at the rear of the narrow store. Several monitors throughout the store show views from eight prominently displayed security cameras, easily visible to customers.
“One of the reasons is deterrence,” Ms. Allen Styles said. “I have eight cameras.”
Suzanne Jakel, manager at the Boneyard Surf Shop in Edgartown, said in recent years the store began using electronic security tags, which are fastened to merchandise. The tags are removed when customers pay for the items, but if clothing with a tag still attached goes out the door, an alarm sounds. The security measures have significantly cut down on shoplifting.
“We tag everything,” Ms. Jakel said. “It’s really not a problem.”
Mr. Datta, co-owner of Teaze Clothing Outlet, trains his staff to be watchful and count the number of items taken into fitting rooms, but he said security systems are too expensive and time consuming for his business.
“We get shipments of 100 dozen, 200 dozen T-shirts,” Mr. Datta said. “It would take two or three days to tag them all.”
Shoplifting is defined broadly under current Massachusetts law to include taking merchandise out of a store, concealing merchandise with the intent to steal, or altering or switching price tags. An unusual provision of the law defines removing a shopping cart from a store premises as shoplifting.
A law enforcement officer can make an arrest for shoplifting if, in their judgement, there is probable cause to believe the crime occurred. The law says if a merchant makes an accusation of shoplifting, that counts as probable cause, and is justification for an arrest.
Massachusetts law provides for a wide range of sentences if convicted of shoplifting. For stealing goods worth less than $100, a court may impose a fine of up to $250. For a second offense, the fine is a minimum of $100 but not more than $500. For a third offense, a shoplifting conviction is punishable by a fine of up to $500, and up to 2.5 years in a house of correction, or both.
For shoplifting goods worth more than $100, even a first offense, a court can issue a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail sentence of up to $2.5 years.
A merchant may also sue a shoplifter in civil court, and receive punitive damages of $50 to $500, in addition to the actual damages, such as the cost of merchandise stolen.
Ms. Mihaylova’s case involved a relatively small amount of stolen merchandise, and the court had no indication of previous offenses. Similar cases are often settled with similar dispositions. But there is no standard disposition, according to Cape and Islands First Assistant District Attorney Michael Trudeau. Each case is handled differently.
“A recommendation for the resolution of a criminal case is made after an assistant district attorney makes a complete and thorough review of all relevant and available case information that is provided in police reports, victim/witness statements, and the probation department,” Mr. Trudeau said in an e-mail statement. “Additional factors that are taken into consideration when arriving at an appropriate sentencing recommendation are the overall nature and circumstances of the offense, the defendant’s criminal record or lack thereof, the potential penalty that the statute allows for and whether the property was recovered.”
According to the Massachusetts State Police Crime Reporting Unit, the number of shoplifting cases on Martha’s Vineyard has declined in recent years, from 47 cases known to police in 2009, to 23 cases in 2013. The statistics are voluntarily reported by local police departments, and do not necessarily represent convictions for shoplifting. Though it is difficult to quantify, research shows most law enforcement statistics significantly underreport the number of shoplifting incidents. In many cases, especially if shoplifters agree to return the merchandise and it is still saleable, merchants do not call police. In many cases, shoplifting crimes are not discovered until the shoplifters are long gone, and merchants assume police can do little about it.
The National Association of Shoplifting Prevention is a non-profit group whose mission is to raise awareness, provide assistance to courts and communities, and conduct research into the causes and solutions of shoplifting.
According to the association’s research, there is no such thing as a “typical” shoplifter. Men and women shoplift in about equal numbers, and most, about 75 percent, are adults.
Only about 3 percent of shoplifters are professionals, who steal as part of an organized effort and resell the stolen items at a profit, but professional shoplifters account for about 10 percent of the total losses.
Habitual shoplifters steal once or twice each week, on average, and get caught only once in every 48 times they shoplift. Only about half the cases are turned over to police.
In a letter dated Sept. 12, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell agreed to transfer ownership of the Gay Head Light from the federal government to the town of Aquinnah. The transfer is a critical milestone in the effort to restore and move the historic lighthouse, which is threatened by the eroding cliff face. The town will now be responsible for maintaining the structure as a historic landmark and a functioning aid to navigation for mariners.
Secretary Jewell said she made the decision based on a recommendation from the National Park Service, which reviewed an extensive application submitted by the town under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. The federal General Services Administration and the Coast Guard have also reviewed and approved the application, according to Aquinnah town administrator Adam Wilson.
While there are some loose ends, a lot of paperwork, and reviews by local and state boards remaining, the approval by Secretary Jewell means the transfer of ownership is all but formalized.
“I applaud the commitment of the Town of Aquinnah to the preservation of our Nation’s maritime heritage in accepting stewardship of the Gay Head Light Station,” Secretary Jewell said in her letter addressed to Jim Newman, chairman of the board of selectmen.
The Save the Gay Head Light Committee has raised about $1.5 million toward the estimated cost of $3 million needed to move the structure to a more stable location, about 150 feet to the east/southeast of where it is now.
The project timeline calls for the moving contractor, International Chimney Corp., to begin site preparation next month, begin the intricate move in November, and finish it in April.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued a detainee order for Leandro Miranda, 23, of Oak Bluffs, which requires local authorities to hold him in custody for 48 hours once charges in Edgartown District Court are adjudicated. ICE officials will then decide whether to take custody of Mr. Miranda and begin removal proceedings.
According to the detainee order issued August 28, ICE has “determined that there is reason to believe the individual is an alien subject to removal from the United States.”
Mr. Miranda, a Brazilian national, was back in Edgartown District Court for a pretrial hearing on Sept. 4. He has been held without bail at the Dukes County Jail since August 10, when he was arrested for the fifth time in the past five months. Two of those arrests involved charges of driving drunk and fleeing police at high rates of speed.
The court ordered Mr. Miranda returned to jail following the hearing, after finding probable cause that he violated the conditions of probation issued in one of his string of arrests on a long list of motor vehicle violations.
Also appearing in court Sept. 4 was Rogerio J. Almeida, 48, of East Boston, who was also listed in a previous police report as living in Edgartown. According to police reports, Mr. Almeida allowed Mr. Miranda to drive his 2005 Chrysler 300 despite Mr. Miranda’s various arrests and license suspensions. The charge against Mr. Almeda was dismissed after he paid $400 in court costs.
With some notable exceptions involving candidates with local ties, Islanders voted much like the rest of the state Tuesday.
Election results on Martha’s Vineyard mirrored statewide results for the most part in Tuesday’s primary election, which saw light turnout across the Island and the state.
In the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, Martha Coakley carried Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury. Donald Berwick won in Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury. Both candidates have Vineyard ties. Ms. Coakley spent summers working on the Island earlier in her life, and Mr. Berwick owns a home in Chilmark. Ms. Coakley received a total of 802 votes on the Island. Mr. Berwick received 688 votes.
Statewide, Ms. Coakley won with 42 percent of the vote. Steve Grossman was second with 37 percent, and Mr. Berwick was third with 21 percent.
Charles Baker easily won the Republican nomination for governor statewide, and he was the overwhelming choice of local Republicans, with 354 votes. His opponent, Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher, got 96 votes.
As voters did statewide, Islanders offered strong support to women on the ballot. Maura Healey trounced Warren Tolman 1,375 to 428 in the race for the democratic nomination for attorney general.
In a tight race for treasurer, Island voters favored Deborah Goldberg, with 724 votes, to move on to the general election, over her two male challengers. Barry Finegold was second with 508 votes, and Thomas Conroy was third with 398 votes in the three-way race.
Martha’s Vineyard voters made a contrary choice in the close race for the Republican nomination for representative in Congress. Local Republicans chose Mark Alliegro, a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, over John Chapman, 168 to 136, but it was Chapman who prevailed statewide to advance to the general election against Democratic incumbent William Keating.
Three incumbents earned spots on the November 4 general election ballot as Democratic nominees to the Dukes County Commission. John Alley of West Tisbury was the top vote getter with 1,084 votes. Leon Brathwaite of West Tisbury was second with 950 votes, and David Holway of Edgartown was third with 880 votes. They were the only candidates named on the primary ballot. Incumbent Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs ran fourth with a write-in campaign, winning a handful of write-in votes in both primaries.
Other candidates are expected to run as independent (unenrolled) candidates, and will appear on the ballot in November. The seven county commissioners all run for re-election every two years.
Voter participation was down slightly from 2010, the last off-year statewide primary where no presidential election was at stake. This year an average of 18.7 percent of registered voters went to the polls in the six Island towns. In 2010, 20.3 percent of registered voters participated in the primary election.
Aquinnah proved to have the most one-sided electorate. Of the 75 voters who went to the polls on Tuesday, not a single voter requested a Republican primary ballot.
Sometimes it’s a well-timed tack that makes the difference in winning and losing the Moffett Race. Sometimes it’s outsmarting the swift tidal current, or anticipating a shifting breeze, that earns you a year’s worth of bragging rights in the Holmes Hole Sailing Association’s season-ending competition.
Or maybe, like Jeff Robinson, who captured this year’s race in the John Alden–designed schooner Phra Luang, you just get around the buoys and see what happens.
“You go out there, you have a good time, and if you’re really lucky, you win,” Mr. Robinson said, shortly after the cheers died down at the after-race party and awards ceremony Saturday afternoon. “You just hope for the best.”
Phra Luang, 42 feet of wooden sailing tradition and a familiar sight in Island waters, bested 34 other boats that completed the 20.8-mile course in Vineyard Sound on corrected time. Five boats did not finish the course.
Mr. Robinson’s modesty notwithstanding, it took considerable sailing skill and a strong boat to stand up to a steady 20 knots of wind, with gusts to 30 knots. The fleet was off shortly after 11 am in two classes, under fog and overcast skies. Once out in Vineyard Sound, the sailors found rough seas as they zipped twice around the course. Four-year-old Odin Robinson, the winning skipper’s grandson, attested to that. When asked what part he liked best about serving as crew he said, “When the waves are crashing over.”
Jerry Goodale, always a top contender and winner in 2008, was second this year on corrected time, in his Pearson 31 Stormalong. Jim Lobdell in Malabar II, a sister ship to Phra Luang and winner in 1989, was third. Juno, the Gannon and Benjamin schooner skippered by Scott DiBiaso, was fastest around the course on elapsed time, finishing in 2 hours, 46 minutes, and 12 seconds.
Phra Luang joins an exclusive club with the 2014 victory. A winner also in 2007, she becomes just the second boat to win the Moffett Race twice, and Mr. Robinson just the third skipper to capture the race twice, since the race began in 1978. Alan Wilson won in 1993 sailing Altius, and again in 2001 sailing Chantey. Harry Duane won aboard Andiamo II in 1995 and 1998. Andiamo II was the winning boat in 2012, with Mr. Duane’s grandson Jared Hammond at the helm.
A bit of comic relief punctuated the awards ceremony at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, as race committee chairman Roger Becker announced the results in reverse order. Despite a more than respectable elapsed time of 3 hours, 16 minutes, and 5 seconds, the 48-foot yawl Aurora, skippered by Bradley Abbott, was placed last on corrected time. That news brought a roar of relief from the good-natured crew of Trinity, eagerly gathered near the front of the crowd, and quite obviously pleased to escape last place.
Mr. Becker resumed reading the results when the impromptu celebration died down, and announced the next-to-last-place finisher was none other than Trinity, which set off another round of celebration from skipper David McDonough and his fun-loving crew.
In a joint conference call on June 26, 2012, representatives of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association and Cape Wind Associates announced that the Island-based fishermen’s association had ended its federal lawsuit against the proposed wind farm on Horseshoe Shoal and entered into a settlement agreement with Cape Wind valued at approximately $1.25 million.
The agreement called for the Fishermen’s Association to support the Cape Wind project “as a sustainable source of clean energy for the future.” In exchange, Cape Wind and the association agreed to work together to establish a Martha’s Vineyard Permit Bank that would enable the purchase of commercial fishing permits for use by local commercial fishermen and the promotion of “Vineyard wild-caught” seafood.
One month later, in papers filed July 23, 2012 with the Office of the Secretary of State, the Menemsha Fishermen’s Preservation Trust Inc. was renamed the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust, Inc., in order to handle the proceeds of the settlement.
Although the Association existed under the umbrella of county government, at the time,
Warren Doty, a Chilmark selectman who had spearheaded the creation of the Fishermen’s Association and the associated MV Fishermen’s Preservation Trust, and who was president of both entities, said he was bound by a confidentiality agreement not to reveal the settlement amount. Mr. Doty said the newly created and renamed nonprofit corporation would administer a permit bank designed to enable fishermen to buy into permit fisheries closed to new entries.
Two years later, the Fishermen’s Association appears to be in organizational disarray. The Fishermen’s Preservation Trust, following a long dormant period in which its tax exempt status was revoked by the IRS, is undergoing a revival, with a small group of stakeholders organizing to define the group’s mission, and researching the best way to support local fishermen.
The Menemsha Fishermen’s Preservation Trust, was incorporated on October 3, 2011. Incorporation papers listed Wesley Brighton, a commercial fisherman from Chilmark as president, Shelley Edmundson, a fisheries researcher from Vineyard Haven as treasurer, and Katherine Carroll of Chilmark as clerk. The corporation was organized as a standard 501(C)(3) corporation, for charitable, educational, and scientific purposes.
In a July 23, 2012 filing with the Massachusetts Secretary of State, the Menemsha Fishermen’s Trust became the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust and was reorganized with Mr. Doty as president, Ms. Edmundson as treasurer, Ms. Carroll as clerk. All three are also listed as directors. In addition, Mr. Brighton and John Keene, the well-respected owner of an excavation and construction materials company from Chilmark, are listed as directors.
Other than that routine application to record a change of officers, and another routine application to change the name of the organization, there is no record that the trust filed any annual reports with the Secretary of State or the Attorney General, as required by state law. There is no record that the trust filed any annual tax statements, as required by federal law. On May 15, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) automatically revoked the trust’s tax exempt status for “its failure to file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years,” according to the IRS.
In a telephone conversation last week, Mr. Doty confirmed that the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust did not file the required reports with state and federal governments
“We didn’t do it,” Mr. Doty said. “We were very inactive in 2013 and we didn’t file the proper paperwork. We need to do that.” He said the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust is working to file the necessary tax documents, in order to get back in good graces with the IRS.
Mr. Doty, an outspoken advocate for commercial fishing interests in Menemsha and on the Island, said the group has made substantial organizational progress since it began meeting regularly in May of this year. Other members reached by The Times agreed.
“This organization is finally getting a little bit of traction,” Mr. Brighton said in a phone call. “The Cape Cod Fishermen’s Alliance, they’re helping us quite a lot. We’re trying to get funding for Shelly (Edmundson) so we can have a full-time employee, as opposed to a bunch of people that have full-time jobs, who are very eager at meetings, but are challenged with getting things done.”
The Cape Wind facility would occupy a 25-square-mile section of Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound and generate a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts with an average anticipated output of 182 megawatts, according to federal documents.
In a recent email, Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rogers said that Cape Wind, according to the agreement, could not disclose the amount of the settlement agreement, but he confirmed that payment is contingent on the wind project getting its final financing in place, which Cape Wind executives expect to happen before the end of 2014.
Local sources with knowledge of the settlement details said the agreement calls for Cape Wind to pay the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust $250,000 when project financing is in place. The agreement calls for Cape Wind to pay an additional $1 million once permitting for the wind farm is in place.
Two years later, Mr. Doty is sticking with the agreement to keep the financial terms of the settlement secret.
“I’m not supposed to divulge that,” Mr. Doty said last week. “We did sign a nondisclosure settlement that we won’t talk about.”
Asked to explain the contradiction inherent in a lawsuit that claimed that the wind project would permanently end fishing in the Horseshoe Shoals area and the settlement language which announced strong support for Cape Wind, Mr. Doty said that at the time the Fishermen’s Association was in a financial bind.
“We had run up $125,000 worth of legal bills,” Mr. Doty said. “The law firm agreed to do the first $75,000 pro bono. We raised about $25,000, but we were still way short of our bill. The lawyers said what’s your plan, to continue would be another $150,000. We can’t raise that kind of money. They suggested a settlement.”
Despite the potential funding, the organization’s officers remain ambivalent about the financial settlement, and Cape Wind.
“I think if Cape Wind doesn’t happen, that would be great,” Mr. Doty said. “We were opposed from start to finish.”
“We’re in an uphill battle on public relations because of the lawsuit, and the stupid non-disclosure agreement,” Mr. Brighton said, acknowledging some of the hard feelings the organization’s reversal generated on the waterfront. “The public thinks we’re Halliburton in some way, where we have this back door dealing in secret meeting rooms, when all we’re trying to do is keep these kids fishing. Cape Wind required us to have the non-disclosure.”
“It would be nice if Cape Wind doesn’t get built and the settlement money doesn’t come in,” Ms. Edmundson said.
Off the line
Even as the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust moves forward, its parent organization, the Fishermen’s Association, formed under the auspices of Dukes County, remains adrift. The organization has not filed any reports with county officials in the past year. The organization’s web page on the Dukes County web site is more than a year out of date. The phone number listed for more information is disconnected. And there is no record of any articles of organization, or annual reports detailing the name and address of the group, time of its last annual meeting, and names and addresses of officers, required by state regulators.
County commissioner Tristan Israel, also a Tisbury selectman, helped form the Fishermen’s Association under the umbrella of the Dukes County government.
“I’ve sort of seen the thing fall apart, and I’ve been disappointed about that,” Mr. Israel told The Times. “If we don’t hear anything in the next few months, we ought to dissolve it. We can’t have an organization that doesn’t exist.”
Mr. Doty stepped down as president of of the Fishermen’s Association last year. On April 24, 2013, the county commissioners appointed charter fisherman Alex Friedman of Edgartown to the position. According to the county minutes, the commissioners requested quarterly updates “either in person or in writing.”
At a Division of Marine Fisheries hearing in February 2014, Mr. Friedman testified on behalf of commercial interests and spoke as president of the Fishermen’s Association. He asked not to be reappointed when his term expired on March 1, according to county manager Martina Thornton.
Ms. Thornton said the county placed advertisements seeking someone to fill the post, but received no interest. Asked how the county viewed an organization that appears defunct using its name, Ms. Thornton declined comment.
Mr. Friedman did not respond to repeated messages left on his voicemail.
“As far as I know he’s [Mr. Friedman] never called a meeting,” Mr. Doty told The Times. “The Fishermen’s Association has been inactive. It’s disappointing, but I think there’s a real need for that organization. I think the county commissioners really want to support it. There has to be some young guys that want to step up.”
Contradiction in terms
In June, 2010, among the first actions of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association was to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of the fishermen’s association, and individually on behalf of association member Jonathan Mayhew to stop the Cape Wind project on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound.
The defendants were Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOE).
Mr. Mayhew is a longtime commercial fisherman and Chilmark selectman. He was a party to the settlement.
In a 16-page complaint, attorneys David Frulla and Shaun Gehan of Kelley Drye and Warren said the Cape Wind energy project would effectively end all commercial fishing on Horseshoe Shoal — prime, historic fishing grounds for Vineyard fishermen.
Two years later, the fishermen’s association reversed its position, and agreed to settle the lawsuit with Cape Wind.
Just before the settlement was announced, four of the seven county commissioners and acting county manager and county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders met in executive session with Mr. Doty and Mr. Brighton.
According to minutes of that session, Mr. Doty told the commissioner that his group’s law firm had worked out a settlement deal with Cape Wind that would soon be made public. Although the Fishermen’s Association operates under the umbrella of Dukes County government, the commissioners signed off on the agreement without a request that Mr. Doty reveal the settlement amount.
On the Menemsha dock, where a small group of fishermen continue to pull a living out of the sea, commercial fisherman Alec Gale, co-owner of the Menemsha Fish House, a wholesale seafood seller, said the Fishermen’s Association has not been on the minds of local fishermen.
“There’s been no talk of anything at the docks,” Mr. Gale said. “It was a pretty sour subject. A lot of people that were involved with the association were not happy with not getting informed about, or not agreeing on settlement of the lawsuit. There was no meeting or anything.”
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and Department of Public Health (DPH) ordered Katama Bay oyster beds closed to commercial harvesting as of September 3, and for at least seven days, as a precaution following a fourth reported case of illness caused by eating raw oysters.
“This precautionary closure is due to the presence of environmental conditions conducive to the growth of Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vibrio) in oysters harvested from the area based on information relative to closures in 2013,” DPH said in a press release Wednesday.
“We recognize the impact these actions have on many of our local businesses, and we do not take them lightly,” said Cheryl Bartlett, RN, Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health.
DPH said this is the first time a specific harvest area in Massachusetts has been closed due to Vibrio this year. “The decision to issue a precautionary closure was made jointly between DPH and DMF officials in response to warming waters in Katama Bay, anticipated high air temperatures forecast for this week, and identification of a fourth confirmed case of Vibrio tied to the area. Current water temperatures in Katama Bay are consistent with water temperatures and environmental conditions that were associated with Vibrio illnesses in 2013.”
The most recent report of illness was associated with oysters harvested from Katama Bay on August 7, and consumed raw on August 8, according to DMF. State audits have shown no mishandling of the shellfish.
Edgartown shellfish warden Paul Bagnall said he has been closely monitoring compliance with the new regulations, which require the oysters to be kept out of the sun, and iced within two hours of harvest. “Compliance has been excellent,” Mr. Bagnall said. “The guys in Katama are willing to go over and above what the state requires. But we’re doing something we didn’t do 20 years ago, and that’s eating raw oysters in the summer months.”
Vibrio is a bacteria that occurs naturally in coastal waters in the United States and Canada. It has caused illnesses in the Gulf Coast and West Coast of the United States for a number of years. It is not related to pollution of Massachusetts shellfish.
Last September, an outbreak of Vibrio illness led to a month-long closure of oyster operations in Katama Bay and across the state, which has seen a steady rise in Vibrio cases since 2011. The sharp increase in illnesses caused federal authorities to mandate stricter regulation of the handling of raw oysters. Regulation is enforced locally by the DMF and DPH.