Authors Posts by Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick

The Gay Head Lighthouse move is expected to begin this spring.

By the narrowest of margins, Aquinnah special town meeting voters last Thursday approved the purchase of two parcels of land near the site where the Gay Head Lighthouse is on track to be moved this spring.

The two small properties, at 9 and 13 Aquinnah Circle, would be less than 100 feet from the historic lighthouse, once it is moved to its new location.

The vote, taken by paper ballot, was 29 in favor of approving $590,000 for purchase of the properties and closing costs, 12 against, and 1 abstention. Because the measure involved borrowing money, approval of two-thirds of the voters present, or 28 voters, was required. The measure passed the two-thirds threshold by one vote.

Future use of the properties includes community housing, a site for a new police station, or open space that could become part of the planned park space surrounding the lighthouse.

Also at the special town meeting, voters unanimously approved a measure to allow the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District to borrow $2.5 million. This money would be used to restructure the traffic flow and residential drop-off at the Edgartown transfer station.

Aquinnah would be assessed 3 percent of the costs, or $75,000 over the life of the bond.

Chilmark was the first of four towns in the district to vote in favor on the project at a special town meeting on October 20. Edgartown and West Tisbury will vote in the spring. All four towns must vote in favor of this project at their respective special town meetings. (Oak Bluffs and Tisbury use a separate refuse transfer station.)

Voters also approved a recommendation from the community preservation committee to authorize $5,000 for repair of a stone wall behind town hall, and $20,000 for repairs to the old parsonage building on Church Street, which the town uses for affordable housing.

Plans to build a garage near a 177-year-old Pagoda Tree at 29 South Water Street have been put on hold due to public outcry. Photo by Michael Cummo.

Updated 3 pm, Wednesday, November 12

Bowing to public outcry, the Edgartown conservation commission, meeting jointly with selectmen, voted unanimously Monday to reconsider its earlier approval for a private homeowner to build a garage near an iconic pagoda tree, one of the largest and oldest specimens of that variety of tree in America.

When Thomas Milton of Edgartown took time on one of his worldly voyages to preserve a cutting from a pagoda tree, and carried it back from China across the globe in a flower pot to the parcel on South Water Street where he was building a stately home befitting his status as a successful sea captain, it’s a fair bet he never imagined how much Edgartown would come to love his tree or the stir it would cause.

Captain Milton planted the tree, known then as a Chinese Huai tree (sophora japonica to tree scientists) in 1837, according to a bronze plaque near the base of the tree. According to various scientific studies, the lifespan of a typical urban tree, besieged by sidewalks, pavement, compacted soil and limited sunlight is about a tenth the lifespan of the same species in a rural setting. Yet the pagoda tree stands tall and relatively healthy at the ripe old age of 177.

Over the years, the tree has been walked by, climbed on, gazed at, and admired by generations of Edgartown residents and visitors. Its root system has been paved over, bricked over, driven over, and sealed under cement sidewalks. Though it sits on private land, it has become such a storied part of the town’s history that many people have come to think of it as if they owned it, in a collective sense.

When CarMax, Inc. CEO Thomas Folliard, the new owner of the house Captain Milton built, unveiled plans to build a new two-story, two-car carriage house style garage to go along with a large home restoration project and a new pool on the quarter-acre lot currently assessed at $7.7 million, the conservation commission questioned plans that called for the garage to be situated less than 25 feet from the beloved tree and heard not a peep.


Silent majority

A plaque at the base of the pagoda tree tells some of its history. —Photo by Michael Cummo
A plaque at the base of the pagoda tree tells some of its history. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Through four separate public meetings of the Edgartown conservation commission, no one came to speak in opposition, according to conservation commission members Christina Brown and Jeff Carlson. Commission members say they carefully considered the plans. Patrick Ahearn, the architect hired by contractor Norman Rankow, devised a cantilevered garage structure entirely above the existing ground surface, using support beams anchored in the existing foundation, and two new helical piles to support the corner of the garage nearest the Pagoda Tree. The design left the root system open to the air. Mark DiBiase, an arborist representative for Bartlett Tree Service hired by Mr. Rankow, devised a plan to water the tree, provide nutrients, and aerate the compacted soil.

In what he called a “tree preservation and remediation” plan, Mr. DiBiase recommended a series of precautions to protect the tree during construction, after reviewing plans with Mr. Rankow during a visit to the site.

“I am glad to see that it has been revised to include only two helical piles to help minimize the impact on the existing root system of the subject tree,” Mr. Dibiase wrote in a letter to Mr. Rankow. “In order to also help minimize root damage from the proposed footings, the pile locations should be hand dug or excavated with the use of an air spade. This will help preserve any larger roots that may be encountered and allow for some shifting of the final locations. Any roots that need to be cut shall be hand pruned with the use of sharp hand pruners and a hand saw.”

David Hawkins, a consulting arborist hired to advise town tree warden Stuart Fuller, reviewed the plan, and determined that it would adequately protect the tree.

“Both the cultivation/aeration process and the fertilizer application will help improve the soil and the tree’s ability to counteract any negative effects of the construction and encourage root growth in the area,” Mr. Hawkins wrote in his review for the town.

“We didn’t get any feedback from the public, throughout all those public sessions, which we were kind of surprised about,” Mr. Carlson said at Monday’s meeting. “You’re trying to make things work within the parameters of the bylaw. All the arborists seem to concur that it was going to be okay, and since none of us are arborists, we kind of have to go with their recommendation.”

Based on the opinions of the two tree experts, the conservation commission unanimously approved the plan on October 29.

As word began to filter around town people began to talk. A story published online in the Vineyard Gazette Thursday ignited a small brushfire among online commenters.


Tree bark

This architectural drawing shows the garage planned for 29 South Water Street. —Drawing by Patrick Ahearn, architect
This architectural drawing shows the garage planned for 29 South Water Street. —Drawing by Patrick Ahearn, architect

Edgartown selectmen invited the conservation commission members to join them at their regular Monday meeting, and asked them to rescind their vote.

“In going through the material,” said chairman Art Smadbeck, “I kept seeing words like ‘minimize root damage, the impact would be minimal.’ Basically, what it was speaking to me about was that something could happen to this tree. I know you can come up with all kinds of reasons how you can mitigate it, but when you start using words like mitigation, lessening the impact, that’s really the issue.”

Mr. Smadbeck said instead of mitigation, the debate should be framed by the effect of the construction near the tree, and the effect of not allowing the construction.

“If you do nothing there, that’s better than doing something there, no matter how good the plans,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “If there was a 1 in 100 chance that doing this could harm that tree, would it be worth it?”

Selectman Margaret Serpa, long a champion of the town’s shade trees, said she doesn’t want anything to happen to the pagoda tree on her watch.  “I don’t want to be associated with something happening to that tree,” she said. “This tree is irreplaceable, and I think we need to keep that in our minds. I didn’t see anything that was reassuring to me that the health of that tree was going to be protected. I didn’t feel comfortable.”

Selectman Michael Donaroma was out of town and did not attend Monday’s meeting, but he told the board he would have had to recuse himself, because his landscaping company might be contracted to work at the site.


For the defense

At Monday’s meeting, Mr. Rankow, owner of Colonial Reproductions, Inc. offered a vigorous defense of the plan to protect the tree. He read a statement in which he said the new owners have fashioned a unique public/private stewardship program.

“Up until now, the pagoda tree has not had any meaningful, monitored maintenance and has been surrounded by asphalt or concrete and has been subject to heavy vehicular traffic, underground oil contamination and benign neglect,” Mr. Rankow said. “For the first time in the tree’s life, we now have an opportunity on privately owned land and at no expense to the town, to provide nourishment, maintenance and a monitoring program to maintain the health of the tree.”

Later, Mr. Rankow said that commenters responding to an article posted online in the Gazette were uninformed.

“I don’t think the people making the comments have bothered to look at the process,” Mr. Rankow told selectmen. “We have vetted this very well with experts, and used their criteria. The people making the comments, and some of them are very rude, don’t know and understand the construction process that we’re proposing there.”

That didn’t sit well with selectmen.

“That’s your opinion,” Ms. Serpa said.

“I think the townspeople of Edgartown are pretty well informed,” Mr. Smadbeck said.


Plan uprooted

Bowing to the public outcry, the conservation commission, meeting formally in joint session with the selectmen on Monday, voted unanimously to reconsider its vote.

Conservation commission member Christina Brown said that, although the commission had approved the plans, the order has not yet been signed and registered with the town clerk.

“It’s not done,” Ms. Brown said. “I’m sorry people didn’t come to the public hearings. I would welcome, I think the conservation commission would welcome, another round of much more detailed discussion.”

The conservation commission plans to discuss the issues at its next regularly scheduled meeting on December 3.

Tim Boland, executive director of the Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury, is one of those who weighed in against the plan online and in a telephone interview. Mr. Boland said disturbing the tree’s root system, which likely extends outward about as far as the tree’s leafy canopy, would be risky.

“The problem with any type of construction in and around the roots of a tree, particularly a tree of that age which has probably lived 85 to 90 percent of its lifespan, any type of work is going to cause the tree to decline,” Mr. Boland said in a phone interview with The Times prior to Monday’s meeting. “Typically, a tree of that size is not going to be very responsive to efforts to revitalize it, or make it flourish, like have a second wind.”

Mr. Folliard could not be reached for comment on the uproar.


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Judge Chin said the Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission is responsible for the care and custody of the airport.

Updated 3:15 pm Wednesday, November 12

A Dukes County Superior Court Judge  issued a temporary restraining order last Wednesday that prevents the Dukes County Commission from expanding the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC) by appointing two new members to increase its size from seven to nine members.

As he did in an earlier ruling on August 7 on four other points in the long-running and costly legal dispute, Associate Justice Richard J. Chin sided with the airport commission, which argued that the county vote to expand the airport commission was a violation of the grant assurances agreed to by the county, and which provided millions of dollars in state and federal grants to the airport under the condition the county “agree not to reorganize the MVAC or in any way interfere with the autonomy and authority of the MVAC.”

“The court concludes that it will not harm the public interest to continue operating the airport with only seven members on the MVAC, as it has been operated for some time,” Judge Chin wrote in his November 5 decision. “Further, the county’s alleged violation of the grant assurances could put the MVAC’s funding at risk and interfere with its ability to operate the airport safely and efficiently to the detriment of the public. The county is enjoined from expanding the size of the MVAC and appointing new commissioners to the MVAC or from otherwise interfering with the autonomy and authority of the MVAC without the express written approval of the Aeronautics Division.”

In an October 7 hearing before Judge Chin, MVAC attorney David Mackey, of the Cambridge law firm Anderson and Kreiger, argued that the county commission’s September 24 vote to expand the airport commission violated state law, and violated the grant assurances, in which the county commission acknowledged the airport commission’s sole authority for “custody, care, and management” of the airport. He also argued that any attempt to reorganize the airport commission without permission from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division, violated the grant assurances.

Judge Chin said state law grants the county commission the authority to establish an airport commission, but does not give it authority to change the makeup of the commission once it is established.

“Particularly considering the history between the parties,” Judge Chin wrote, “the court concludes that the MVAC had shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its contention that by adding two additional seats to the MVAC, the county is trying to reorganize the MVAC and/or interfere with the autonomy and authority of the MVAC.”

The county had argued that any grant assurances must respect the authority of the county commission to appoint the airport commission. In a footnote, Judge Chin wrote that the county “makes a convoluted argument.”



In a phone interview with The Times on November 7, Mr. Mackey said he was pleased with the decision. “We’re pleased that the court once again has clearly affirmed that the airport commission, not the county, has authority over the airport,” he said. “We’re also pleased that the court once again has blocked the county’s attempt to take control of the airport commission by changing its membership. We look forward to bringing this case, and the issue of the airport commission’s autonomy and authority, to a prompt and final resolution. The airport commission intends to pursue its claims as speedily and aggressively as possible.”

Airport manager Sean Flynn said the airport commission has not met since September 26, as it waited for the court to rule.

“From my perspective as the executive officer, now that we’ve received clarification of what the makeup of the airport commission is, we can move forward again with the current membership,” Mr. Flynn said. He said the airport commission is tentatively scheduled to meet next on November 21.

County commission chairman Leonard Jason Jr. said the decision was confusing, especially on Judge Chin’s ruling that the county commission cannot expand the airport commission without permission from the Aeronautics Division.

“I really don’t understand how he can say that,” Mr. Jason said. “We asked Mass. Aeronautics, they said we could. It’s very confusing.”

Mr. Jason was asked if the county commissioners intend to continue defending the lawsuit. “Obviously we haven’t met, so I can’t answer that,” he said.


Explanation demanded

On September 24, the county commissioners voted 6 to 0, with one abstention, to increase the size of the airport commission to nine members. The commissioners immediately appointed pilot and businessman Myron Garfinkle of West Tisbury and Robert Rosenbaum, a seasonal resident of Chilmark, former businessman, and pilot.

The county commissioners said the move was warranted because a large number of qualified candidates had expressed interest in filling the seat left vacant by the recent departure of Peter Bettencourt.

Former airport commissioner and current county commissioner John Alley of West Tisbury was the only dissenting vote. Mr. Alley questioned whether the expansion would violate the grant assurances.

County manager Martina Thornton told commissioners that she had researched the issue of expanding the size of the airport commission. She assured the commissioners she did not foresee any problems and cited a phone conversation with the counsel from MassDOT.

One day after the county commission vote, in a letter dated September 25,

Christopher Willenborg, MassDOT Aeronautics Division administrator, asked the county for an explanation of the vote and said that any such reorganization or interference would require the express written approval of the Aeronautics Division.


Previous injunctions

In an August 7 ruling, Judge Chin sided with the airport commission on four other issues in the latest lawsuit, which was filed in response to actions of the county commission this year.

In that ruling, Judge Chin said the county commission is enjoined from appointing the county manager to the airport commission as an ex-officio, nonvoting member; the county manager is enjoined from serving in such a capacity; and the county treasurer is enjoined from refusing to pay invoices duly approved for payment by the airport commission, from obtaining privileged or confidential communications between the airport commission and its attorneys without notice to, or the consent of, the airport commission, and from releasing those communications between the airport commission and its attorneys to the public.

At issue in the legal dispute are two conflicting state laws, Chapter 34, which governs how the county operates, and Chapter 90, which establishes airport commissions as the sole authority to operate airports. In every instance throughout the 14-year legal dispute, courts have ruled that Chapter 90 prevails in any conflict between the two laws, and that the county agreed to abide by Chapter 90 as a condition of receiving state and federal funding.

At its October 8 meeting, the county commission unanimously approved a motion made by county commissioner Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs to request a meeting with airport commissioners to mediate differences between the two boards. Ms. Todd also sits on the airport commission, having been appointed by her fellow county commissioners in an earlier dustup that saw the county use its appointing authority muscle to remove Mr. Alley, a longtime airport commissioner, and Ben Hall Jr. of Edgartown.

County manager Martina Thornton drafted and sent a letter to the airport commissioners. Ms. Todd said she is not aware that any airport commissioners have agreed to meet.

“I don’t really understand why anyone would go to litigation without at least attempting to talk about the problem,” Ms. Todd said in a phone interview Wednesday. “There is absolutely no effort being made by anyone at the airport to have an open and respectful dialogue with anyone at the county. At this point, there’s probably not much at all to mediate.”


Legal costs

The legal squabbling has been costly. According to figures compiled by county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, the airport commission has spent $33,463 in the current fiscal year on legal costs associated with its lawsuit against the county. According to county manager Martina Thornton, the county has spent $11,453 to defend itself, which leaves only about $1,007 in the amount allotted for the lawsuit in the county budget. Ms. Thornton said the county has yet to be billed for attorney Robert Troy’s preparation and appearance at the October 7 hearing, and expects that bill to exceed the amount budgeted.

The County Advisory Board (CAB), made up of one selectman from each Island town, which is responsible for oversight of the county budget, must approve any additional expenditures for legal costs. At a joint meeting of the county commission and the CAB on October 29, the two boards clashed over legal costs.

“I don’t think the county should be spending any more money on this issue,” said Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, the West Tisbury representative to the CAB.

“So you think the county should just walk away from the lawsuit,” Mr. Jason asked.

“I don’t believe it’s valuable to spend taxpayer dollars, because I don’t think it makes any difference to the people which side wins or loses,” said Mr. Manter.

Acting CAB chairman Art Smadbeck of Edgartown declined to comment on the latest ruling.

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A jury acquitted the two men in a trial marked by sharp words from the judge for the prosecutor.

Judge Richard J. Chin shown on the bench in an unrelated case. —File photo by Steve Myrick

A Dukes County Superior Court jury acquitted two men of attempted murder and assault charges Monday in connection with a fight that spilled out of a Circuit Avenue bar, following a dramatic trial that included charges by the defense of racial bias, contradictory witness testimony, and a finding by judge Richard J. Chin of prosecutorial misconduct on the part of a veteran Island assistant district attorney.

Patrece Petersen, 42, of Vineyard Haven, accused of attempted murder, assault with intent to murder, and two charges of assault, and Darryl Baptiste, 36, of Brooklyn, New York, accused of assault with a dangerous weapon, and assault, were found innocent of all charges in connection a fight among several men in Oak Bluffs early on March 10, 2013.

Mr. Petersen, who has an extensive criminal record, still faces unrelated charges in Edgartown District Court.

In court, assistant DA Laura Marchard argued that the two men, both African-Americans, attacked Jason Cray, 46, a U.S. Army engineer stationed in Texas, and his brother, Frank Cray, 40, of Edgartown following an altercation at the Ritz Cafe. Jason Cray, who was visiting the Island on leave, and Frank Cray are white. Ms. Marshard said that Mr. Baptiste cut Frank Cray on the back of his neck and slashed his jacket with a sharp object inside the bar.

The defense said the story was very different. They said there was no altercation inside the Ritz, but that the Cray brothers initiated a street brawl on Circuit Avenue, a fight that escalated with racial tension, following a minor incident over a spilled beer.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Rob Moriarty, who represented Mr. Petersen, characterized the testimony of Jason Cray.

“This is a man who stated proudly that he threw the first punch, and he threw a second punch that almost knocked Mr. Baptiste out,” Mr. Moriarty told the jury. “He confessed to the crime of assault and battery. He should be sitting where Mr. Baptiste and Mr. Peterson are, but he’s not.”

Defense attorney John Amabile, who represented Mr. Baptiste, attacked the credibility of Frank Cray, in his closing arguments.

“Frank Cray made the statement the night this happened, and virtually everything in that statement is a lie. Every single thing he said turned out to be false,” Mr. Amabile told the jury. “There were 10 people that claim they were there when this coat was cut, and not one single person corroborated that allegation.”

Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marchard, who prosecuted the two men, told the jury that the witnesses’ testimony supported the Crays’ version of the story, and that Mr. Petersen tried to kill Frank Cray during the brawl. She showed the jury pictures of Frank Cray’s injuries.

“How do you know Patrece Petersen had the intent to commit assault with intent to kill,” she asked the jury. “You know because he said repeatedly, ‘I’m going to [expletive] kill you. Not once, not twice, five to ten times. And what was he doing? He had his fingers pushing into Frank Cray’s neck.”

Following closing arguments, the jury deliberated for less than three hours, and delivered a verdict of not guilty on all counts.

“I think the jury got it right, and I’m thankful for the time and attention they put into the trial,” Mr. Moriarty told The Times in a telephone call.

Ms. Marshard declined comment, and deferred to Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe.

“The jury has spoken, and we respect the verdict,” Mr. O’Keefe told The Times Tuesday.

With respect to Judge Chin’s findings of prosecutorial misconduct, Mr. O’Keefe said he will review the case. “I am very concerned about some of the rulings made by the court, and when I have an opportunity to review the case in detail, I will address those,” he said.

Misconduct charged

The trial was notable for the sharp rebuke judge Chin delivered to the prosecutor. On Thursday, October 30, Judge Chin halted the trial, dismissed the jury for the day, and conducted a hearing in his chambers on several issues. He asked the attorneys to file motions and present arguments the following day, Friday, October 31.

Defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss all charges. The defense charged that Ms. Marchard failed to turn over evidence, as required by law,  that tended to confirm the defendant’s version of events, and help their defense.

In question was a one-on-one interview Ms. Marchard conducted with a potential witness, Christine Arenburg, about two months after the incident. After the interview, according to court documents, Ms. Marchard told Ms. Arenburg she would not be called as a witness for the prosecution.

When defense attorneys questioned Ms. Arenburg before the trial, she said she told Ms. Marchard that “the Cray brothers were lying through their teeth,” and that “there was no fight at the Ritz and no knife at the Ritz,” according to a deposition conducted by defense attorneys. She also said in the deposition she felt race played a part in the fight.

The defense attorneys argued that Ms. Arenburg’s statements were evidence that tended to corroborate the defendants’ version of events and should have been turned over to the defense, according to the rules of the court.

Defense attorneys also argued that Ms. Marchard intimidated defense witnesses, by asking a judge to advise them of their right not to self-incriminate themselves. They said her repeated insistence that the judge advise defense witnesses of their rights amounted to a threat to prosecute the witnesses, based on their testimony, and caused the witnesses to refuse to testify.

Also at issue were mug shots of the two defendants, introduced during the trial as evidence. The defense objected, claiming it would be highly prejudicial to the jury, because they would infer that the mug shots were taken at the Dukes County Jail during booking procedure related to previous crimes. Testimony about previous unrelated crimes is rarely allowed as evidence.

In their motion to dismiss the charges, the defense attorneys called Ms. Marchard’s actions “egregious misconduct through the deliberate and purposeful use of the threat of prosecution to intimidate defense witnesses from testifying.”

In arguing against the defense motion to dismiss the charges, Ms. Marchard told the court that the Commonwealth had always acted appropriately.

“We have never spoken to these witnesses in an effort to harass or intimidate them,” Ms. Marchard said. “They have never been threatened with prosecution. Defense counsel can point to nowhere in the record where we have attempted to contact, harass, or annoy any witness in this case in an effort to preclude them from testifying.”


Judge Chin sided with the defense on every point, finding prosecutorial misconduct from the beginning of the case. In his findings, delivered from the bench, he quoted forceful language in related case law.

“This was not a momentary misstep, but a persistent course of conduct designed to prejudice the defendant,” Judge Chin said.

He found there were several elements of prosecutorial misconduct.

“The first is the late disclosure of Ms. Arenburg’s statement,” Judge Chin said. “It certainly was something that the defense should have been made aware of.”

The judge said he made an error by allowing the mug shots into evidence, based on Ms. Marchard’s contention that they were necessary as evidence of identification.

“I think that was an intentional attempt to put that before the jury,” Judge Chin said. “I think it’s highly prejudicial to two young African-American men to be shown in mug shots.”

He also said that Ms. Marchard’s requests that defense witnesses be advised of their fifth amendment rights, when no such request was made for prosecution witnesses who admitted to crimes on the witness stand, amounted to intimidation.

Among those witnesses was Corey Randolph, who, according to police reports, was involved in the altercation. He was advised by his lawyer to refuse to testify.

“I think this would be prejudicial to the defense case, if Corey Randolph’s testimony were unavailable,” Judge Chin said. “I find the Commonwealth has taken steps to deny the defense his testimony.”

Judge Chin did not, however, dismiss the charges. Instead he offered a remedy, allowing the defense to enter into evidence a statement made by Mr. Randolph to police shortly after the altercation, which included evidence that strongly supported the defendants’ case. Defense attorneys accepted the remedy, and the case resumed.

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Island voters went to the polls yesterday and mostly followed statewide trends.

Martha’s Vineyard voters overwhelmingly chose Martha Coakley (D) over Charlie Baker (R) in the governor’s race, 4,457 to 2,469, while the rest of the state propelled Mr. Baker to victory. Ms. Coakley conceded to Mr. Baker Wednesday morning in a race decided by less than 2 percent, or 40,000 votes, statewide.

The local tally represented a slide in popularity for Mr. Baker. Four years ago, when he challenged incumbent governor Deval Patrick, he captured 2,757 Island votes.

In the only contested Island races, voters in Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury were asked to elect five people to four-year terms on the Up-Island Regional School Committee. There are two names on the official ballot and four declared write-in candidates.

Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter of West Tisbury (1,364) and Michael Marcus of West Tisbury (1,158), the only candidates whose names appeared on the ballot, won by wide margins.

Write-in candidates Kate DeVane of West Tisbury (409), Robert Lionette of Chilmark (183), and Theresa Manning of Aquinnah (374) received enough write-in votes to be elected. Incumbent Roxanne Ackerman of Aquinnah (90) was last in the vote count.

All seven seats were up for grabs on the Dukes County Commission.

The election ballot listed the names of four candidates, all incumbents, leaving three slots open to write-in candidates. Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs, an incumbent who failed to get on the ballot, and Gretchen Tucker Underwood of Oak Bluffs, a newcomer to Island politics, had announced write-in campaigns. Veteran county commissioner Lenny Jason of Chilmark had not.

In the race for Dukes County Commission, unofficial results show John Alley of West Tisbury (the top vote getter with 4,388 votes), Leon Brathwaite of West Tisbury, Tristan Israel of Tisbury, and David Holway of Edgartown, all on the ballot, won reelection. The two declared write-in candidates, Ms. Todd (290) and Ms. Underwood (138), won enough votes to be seated on the county commission, as did Mr. Jason (252). Ms. Underwood is the only newcomer to the commission.

On Tuesday, voters also made the biennial selection of the nine elected members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). Nine candidates appeared on the official ballot.

Clarence “Trip” Barnes of Tisbury, Christina Brown of Edgartown, Joshua Goldstein of Tisbury, Douglas Sederholm of West Tisbury, and Linda Sibley of West Tisbury were reelected to the MVC. Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs and James Vercruysse of Aquinnah, MVC appointees seeking to become elected members of the commission, will also now serve in their own right. Abraham Seiman of Oak Bluffs, a retired health care administrator who serves on numerous town boards, and Robert Doyle of Chilmark, a retired substance abuse counselor involved in public health advocacy and addiction counseling, are the only new members.

In a special West Tisbury election tinged with sadness, West Tisbury voters elected a new town moderator to fill the position held for 23 years by Pat Gregory, who was murdered while vacationing in California last May. Dan Waters, development director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and a longtime resident of West Tisbury, was the only candidate on the ballot.

In statewide races, Vineyarders generally followed statewide trends. Island voters chose Maura Healey (D) for attorney general over John Miller (R) 5,046 to 2,000.

Deborah Goldberg (D) was the choice of local voters over Michael Heffernan in the race for treasurer, 4,418 to 2,076.

William Keating (D) easily won reelection to Congress, while state senator Dan Wolf (D), and state representative Tim Madden (D), who ran unopposed, will return to the statehouse.

Edward Markey (D) trounced his opponent Brian J. Herr (R) for a U.S. Senate seat by a vote of 5,134 to 1,991.

Michael O’Keefe (R) won reelection as the Cape and Islands district attorney, but Island voters opted for his opponent Richard Barry (D) by a vote of 3,753 to 3,068.

Ballot Questions

Vineyard voters also showed a contrary streak on several referendum questions on the ballot.

On Question 1, statewide, voters decided to eliminate the provision of state law that adjusts the gas tax annually to account for inflation. Vineyarders opted to make no change in the law, by a vote of 3,587 to 3,278.

By a wide margin, voters both statewide and locally defeated Question 2, choosing not to expand the bottle deposits to most bottled water and juice containers. On Martha’s Vineyard the measure was defeated 4,304 to 2,826.

Question 3, a measure to repeal the recently enacted gaming laws that allow casinos in Massachusetts, was rejected statewide. Island voters voted to repeal the casino law, 4,034 to 3,026.

Question 4, a measure that would allow employees to earn paid or unpaid sick time, easily won approval from Massachusetts voters. Locally, voters approved the measure 4,099 to 2,806.

In a non-binding referendum to expand the emergency planning zone around the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant to include all of Barnstable County, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, Island voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, 4,693 to 1,510.

Preliminary vote totals show 7,340, or about 53 percent, of the Island’s 13,719 registered voters cast ballots in the 2014 elections.

By contrast, in the 2010 election a total of 8,523 of the Island’s 13,314 registered voters, or 64 percent, went to the polls.

2014 Election Results (Updated November 7 at 10am)




Oak Bluffs


West Tisbury


Island Totals

U.S. Senate


Edward J. Markey (D)









Brian J. Herr (R)











Baker and Polito (R)









Coakley and Kerrigan (D)









Falchuk and Jennings (United Independent)









Lively and Saunders (I)








McCormick and Post (I)








Attorney General


Maura Healey (D)









John B. Miller (R)









Secretary of State


William Francis Galvin (D)









David D’ArCangelo (R)









Daniel L. Factor (Green-Rainbow)











Deborah B. Goldberg (D)









Michael James Heffernan (R)









Ian T. Jackson (Green-Rainbow)











Suzanne M. Bump (D)









Patricia S. Saint Aubin (R)









MK Merelice (Green-Rainbow)









Representative in Congress


William Richard Keating (D)









John C. Chapman (R)









Governor’s Council, First District


Joseph C. Ferreira (D)









Senator in General Court


Daniel A. Wolf (D)









Ronald R. Beaty, Jr. (R)









Representative in General Court


Timothy R. Madden (D)









District Attorney


Michael D. O’Keefe (R)









Richard G. Barry (D)









Register of Probate


Elizabeth J. Herrmann (R)









County Treasurer


Noreen Mavro Flanders (unenrolled)









County Commissioner


John S. Alley (D)










Leon Arthur Brathwaite (D)










Tristan Israel (Unenrolled)










David Jeffrey Holway (D)










Christine Todd (write-in)








Leonard Jason, Jr. (write in)








Gretchen Underwood







Martha’s Vineyard Commission


Clarence A. Barnes, III









Christina Brown









Joshua Seth Goldstein









Ernest Douglas Sederholm









Linda Bauer Sibley









Robert McMillen Doyle









Fred J. Hancock









Abraham L. Seiman









James Vercruysse








Up-Island School Committee


Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter






Michael Marcus





Roxanne Ackerman (write-in)






Kate DeVane (write-in)






Robert Lionette (write-in)






Theresa Manning (write-in)





West Tisbury Town Moderator


Daniel Waters



Chilmark Proposition 2.5 exemption (Road Repairs)








Question 1 (Gasoline Tax)




















Question 2 (Bottle Returns)




















Question 3 (Repeal Casinos)




















Question 4 (Earned Sick Time)




















Question 5 (Pilgrim Nuclear Plant) (not binding)




















Voter turnout:

Total votes cast:








Percentage of electorate that voted:








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Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown plans to replace its seats.

Edgartown selectmen Monday approved a request from Entertainment Cinema owner Bob LaSala to block parts of the small public parking lot behind the Dukes County Courthouse so that work crews can deliver and install new seats at the Edgartown movie theater.

Mr. LaSala said a 73 foot truck will deliver the new seats on Wednesday morning, and will need about half the parking lot to maneuver. He said he expected delivery of the seats through the cinema’s side doors will take two to three hours. On Wednesday and Thursday, Mr. LaSala asked to block the four parking spaces in front of the Main Street Diner, so dumpsters and a metal recycling truck can use the space while the old seats are removed.

As it turned out, that plan didn’t quite work. On Wednesday the truck was blocking parking spaces on Main Street, and workers were unloading the new seats through the front door. A dumpster was installed in the back parking lot as planned.

“We plan on opening Friday, so we should have this all wrapped up by the end of the day Thursday,” Mr. LaSala told selectmen at their Monday meeting.

Edgartown police helped coordinate the delivery.

In other action, selectmen granted permission to The Wharf Pub to sell alcohol beginning at 9 am on Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, as part of their traditional celebration of the holidays, including Santa’s visit to the popular establishment.

Town administrator Pam Dolby reported progress in cleaning up the Nunnepaug Solar site, next to the Smith Hollow development.

She said dead trees have been replaced, landscaping and clearing of debris is underway, and a plan to mitigate sound coming from three large electrical inverters is progressing.

Neighbors and town officials had numerous complaints about the contractor, American Capital Energy (ACE), after the solar array was installed during the summer.

“They are being very cooperative and very professional,” said Ms. Dolby, speaking of ACE representatives who are overseeing the project. “Things are moving along.”

Also Monday, selectmen accepted the resignation of Edith “Edo” Potter from the conservation commission. Ms. Potter, of Chappaquiddick, has also served on the board of selectmen, the Edgartown planning board, and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, at various times during her long career in public service.

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Election day is Tuesday. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Martha’s Vineyard voters will join voters across the state to decide a spirited race for governor and four contentious ballot questions on Tuesday, November 4.

Locally, Island voters will fill seven seats on the Dukes County Commission, and nine seats on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). They will also take action on a non-binding ballot question which asks if our state senator should be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would expand the radiological plume exposure emergency planning zone around the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth to include the Cape and Islands.

Up-Island voters will be asked to choose from among six candidates for five seats on the up-Island school committee.

A Chilmark ballot question asks voters to exempt borrowing for road repairs from the provisions of Proposition 2.5.

West Tisbury voters will be asked to elect a new town moderator to fill the position held for 23 years by Pat Gregory, who was murdered while vacationing in California last May. Dan Waters, development director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and a longtime resident of West Tisbury, is the only candidate on the ballot.

Polls are open in all Massachusetts cities and towns from 7 am to 8 pm. In the lead-up to next week’s election, Island political activists have been out in force in support of their candidates. Television viewers have been subjected to a barrage of campaign advertising, much of it fueled by Political Action Committees that have poured millions of dollars into critical races. On Tuesday, it is the voter’s turn to speak.

The governor’s race between Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee, and former healthcare executive Charlie Baker on the Republican ticket, has attracted much of the attention in the November election.

Ms. Coakley ( of Medford, lists  jobs, education, health care, and civil rights among her primary issues, and she says she is dedicated to the principles of opportunity, fairness, and equality.

Mr. Baker ( of Swampscott, is a former Secretary of Administration and Finance under Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci, and former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. His campaign is focused on issues that include economic growth, schools, and safer, stronger communities.

Stephen J. Kerrigan (D) ( faces Karyn E. Polito (R) ( in a race for lieutenant governor that has attracted little attention.

First-term incumbent U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D) ( faces a challenge from Republican Brian J. Herr ®

Incumbent Congressman William Keating (D) ( of Bourne is running for re-election from the Massachusetts ninth district, which includes Martha’s Vineyard. He faces a challenge from John C. Chapman (R) ( of Chatham.

Maura Healey (D) of Charlestown ( faces Republican John B. Miller (R) ( in the race to replace Ms. Coakley as attorney general. Ms. Healy is a prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office and a former professional basketball player. Mr. Miller, of Winchester, is a civil engineer and attorney.

Longtime Secretary of State William Galvin (D) ( faces a challenge from David D’arcangelo (R) (

In the race for state treasurer, Deborah B. Goldberg (D) of Brookline ( will square off against Michael Heffernan (R) of Wellesley ( Ms. Goldberg is a former Brookline selectman and former executive at Stop & Shop, which her family founded. Mr. Heffernan is a technology entrepreneur and former banking executive.

Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (D) faces a challenge from Patricia S. Saint Aubin (R) (

In local elections, Daniel A. Wolf (D) of Harwich ( faces Ronald R. Beaty (R) of West Barnstable ( in the race for state senate in the Cape and Islands district. Mr. Wolf is the founder and CEO of the regional airline Cape Air. Mr. Beaty identifies himself as a tea party candidate.

State representative Timothy R. Madden (D) of Nantucket ( is running for reelection unopposed.

District attorney for the Cape and Islands Michael D. O’Keefe (R) of Sandwich ( seeks reelection to another term. Mr. O’Keefe was first elected in 2002.

He is opposed by Richard G. Barry (D) of Cotuit (, a former Barnstable town councilman, and former assistant district attorney.

Dukes County Commission

The County of Dukes County was established in 1683, as part of the province of New York. It was annexed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

During the Republican administration of Gov. William F. Weld, county governments across the state were eliminated by state lawmakers who argued that county government, with its historic roots in Colonial times, was old-fashioned and had outlived its usefulness. Despite the abolition of most county government across the state, Dukes County, the Island’s only form of regional government, managed to survive under a specially written and adopted county charter.

The seven elected, unpaid members of the Dukes County Commission exercise general legislative powers. They preside over a county government led by a paid county manager who has full control over the administration of county services.

Martina Thornton is the current county manager.

Although included in the county budget, the Sheriff’s Department, the Registry of Deeds, both headed by elected officials, and the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, statutorily under the control of the county-appointed airport commission, have independent sources of revenue.

The only County department or services over which the county manager exercises direct authority is veteran’s services.

Most of the money for county services directly under the control of the county manager comes from individual town assessments, which are based on real estate valuation. Taxpayers are often unaware of the amount because it does not appear as a line item on annual town meeting warrants.

The county general fund budget for fiscal year 2015 that began on July 1 is $1.702,199 million. Assessments to the six Island towns, plus Gosnold, total $491,739. Edgartown shoulders the largest part of the burden, $179,386, or 36 percent.

The county commissioners’ most direct influence over Island affairs rest with their authority to appoint Martha’s Vineyard’s representative on the Steamship Authority board and the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, which by statute is solely responsible for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, the state’s only county-owned airport and business park.

Under the county charter, there cannot be more than two county commissioners elected from each town, but there is no requirement that each town have a county commissioner. County commissioners are elected for two-year terms.

The county commissioners

All seven seats are up for grabs on the Dukes County Commission.

The election ballot lists the names of four candidates, all incumbents, leaving three slots open to write-in candidates. Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs, an incumbent who failed to get on the ballot, and Gretchen Tucker Underwood, a newcomer to Island politics have announced write-in campaigns.

Ms. Underwood, who moved to the Island from Wellesley, said she wants to be engaged in the community and is interested in issues that affect seniors.

The name of longtime county commissioner Lenny Jason Jr., Edgartown and Chilmark building inspector, does not appear on the ballot. Mr. Jason, who was most recently re-elected as a write-in with 30 votes, told The Times he is not running an active write-in campaign. Mr. Jason declined to confirm whether he would serve, if elected as a write-in.

Two-term county commissioner Tom Hallahan is not seeking reelection.

The following names appear on the ballot.

John S. Alley of West Tisbury, a former selectman, has long been active in local government. He served on the airport commission for more than 30 years until the county commission declined to reappoint him earlier this year.

Leon Brathwaite II of West Tisbury is seeking his second term on the county commission. He is the former chairman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination under Governor Michael Dukakis.

Tristan Israel of Tisbury was first elected to the county commission in 2007. He owns a landscape business and is a Tisbury selectmen.

David Holway of Edgartown was appointed to fill the term of Melinda Loberg who resigned in August. He is a Democratic party activist, and president of the Quincy based National Association of Government Employees union.

Martha’s Vineyard Commission

On Tuesday, voters must make the biennial selection of the nine elected members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC).

Nine candidates appear on the official ballot, which instructs voters to vote for not more than nine candidates. All but two of the nine currently serves on the commission.

Seeking reelection on the November 4th ballot are Clarence “Trip” Barnes of Tisbury, Christina Brown of Edgartown, Joshua Goldstein of Tisbury, Douglas Sederholm of West Tisbury, and Linda Sibley of West Tisbury. Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs and James Vercruysse of Aquinnah are MVC appointees seeking to become elected members of the commission. Abraham Seiman of Oak Bluffs, a retired health care administrator who serves on numerous town boards, and Robert Doyle of Chilmark, a retired substance abuse counselor involved in public health advocacy and addiction counseling are the only new candidates.

How it works

Established in 1974, the MVC is a regional land use planning and regulatory agency with broad powers to oversee and permit developments of regional impact (DRI) and develop regional regulations for areas approved as districts of critical planning concern (DCPC).

The MVC includes 21 members, either elected by Island voters or appointed by elected officials, on or off Island.

Nine commissioners are elected by Vineyard voters in elections held every two years. Six are appointed on an annual basis by the selectmen of each town. The Dukes County Commission appoints one MVC member on an annual basis. The governor, or a member of the governor’s cabinet, appoints five commissioners, but only one of those may vote.

The nine elected MVC members are chosen in an at-large, Island-wide vote. Residents of one town may vote for candidates from other towns, but at least one commissioner, and no more than two, must be elected from each town.

For example, if the candidates with the three highest vote totals are from the same town, only two will be elected to the MVC. If a candidate with the lowest vote total overall were the only candidate from that town, he or she would be elected.

The MVC exerts a strong influence on the Island economy and infrastructure. It does this by shaping and permitting, or denying, projects referred to the commission as developments of regional impact (DRIs), and in the creation of districts of critical planning concern (DCPCs), which towns can adopt to provide an overlay of regulatory control on top of local zoning bylaws.

Ballot referenda

There are four referendum questions on the ballot, all initiated by citizen petition.

Question 1 would eliminate a provision of state law which ties the state gas tax to the Consumer Price Index, which, in effect, automatically adjusts the gas tax for inflation.

A “yes” vote would eliminate the provision, a “no” vote would leave the law unchanged.

Question 2 would extend the bottle deposit law to cover all liquid drinks except milk, alcohol, baby formula, and medicines. Currently, water, iced tea, and sports drinks are exempt from the bottle deposit.

A “yes” vote would expand the bottle law to cover more beverage containers, a “no” vote would leave the law as it is.

Question 3 would essentially repeal the 2011 law allowing for casino gambling in Massachusetts. Under the new law, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has already awarded licenses for a slot machine facility in Plainfield, a casino in Springfield, and a casino in Everett. The law allows for one more casino in southeastern Mass and opens the way for a tribal casino.

A “yes” vote would prohibit the commission from awarding more casino licenses, and prevent casinos awarded licenses from opening. A “no” vote would make no change in the gambling law, allow casino construction to go forward, and new licenses to be awarded.

Question 4 would entitle people who work for Massachusetts companies with 11 or more employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. Employees of smaller companies could earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time. Question 4 would allow an employee to use earned sick time for an illness or injury to themselves or close family members; to attend routine medical appointments for themselves or close family members; or to address the effects of domestic violence against themselves or a dependent child.

Workers could earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.

A “yes” vote would establish earned sick time for employees. A “no” vote would leave current state law covering sick time unchanged.

Town Voting Locations

Polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm.

Aquinnah Old Town Hall; Chilmark Community Center; West Tisbury Public Safety Building; Tisbury Public Safety Facility; Oak Bluffs Public Library meeting room; Edgartown Town Hall meeting room.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included incorrect county assessments. Those figures have been updated. Also, John Alley is not the town’s postmaster. He is the postmaster for Alley’s General Store. And Rob Doyle, candidate for MVC, is a retired substance abuse counselor. Mr. Jason was previously elected with 30 write-in votes, not 10 votes as originally reported.

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The Gay Head Lighthouse move is expected to begin this spring.

Aquinnah voters are scheduled to take action on a short special town meeting warrant on Thursday, November 6, that includes a measure authorizing selectmen to purchase two parcels of land that abut the future site of the Gay Head Light, and a measure to fund improvements at the regional refuse disposal facility in Edgartown. The meeting is set to begin at 7 pm at the old town hall.

The land purchase article asks voters to appropriate $590,000 to purchase two lots totaling .37 acres with three buildings at 9 and 13 Aquinnah Circle that abut the new location of the Gay Head Lighthouse. The properties are owned by Joseph Murray of San Antonio, Texas, according to assessors records. The parcels will be less than 100 feet from the spot where the town plans to move the light. The town recently took ownership of the historic lighthouse, and plans to begin moving it away from the quickly eroding Gay Head Cliffs to its new location beginning next spring.

“If the town votes to approve the sale, we’ll probably establish a committee for community feedback, as to how the buildings might be used,” town administrator Adam Wilson said.

Among the possible future use of the properties could be community housing, a site for a new police station, or open space that could become part of the planned park space surrounding the lighthouse.

Voters will also be asked to approve a Martha’s Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District request to borrow $2.5 million. This money would be used to restructure the traffic flow and residential drop-off at the Edgartown transfer station.

Aquinnah is assessed 3 percent of the costs, or $75,000 over the life of the bond. Any vote to borrow money requires approval by two thirds of voters at the town meeting.

Last week, Chilmark was the first of four towns in the district to vote in favor on the project. Edgartown and West Tisbury will vote in the spring. All four towns must vote in favor of this project at their respective special town meetings. (Oak Bluffs and Tisbury use a separate refuse transfer station.)

The community preservation committee submitted an article recommending that voters approve $5,000 for repair of a stone wall behind town hall, and $20,000 for emergency repairs to the old parsonage building at 3 Church Street, in order to preserve existing affordable housing opportunities. Community Preservation Act projects are funded by a 3 percent surcharge on property tax bills.

Also on the warrant are questions asking voters to approve prior year bills for repair of public restrooms, wiring inspections, refuse disposal, and fuel. Payment of prior year bills requires approval of nine tenths of voters present.

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A small group gathered at an informal meeting of the Martha's Vineyard Fishermen's Preservation Trust at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury Tuesday. —Photo by Steve Myrick

Leaders of the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust (MVFPT) invited Island fishermen to a public meeting Tuesday night as part of a renewed effort to clear the air about the purpose of the organization and to listen to all voices while moving forward with plans to build an organization that can support the Vineyard fishing industry.

The effort to cast a wide net and attract fishermen from across the Island fell short Tuesday evening at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury. Only a small group of mostly up-Island fisherman attended what newly elected president John Keene of Chilmark described as a “clear the air” session. While disappointed in the turnout of just 11 people with ties to the fishing industry, Mr. Keene said he was encouraged that the Trust is moving in the right direction, after a period of inactivity.

Mr. Keene said there is no certainty the organization will succeed. “But I feel there’s a chance,” he said. “But it would have to be with everyone supporting it.”

Hard feelings are anchored in a lawsuit that the Dukes County Fishermen’s Association, the precursor to the MVFPT, filed to stop Cape Wind’s project on Horseshoe Shoals, prime fishing grounds for Island fishermen. In 2012, that group agreed to settle the lawsuit, for an amount later revealed to by $1.25 million, and promised to support the project, while working with Cape Wind to resolve issues that affect fishing.

Hammered out in secret, the agreement was roundly criticized by many local fishermen. In 2010, the MVFPT, an entirely separate legal entity, was formed to administer the proceeds from that settlement.

The group has not received any funds. The agreement called for a payment of $250,000 once Cape Wind completes its financing, and a $1 million payment when construction is complete, according to several sources familiar with the agreement.

A mistake

Mr. Keene made the lawsuit settlement the first item for discussion at Tuesday’s informal meeting.

“How could they sign off on that without the people who were involved even knowing about it,” asked Steve Larsen, a lobster fisherman from Menemsha. “If we don’t stick together, why be in a group? You may wonder why a lot more people aren’t here. They probably don’t trust us.”

Warren Doty, a Chilmark selectman and the founding president of the two fishermen’s organizations, said the settlement was a mistake.

“I take responsibility for not communicating enough of what happened with Cape Wind,” he said. “It was kind of a swirling thing happening. We had lawyers calling every day asking us if we were going to send more money. They suggested to try to see if they could get a settlement. That was a mistake.”

Fishermen at the meeting said that they hope Cape Wind does not get built, that they do not expect to see any of the settlement money, and that they are not making any future plans based on the settlement.

Fishing issues

After discussing the fallout from the Cape Wind settlement, Mr. Keene steered the discussion to the challenges facing local fishermen and how the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust might help.

Several fishermen expressed concerns about a new Ocean Management Plan released recently by state officials. It identified several areas near Martha’s Vineyard which might be used as pilot projects to mine sand for beach renourishment.

“Smaller boat fishing, more precisely Island smaller boat fishing, is under fire not just from sand mining projects, not just from losing access and quotas,” said MVFPT board member Wesley Brighton, a conch fisherman from Chilmark. “The entire front, walls are closing in. The reason I’m putting my time into this is because we want to protect our Island small boat fishery.”

The Trust is also exploring ways to facilitate financing for upgrading fishing equipment, and to secure fishing permits, among other issues.

“There are situations that I see an opportunity to get a permit, but financing just isn’t available,” Mr. Brighton said. “We don’t want to become a bank, but if we partner with a bank to help secure the loan, that’s more of a public relationship. Providing the opportunity is most important part.”

The group also discussed ways to set qualifications for financial help from MVFPT, including the possibility of setting up a separate panel to evaluate applications, in order to avoid any appearance of favoritism.


After a long period of dormancy, members of the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust began meeting regularly last spring. Board members said they have begun to correct some organizational issues, including the loss of their tax-exempt status.

As Mr. Doty steps away from a lead role in the group, the board is expanding to include a more diverse group. A new addition is David White, artistic and executive director of The Yard, a contemporary dance and performance center. Mr. Keene said that Mr. White will bring experience in fundraising and nonprofit administration to the group.

The board also includes fisherman Matthew Mayhew of Chilmark, Katherine Carroll of Chilmark, and Shelley Edmundson of Vineyard Haven, a fisheries scientist.

Mr. Keene asked Tuesday’s attendees to generate some momentum for a follow-up meeting, planned for Tuesday, December 16, at 5 pm. The location is yet to be determined.

“If you guys think it’s worthwhile coming, it would be great to spread the word,” Mr. Keene said. “If everyone could be ambassadors to spread the word, that it’s kind of a new energy, we’ll give it our best shot.”

Mr. Keene said he hopes to invite members of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance to the next meeting. The Cape group has advocated successfully on fisheries issues and is advising the MVFPT.

The original version of this online article was updated to reflect that Katherine Carroll also serves on the board of the Fishermen’s Preservation Trust.

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The SSA has cancelled service until the weather improves. Standby lines, shown in this file photo, can be expected to be long once service resumes. -File photo by Steve Myrick

The Steamship Authority (SSA) board approved a slate of rate hikes at their regular monthly meeting held in Oak Bluffs Tuesday. Beginning January 1, the discounted vehicle excursion fare for Island residents, parking rates at Falmouth lots, and passenger fares for all travelers will increase.

The members also got an earful from residents dissatisfied with the cleanliness and condition of SSA ferries and terminals and heard complaints about boat scheduling that resulted in long standby lines and reduced availability for vehicle passage after Columbus Day.

Fuel costs raised

The board voted unanimously to approve rate hikes, which SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said are needed to cover increased operating costs projected for 2015, including fuel costs, vessel maintenance, employee salaries, health care benefits, and pension benefits.

In total, management needs $1,900,000 from anticipated rate increases to meet its projected net operating income next year of around $3,619,000. Based on a formula under which each route pays for its cost of service, $1,400,000 would need to come from the Vineyard side of the ledger and $500,000 from Nantucket.

Standard passenger fares on Martha’s Vineyard routes will increase from $8 to $8.50; senior and child fares will increase from $4 to $4.50. A book of 10 adult passenger fares will rise from $65 to $69. The discounted roundtrip excursion vehicle rate for Island residents will increase by $2, from $61 to $63 off-season and $92 to $94 in-season. The off-season parking rate for Falmouth satellite lots will remain at $10, but will increase to $13 for the shoulder seasons, and from $13 to $15 in-season.

Several members questioned the budget projection for fuel costs, given the current downward trend in wholesale oil prices.

“The market is correcting right now,” SSA treasurer Robert Davis said. “Talking with our consultant, he is still feeling the $90 range is a good range to be targeting.”

In public comment, Oak Bluffs businessman Todd Rebello, a former selectman, noted that the current price of oil is $82 per barrel. He said most business are enjoying unexpected savings this year, and projecting lower costs next year.

“I do believe there is a little fluff in the potential fuel budget that could be significant,” said Mr. Rebello. “You may see a million dollars plus [below projections]. The projection won’t come back to the ratepayers. You’ll find another place in the budget to plug a hole.”

Marc Hanover, SSA Vineyard member, said he thought the budget was lean, but he expressed concern at cost projections that may require more rate hikes in 2016. “I am terrified that you’re going to be looking for another $3.6 million next year,” Mr. Hanover, an Oak Bluffs businessman said. “You understand my concern. I’d like to be able to continue living on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Mr. Lamson said the SSA’s five-year plan projects cost increases that average less than 2 percent per year, in order to finance a new hybrid freight/passenger boat, and to build the new terminal in Woods Hole.

Service issues

The public also had concerns. During the period of the meeting reserved for public comment, Oak Bluffs selectman Greg Coogan said he and other public officials received many complaints from residents forced to wait in standby lines for six hours or more, following a change in the seasonal schedule after Columbus Day when a freight boat was taken out of service.

“I did hear from a lot of people who spent all morning, or were turned away and told to come back,” Mr. Coogan said.

Mr. Hanover said he also received numerous complaints. “We need to extend the schedule, or get some extra freight boats,” Mr. Hanover said. “It’s crazy. It’s very difficult to get off.”

Mr. Lamson said his staff was aware of the issues, and will evaluate the fall schedule to come up with a better solution.

Mr. Coogan said he has also fielded complaints from merchants and residents who questioned the number of Oak Bluffs boats shifted to Vineyard Haven because of weather conditions this fall.

“It does make an impact when they don’t run, not only for the merchants but also for the people rushing to try to catch a boat,” Mr. Coogan said. “Some days it seems like they ought to run. I’m sure there are issues the boat captains and the people working on the dock think are important, but sometimes it doesn’t seem fair.”

There were several complaints about the cleanliness of bathrooms on boats and in the terminals, as well as the general level of passenger services.

“I have been noticing the condition of the ferries that I have been on, both the Island Home and the freight boat, are really dirty,” said Jennifer Parkinson of Oak Bluffs. “I’m very disappointed. When we’re paying millions of dollars for personnel, I never see them. Where are they? We’re charging people more money, and giving them less.”

Sea change

In other business Tuesday, the board renewed the licensing agreement under which the Sea Streak fast passenger ferry operates between New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard in the summer months with one significant change. In the past, Sea Streak made three daily trips to and from Oak Bluffs, and two daily trips to and from Vineyard Haven. Next summer, all trips will arrive and depart from Oak Bluffs, except for days when weather forces the boat to divert to Vineyard Haven.

The board also approved a new contract for the Island Queen, which carries passengers from Falmouth to Oak Bluffs. The new contract will allow the Island Queen to begin a full schedule of trips on June 12, 2015, one week earlier than previously allowed under the old contract.

In other action, the board approved refinancing of bonds to take advantage of lower interest rates. Mr. Davis estimates the refinancing will save the SSA $2.3 million over a seven year period.

The board also approved the purchase and construction of a modular building for the Palmer Avenue parking lot, and another for the Landers Road parking lot. The buildings will house rest room facilities, office space, and an employee break room. The SSA intends to rent space and provide parking spots for a rental car franchise in the new building at the Palmer Avenue lot.