Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer
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The old West Tisbury police station, next to the Mill Pond on the West Tisbury-Edgartown Road, has been vacant since the police moved to their new station in March. — Photo by Michael Cummo

West Tisbury selectmen voted two to one at their meeting on June 11 to accept the recommendation of animal control officer Joan Jenkinson and require dog owner Marina Sharkovitz to keep her husky, Kota, penned and muzzled whenever it is outside her Otis Bassett Road home.

The decision last Wednesday followed a public hearing in which Angela Aronie, Ms. Sharkovitz’s neighbor, filed a complaint with Ms. Jenkinson in which she claimed that Kota killed some of her chickens.

“This is not the first call I’ve gotten from Angela,” Ms. Jenkinson told selectmen, “but this is the first formal complaint that has been filed. We just don’t have any patience for livestock killing in this town. It happens a lot. More than we would like to talk about.”

“Short of recommending euthanasia,” Ms. Jenkinson told the selectmen, “I recommend that the dog be put in a contained area, also a muzzle on the dog when it is outside.”

She said the dog was not licensed at the time of the offense but is licensed now.

Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, a selectman and town police sergeant, voted no. “I am voting no, as I always do on these matters because I think dog owners should be held to a higher standard,” he said.

In a followup conversation by phone, The Times asked Mr. Manter to explain his comment.

“I think dogs that attack animals should be euthanized,” Mr. Manter said. “I think once they have done it it becomes a habit. We should send a message that we support our farmers. We should send a message that this is what’s going to happen if you move to West Tisbury. I think people will be much more responsible for their dogs.”

In other business Wednesday, selectmen agreed to complete an audit of the town’s streetlight needs before entering into an agreement to have some of the town’s lights replaced by more energy efficient fixtures, a free service offered by the Cape Light Compact (CLC).

Selectman Richard Knabel suggested looking into areas that might benefit from new streetlights, for example the North Tisbury business district. Mr. Manter said that he thought there are areas where unnecessary streetlights could be removed.

The selectmen acknowledged the town’s historic district commission vote on Monday, June 9, to keep the 50-year-old admiral’s hat lights in the historic district and to replace the old incandescent bulbs in those fixtures with new more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

Selectmen voted unanimously to accept the West Tisbury old police department reuse committee report presented by committee member Bea Phear. The committee concluded that the old police station next to the Mill Pond would be best used by a nonprofit, perhaps as a gallery. She agreed to discuss the building’s future with Christopher Scott, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, which owns and maintains historic Island buildings.

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West Tisbury homeowner Matt Coffey's Eliakim's Way home tested positive for high radon levels. — Ralph Stewart

Acting on the recommendation of a friend who had recently found high levels of radon in a West Tisbury house he was rehabbing, Matthew Coffey decided to test for radon in his three-year-old energy-efficient house in the Eliakim’s Way subdivision in West Tisbury.

He was surprised to find levels of radon in his unfinished basement that were considerably higher than the threshold considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The living area had levels well below the threshold, and his water also tested at safe levels.

Radon is a cancer causing, radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, that occurs naturally as an indirect decay product of uranium or thorium and is found in varying concentrations everywhere on Earth, according to the EPA.

Mr. Coffey, an architect with South Mountain Company, the West Tisbury design/build firm, plans to finish the basement eventually, and he was concerned about the high readings.

After Mr. Coffey told his neighbors about his results, some had their houses tested. Four of the five homes tested in his small subdivision of eight energy-efficient houses built in close proximity to each other also had high radon readings, he said.

Mr. Coffey hired a radon remediator who installed a mitigation system that quickly reduced the radon to acceptable levels in his basement. The cost was about $1,400. Mr. Coffey is happy with the results, but he is running a year-long test to measure the radon in his house over time to be sure the problem has been eliminated.

Radon mitigation

Eino Anttila, of Back Dog Inspections, a radon remediation company based in New Hampshire that is unrelated to the familiar Vineyard business, drilled a four-inch hole through Mr. Coffey’s basement floor. He removed about ten gallons of the sandy-clay soil from beneath the floor and installed a four inch plastic, pvc pipe into the hole, through an exterior wall and up above the roofline.

A small, continuously running inline exhaust fan draws air from below the foundation, reducing the air pressure below the basement and virtually eliminating the accumulation of radon in the house.

Mr. Anttila, who does a lot of remediation work in Falmouth as well as in New Hampshire, said that he has installed 17 systems over the last four years on the Vineyard. He said the Vineyard has low concentrations of radon compared to mainland Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Radon testing

Donald Cronig of Beacon Home Inspections in Vineyard Haven has been inspecting Vineyard homes for over 32 years and offering radon tests for 25 years.

“For years no one wanted the radon test,” he said, “but after some higher results came up people became more interested.” He said a short two-day test is often done when recommended by realtors to prospective homeowners before buying.

Mr. Cronig said that the land in a section off Old County Road in West Tisbury, not far from Mr. Coffey’s land, is a hot spot for radon. “Some people in that area have very elevated radon levels,” he said. “But radon comes up where it wants to. Your nextdoor neighbor may have a low radon number and you could have a high number.”

He said the two-day test is only a snapshot of radon conditions and recommends longer term testing for home owners for at least three months to get a true reading of a building’s radon levels. “Radon can vary with weather, temperature, whether the ground is frozen or wet, or if it is windy outside,” he said. “Frozen ground just pushes radon up into houses.”

Water can be a carrier of radon. Mr. Cronig said that he has never encountered water radon levels high enough to be of concern on the Island, but one of Mr. Coffey’s neighbors reported high levels in his water which comes from a well shared by their subdivision. Mr. Coffey’s water, from the same well, tested low.

West Tisbury public health agent John Powers said the state had a testing program over five years ago. “We had to test the school and the town buildings and everything came up fine.”

It was a one-time program. He said he has tested the buildings several times with good results. “The Vineyard is a low risk area for radon,” he said.

Testing for radon is not required anywhere in Massachusetts. Massachusetts does not require radon testing when homes are being sold as in some states and is one of 24 states that has no statewide or local jurisdictions that have radon-resistant new building codes, according to the EPA website. Regulations requiring radon testing and or the installation of radon remediation systems in either new or older buildings vary considerably in municipalities from state to state.

What is radon?

Radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, causing 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States, the EPA said. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. While radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, it is the number one cause among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates.

In areas with higher concentrations of the gas, radon can enter homes through porous foundations or cracks in foundations.

As a relatively heavy gas it tends to collect in basements. Changes in air pressure both from the weather and differentials between the inside and outside temperatures and from house use like opening and closing doors or the use of exhaust fans can pull radon into living spaces.

As radon decays, it has a half-life of only a few days, it produces new radioactive elements called radon daughters or decay products. Radon daughters are solids and stick to surfaces, such as dust particles in the air. If such contaminated dust is inhaled, these particles can stick to the airways of the lung and increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

A radon testing kit can be purchased online from the EPA for as little as $12, including the lab fee and a prepaid mailer. Most kits register radon exposure over several days and must be sent to a lab for the results. The test results are returned to you within 72 hours of their receipt at the lab, and they come with recommended next steps you will need to ensure the health of your household.

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The iconic Oak Bluffs bar will get a new owner by month’s end.

Janet King (right) with two of her longtime friends Joanie Levine, who worked at the Ritz from 1984-1986, and Mike Hochman, who made the trip from New Jersey. He's been coming to the Ritz for 41 years. — Photo by Susan Safford

It could be argued that there is a last call party every night at the Ritz, the Oak Bluffs bar and Island institution. The bar’s impending sale prompted Janet King co-owner and manager for over 30 years to host a more final version of the last call party on Saturday.

The well-known and well-loved sign on Circuit Ave.
The well-known and well-loved sign on Circuit Ave.

The party started at 3 pm with a busy house that by 5 pm grew into a packed house with a line out the door. As the evening progressed, the pool players were retired; the pool table was pushed into a corner to make room for the music. Longtime Island musician Mike Benjamin was the first of many to play.

The night wore on, the oxygen thinned and the sweat flowed heavy as the crowd danced shoulder-to-shoulder. Mike Benjamin returned with his band and friends to play rhythm and blues standards and hard-rocking tunes by the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers. The band was loud and good. The dancers didn’t stop until the band turned off its amps as required by law at 1 am, in spite of cries for more music.

Ritz band 2.jpg“There was a line out the door all night: it was crazy,” Ms. King said. “I just can’t believe how much people love The Ritz. I wanted to put a sign up the next day saying, ’Okay I’m not selling The Ritz now.’ I collapsed around 11 and had to go home.”

The bar has been a hangout for off-duty fisherman and carpenters for decades, developing a rather salty reputation at times for what has often appeared to be its underemployed clientele. Ms. King said, “The stories were usually a lot worse than the things that really went on here.”

Over the years Ms. King has kept the bar as a place for year-rounders, with reasonable prices for both drinks and food when it is served. She has been an unwavering supporter of local musicians as she made it a consistent source of live music.

In the middle of the afternoon, soon after opening — whether by design or just circumstance — Don McLean’s “American Pie,” a song about the death of the musician Buddy Holly with the line “The day the music died,” played on the sound system.

Danny Whiting used to come to the Ritz 30 years ago after long days on the job as a carpenter. He came for a farewell visit.
Danny Whiting used to come to the Ritz 30 years ago after long days on the job as a carpenter. He came for a farewell visit.

There were the usual patrons, joking and laughing at the bar as well as many infrequent patrons and former patrons who have since moved on to families and lives that don’t often leave time for a bar life. There were those who wanted to pay their respects at the Oak Bluffs version of the “Last Waltz,” such as Allen Look of West Tisbury, who came to experience the event after his grandson’s little league game. “The Ritz is a classic,” he said. “This is the end of an era. It has never been on my regular schedule. It always seemed a little too edgy for me except for the times I ended up here. I didn’t want to miss it.”

Adrian Higgins and his wife, Meg, of West Tisbury left their two children with his parents before they came to celebrate the spot where they first met in 1999. “I’m not one of the Ritz regulars” he said. “That’s a special breed. But it’s a place I like to go to hear music.” He said he remembers first going to the Ritz with his father, Tony, and his carpentry crew when he was about seven.

Friends of the Ritz came from off-Island. Ms. King said friends drove in from New Jersey to help celebrate.

Dan Catino been coming to the Ritz since 1994, and he also used to work there. He sits in front of photo of Johnny Seaview, once a Ritz regular.
Dan Catino been coming to the Ritz since 1994, and he also used to work there. He sits in front of photo of Johnny Seaview, once a Ritz regular.

There were photos of times past on display, including a poster-sized photo of the late longtime regular Oliver Hazard Perry, better known as “Johnny Seaview,” whose memory evoked dozens of stories.

The evening was similar to the last Ritz final call party in 2008, which was followed by a re-opening party when the prospective owner failed to come up with the cash at the closing. Ms. King does not expect that to happen again. She has a purchase and sale agreement and a deposit in hand and expects the next Ritz party to be when the new owner takes over.

Years ago, the building was a fish market. Buddy Pease bought it and turned it into a bar before selling it to Burt Combra. Mr. Combra owned it for six years before selling it to Arthur Pachico and his wife Shirley in 1967. Arthur’s stepdaughters Janet King and Christine Arenburg have run the bar for the past 30 years. On June 23, Ms. King and Ms. Arenburg will pass the keys to new owners.

Bill O'Callaghan with his daughter Gillian, who just turned 21 on Friday. He wanted her to experience a place he has come to love during his 27 years on the Island. "I love the music and the familiar faces," he said. At the end of the evening, Gillian, still smiling, said she had a great time.
Bill O’Callaghan with his daughter Gillian, who just turned 21 on Friday. He wanted her to experience a place he has come to love during his 27 years on the Island. “I love the music and the familiar faces,” he said. At the end of the evening, Gillian, still smiling, said she had a great time.

Ms. King said the new owner is a music lover who likes the Ritz and has indicated that he plans few changes other than throwing on some paint and reopening the kitchen. She said he plans to close for little more than a week after the closing and will be open for the fourth of July.

Ms. King’s family acquired five paintings by Melvern Barker, an artist and author and illustrator who lived and fished on the Vineyard in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s when her family purchased the bar. A large 1956 Barker painting of Menemsha hangs behind the pool table — fishermen at work, lobster pots, fishing boats. A second Barker painting hangs to the right of the front door — fishermen in a boat’s crows-nest excited to spot a couple of swordfish. Both pictures have a brownish tint, the almost cartoonish look of a Thomas Hart Benton painting and the look and feel of an earlier time.

Ms. King said she and her family will take the paintings home when the Ritz is sold, but she hopes the look and feel of an older time will remain.

As Mr. Higgins said, “There is only one Ritz.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the song “American Pie” was about the death of actor James Dean. It is about the death of musician Buddy Holly.

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“Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys” by Steven Raichlen. Workman Publishing Company, 2014. 640 pages. $24.95.

“Man Made Meals: The Essential Cookbook for Guys” is the cookbook that moves Steven Raichlen’s mastery of the man-centric world of grilling in his popular “Barbecue! Bible” books into the kitchen. The hearty, tasty, and feel-good nature of many of his 300 or so recipes make it a Father’s Day gift that could pay dividends of great home-cooked meals for a long time to come.

The book is encyclopedic with interesting explanations of etymologies, histories of the foods, and methods used to prepare them as well as the reasons why some things work well together and others do not. It is a fun read even if cooking isn’t your thing.

It covers the basics of kitchen organization, from cleaning as you go to the proper scheduling of the parts of a meal that can allow a home-cooked meal to take on the character of a fine restaurant’s signature offerings. The book includes detailed descriptions of the basics, slicing and dicing, how to shuck an oyster, truss a chicken, cook a steak to the desired doneness, as well as shortcuts and tips on things like when it might be better to have your butcher or fishmonger do the work.

“Man Made Meals” is about tools and techniques as well as favors. It’s about exposing secrets from the pros such as how to multitask and prep. It’s about understanding flavor and flavor boosters, like anchovies and miso, and it’s about creating complete dinner presentations from hors d’oeuvres to desserts.

The book includes chapters covering breakfast items such as the mile high pancake and blowtorch oatmeal to lunch items, burgers and hot dogs, soups such as Beer Soup, chilies, and salads. Starters take up 40 pages. Meat, fowl, and seafood are covered in over 200 pages with recipes such as Downeast Lobster Rolls, Skillet Rib Steak, Porchetta, Finger-Burner Lamb Chops, Yardbird’s Fried Chicken, and Blackened Salmon.

The Existential Burger, requiring shiitake mushrooms and umami ketchup, is one tasty sounding indulgence, as is Swedish Meatball Sliders. There are chapters on noodles, vegetables, breads and desserts, including a dessert based on the assumption that everything is better with bacon called Candied Bacon Sundaes, as well as and ice cream floats for grown-ups, such as the Rum and Coke Float.

There are macho-sounding recipe names for some offerings, perhaps necessary for a “man’s” cookbook, but most all have a much more subtle and complex presentation and list of ingredients than the names might indicate, fitting an accomplished chef.

Mr. Raichlen, a Chappaquiddick summer resident, is a Baltimore native who majored in French literature at Reed College, won a fellowship to study medieval cooking in Europe, and was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to study comparative literature. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris. He is the host of the popular PBS show “Primal Grill” and has published a DVD series called “Barbecue University ” He also hosts a French language show called “Le Maitre du Grill.” His books have sold over 4.7 million copies.

Correction: The article headline has been re-written to clarify the fact that Mr. Raichlen is not a formally trained chef, but a TV food personality and cookbook author.

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Cape Light Compact program manager Kevin Galligan pointed out some of the energy saving features of new LED streetlights to West Tisbury selectmen Richard Knabel, Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter and Cynthia Mitchell. — Photo by Tony Omer

At their weekly meeting on June 4, West Tisbury selectmen hired Kathy Logue as town treasurer for a three-year term beginning June 5. Ms. Logue was the only applicant for the job and the vote was unanimous. Voters agreed to switch the job from an elected to an appointed position at town meeting April 8 and at the ballot box two days later. The personnel board must approve the decision.

Ms. Logue suggested the job be made an appointed position due to what she described at town meeting as the increased complexity of the job and the limited pool of qualified townspeople who might run for the position. Because selectmen may hire people to fill appointed positions from outside the town it greatly expands the possibility of finding experienced, qualified town employees.

Ms. Logue was elected treasurer for 11 consecutive one-year terms. She will be paid approximately what she was earning as an elected official, $41.95 per hour.

In other business Kenneth Vincent was appointed to the personnel board by a unanimous vote.

Building inspector in training Joe Tierney said that building permits have been paid for and issued to contractors for the town’s solar array project over the old town landfill. He said that supplies were delivered to the site and that he expects work to begin soon on the project that was delayed when the first company contracted to build the array went out of business.

Oak Lane road association member Janet Bank asked the selectmen if they would support a move to use a betterment tax to aid in the financing of the paving of Oak Lane. All three selectmen spoke to their lack of knowledge about the betterment tax but voted unanimously to “do their due diligence” if the required number of landowners abutting the road agreed to the project.

The state betterment tax enabling legislation requires a two-thirds vote of the abutters and approval from the local governing authority. The betterment tax is a method by which the town would assume responsibility for collecting the cost of a project benefiting a specific group from the members of the group.

About half of the hour and a half meeting was devoted to show and tell with representatives of the Cape Light Compact (CLC) demonstrating an LED streetlight they would like to use to replace the 53 streetlights in West Tisbury. CLC program manager Kevin Galligan said the lights would save the town approximately $4,800 a year in energy costs using LED technology. The new fixtures would be installed at no cost to the town as part of the CLC energy efficiency plan approved by the Massachusetts department of public utilities. The CLC lights have been installed in the Island towns of Chilmark, Edgartown and Oak Bluffs.

Town resident David Stanwood joined the show and tell hauling up a fifty year old “admiral’s hat” streetlight fixture, the type used to provide light on some poles in town. He said he preferred to keep the old fixtures. Reading from a written statement he said, “Part of the costs that were not considered with the proposed change to LED is the loss of aesthetic value to our lighted streets at night.”  The West Tisbury historic district commission will address the issue of the older fixtures when they meet at 5:30 pm, Monday June 9, at the Howes house.

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The iconic American car turns 50.

Ford Mustang fan Kevin Cusack leans against his 1970 red Boss 302. His white 1965 Mustang body with a stroked small-block motor on a chrome-moly tubular chassis is set up for drag racing. — Photo by Betsy Corsiglia

In the spring of 1964, Ford Motor Company introduced a new model — the Mustang — at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. To mark the occasion, the car company cut up one of the cars into three pieces and reassembled it on the top of the Empire State Building. The 1965 model Mustang would go on to become the company’s most successful launch since the Model A. By the time Steve McQueen drove a 390 V8 Ford Mustang GT fastback in the blockbuster movie “Bullitt,” the car had become legendary, and has remained one of the country’s most romanticized muscle cars. The original model, which started at $2,368,  can fetch over $100,000 today.

Mustang fever is alive and well on Martha’s Vineyard; owners and former owners shared memories.

Inheritance

The distinctive Mustang logo.
The distinctive Mustang logo.

Most older Mustangs come with stories, and New Yorker Russell Burrows, a London-born, part-time Vineyard Haven resident, was happy to tell his. His brown 1974 Mustang II is one of his family’s two Island cars, which seldom leave the Vineyard. The other is an older model Land Rover.

The Mustang, he was quick to point out, has a matrilineal lineage. It had 8,000 miles on the odometer when a dealer sold it to his mother in New Jersey in 1974. She drove very little and had little use for the car when she moved to New York City in 1979. So she gave it to Mr. Burrows’s mother-in-law in Connecticut, who had a house on the Vineyard, where the car eventually came to live. In keeping with the female lineage of the car’s ownership, Mr. Burrows’s mother-in-law has since bequeathed the Mustang to Mr. Burrows’s daughter Sarah.

It is used infrequently, he said. “We all use it a little bit and have no plans of ever taking it off the Vineyard. We probably don’t treat it with all respect it should get. It is sitting outside this very minute.”

Mr. Burrows sent The Times a set of photos showing the odometer turning to 30,000 miles as he drove it over a snow and ice enhanced Lagoon Pond drawbridge this winter.

Mid-Life crises

Ernie Mendenhall stands with his 1937 Plymouth sedan, 1946 Dodge pickup truck, and his 2011 Mustang.
Ernie Mendenhall stands with his 1937 Plymouth sedan, 1946 Dodge pickup truck, and his 2011 Mustang.

Soon to retire West Tisbury building inspector Ernest Mendenhall purchased a used 2011 Mustang early this year. “I was going through a second mid-life crisis,” he said. ”I wanted a convertible and the choice of convertibles lead me to Mustang.

“Back in the sixties when they first came out, if I had been rich I would have wanted one, but I couldn’t afford one.”

His first mid-life crisis resulted in the purchase of a Mazda Miata, a sporty convertible. “There is no sense to owning a convertible, but they are wonderful. There’s nothing that beats a convertible on a nice day.”

His Mustang is now his everyday car, replacing his old Honda Civic.

Mr. Mendenhall said his wife, West Tisbury town treasurer Kathy Logue, would say that all of his crises involve some kind of motor vehicle. He also owns two antique cars, a 1937 Plymouth sedan and a 1946 Dodge pickup truck.

Classic shape

Vineyard Haven dentist Robert Herman is the original owner of his 1991 black Mustang convertible, which he bought when he was 30. The odometer reads 47,000 miles, and the car has been parked in his garage for the last year. “I take great pride in it,” he said. “I will never sell it, but if the truth be told I bought it because I couldn’t afford a Corvette.

“The Mustang is an absolutely gorgeous car. It has a classic shape, a five-liter engine. Nothing at the time gave me the thrill of driving this Mustang. A black car with a black interior, keeping it clean is the greatest satisfaction I have in owning it. It is going on 25 years and is still in pristine shape.”

“My fantasy is thinking of my son someday driving it to high school.”  His son is 14.

A toy

Jesse Steere babies his toy, a 1973 Mustang, Mark I fastback setup for speed with a 429 engine, street legal slick tires and a posi-traction rear end.
Jesse Steere babies his toy, a 1973 Mustang, Mark I fastback setup for speed with a 429 engine, street legal slick tires and a posi-traction rear end.

Jesse Steere owner of Shirley’s True Value hardware in Vineyard Haven said that at his age, 52, he was looking for toys that weren’t too expensive. He found one of his toys, a 1973 hugger blue Mark I fastback, at a decent price on the Vineyard four years ago. Mr. Steere said he may take the car off-Island to a track to see just how fast it will go. Until then he exercises the motor by increasing the RPMs in the lower gears. The noise it makes is unmistakable and loud. “It has a 429 big block Ford engine in it,” he said. “It can probably do 150, but obviously you can’t do that around here.”

The king

If there were a king of Mustang owners on the Vineyard it would undoubtedly be 54-year-old Oak Bluffs builder Kevin Cusack. Along with his two Porsches, a 1966 Pontiac GTO, a Dodge hemi challenger, several late model work trucks and a couple of other older works in progress from the 1920s, he has title to seven Ford Mustangs.

His first Mustang was a navy blue 1964 with a navy blue interior that he bought in 1974 for $200 before he had a driver’s license.

“I have always had Mustangs,” he said.“I got into racing when I was a kid; it was fun, competitive, what else are you going to do?”

His friends were into racing when he was growing up, and he learned from them. “I was a hot-rodder in high school,” he said. “We referred to ourselves as knuckle-draggers. We were knuckleheads who were into drag racing.” He would switch out his racing engine and rear end every spring so the car would pass its safety inspection in May.

Three of Kevin Cusack's collection of seven Mustangs includes, left to right, an ivy green 1966 with a 4 speed 289, a red 1970 Boss 302 and an Indian fire red 1969 big block Mark I.
Three of Kevin Cusack’s collection of seven Mustangs includes, left to right, an ivy green 1966 with a 4 speed 289, a red 1970 Boss 302 and an Indian fire red 1969 big block Mark I.

His current stable includes a red 1970 Boss 302, the only car he says is a valuable collector’s car; a white 1965 fastback body on a chrome-moly tubular frame with a stroked small-block engine that he raced in pro drag races for ten years; a 1966 ivy-green, 289 four-speed coup, and an Indian fire red, 1969 big block Mark I. He estimates it cost him $25,000 a year in parts and traveling expenses to race the white ‘65.

Mr. Cusack does most of his own work and uses a machinist when necessary. “It has always been a passion. I have always enjoyed them. I have rebuilt tons of Mustangs. Restored tons of them.

“I have street Mustangs, but primarily my gig is racing. I love it. I love driving them and I love working on them. I love it that people always have a Mustang story to tell you when they see the old cars.”

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Project builder Farley Pedler (center) led the tour. With him are Bea Phear, a member of the West Tisbury Planning Board, and Glen Hearn, a member of the West Tisbury Affordable Housing Committee and the Community Preservation Committee which provided leadership and funding for the project. — Photo by Tony Omer

The Island Housing Trust (IHT), a Martha’s Vineyard nonprofit that builds and manages affordable housing, hosted a recent tour of its Sepiessa II project at Clam Point Road in West Tisbury to highlight the money-saving, state-of-the-art energy-efficient design and construction techniques used to build three rental units in two buildings.

Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi (center) answered questions during a construction tour of the project.
Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi (center) answered questions during a construction tour of the project.

Sepiessa II is expected to be completed in September. The one-, two- and three-bedroom units sit on a lot next to four older apartments, Sepiessa I, built by the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority 18 years ago. The housing authority, which owns the land and now manages Sepiessa 1, will also manage Sepiessa II.

IHT executive director Philippe Jordi began the tour on May 27 with a description of the new low-nitrogen-producing septic system that will replace an older less efficient system and service both projects. The reduction in the nitrogen is particularly important because the properties border Tiah’s Cove off Tisbury Great Pond and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank’s 174-acre Sepiessa Point Reservation.

Project builder Farley Pedler of Drews Cove Builders led a group of more than 20 neighbors, builders, and homeowners interested in learning more about energy efficiency. Stepping into one of the unfinished apartments, he explained some of the energy-saving construction methods and materials being used.

Mr. Pedler said that building energy-efficient homes is a cost-effective way of building affordable homes. “The higher the R value, a measure of insulation efficiency, the less it costs to heat and cool a home and the more money is saved in the long run,” he said. “While the initial cost may be a little more, it is more than made up for in long-range savings.”

Two new energy-efficient buildings under construction as part of the Sepiessa II affordable housing rental project feature triple insulated glass.
Two new energy-efficient buildings under construction as part of the Sepiessa II affordable housing rental project feature triple insulated glass.

The three apartments total 3,184 square feet. Construction costs are about $810,000, or about $218 per square foot. Site development costs, including wells, the new septic system and electricity cost $115,000.

The well-insulated walls combined with triple glazed windows and doors create a super-insulated envelope, Mr. Pedler said. Blower door tests conducted by a certified home energy rater, in which a large exhaust fan is set in the door, are used to detect leaks in the buildings.

South Mountain Company, a West Tisbury design/build company that specializes in energy-saving construction, drew up plans that call for standard 2×6 studs filled with a tightly packed cellulose insulation, covered by an exterior air barrier of taped 2-inch thick foam. Half-inch exterior sheathing is then applied, a vapor barrier and the exterior siding.

He said the energy efficiency ratings for these building far exceed the requirements of the recently adopted stretch building code designed to increase the energy efficiency of new construction.

The buildings are so air-tight that they require mechanical heat recovery ventilators that maintain the flow of fresh air while conserving the heat from the exhaust air.

Air source heat pumps are used that deliver 150 to 300 percent more heat and hot water than the electrical energy they consume would produce using more conventional heating sources, Mr. Pedler said.

He said he felt fortunate that all of his projects over the last several years have been super insulated houses. His experience was on display during a question-and-answer session when several builders asked questions about specific construction issues.

The $912,000 Sepiessa II project received a total of $562,000 of West Tisbury Community Preservation Act funds, money from a three percent land tax supplemented by state monies from real transaction fees, $30,000 from the housing authority, $160,000 in Federal Home Loan Boston funding and a $160,000 loan from the Edgartown National Bank.

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From its headwaters alongside North Road in Chilmark, the Mill Brook drains a significant portion of West Tisbury. — File photo by Tony Omer

West Tisbury selectmen waded back into the muddy waters of the Mill Pond debate last Wednesday and appointed all but one of the applicants to a new Mill Brook watershed study committee at their meeting on May 29.

With dredging the Mill Pond sidelined by a vote at annual town meeting on April 8, on April 16 selectmen agreed to form a seven-member committee to oversee a watershed study and to draft a watershed management plan by the 2016 annual town meeting.

Voters at town meeting agreed to add $15,000 to $15,000 appropriated in 2012 to study the watershed.

“The new committee will finalize the scope of a new RFP to study the watershed and will draft a watershed management plan based on the study,” selectman and selectmen’s representative Cynthia Mitchell told The Times on Wednesday. “I expect this to be a two-year process.”

Ms. Mitchell was appointed committee chairman pro-tem.

Also appointed were conservation commission member Prudy Burt; emergency management director John Christensen; Tim Boland, executive director of the Polly Hill Arboretum; Chuck Hodgkinson, a West Tisbury resident who is the Chilmark conservation agent; Sue Hruby, a member of the town’s capital improvement and energy committees; former conservation commission and Mill Pond committee member Rez Williams; and watershed riparian landowners Selena Roman and Nancy Huntington.

Bill Wilcox, retired Martha’s Vineyard Commission water resources planner was the only applicant not appointed. A proposal he and West Tisbury engineer and watershed researcher Kent Healy submitted to the selectmen to conduct their own watershed study was cited as the reason. That proposal is expected to be addressed by the new committee, according to selectman Richard Knabel.

The question of whether to dredge the Mill Pond, and the cost associated with that project, has roiled the town’s political waters for several years. There are those who want to maintain the man-made pond and its placid vista. Others want to remove the dam used to create the pond and allow the stream to return to its natural state, a change they say would enhance the spawning habitat of native fish, including herring, white perch, and eels, and allow free passage of brook trout.

A Mill Pond Committee was formed to pursue the dredging issue in 2009, and a group called the Friends of the Mill Pond, closely aligned with the committee, raised $20,000 in pledges this year from private donors for dredging. That committee is now on hiatus pending the results of the new committee’s work, according to Ms. Mitchell.

The new committee will meet for the first time at 5 pm on Tuesday, June, 10, at the West Tisbury library.

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With The Ritz in the process of being sold, all can say a proper goodbye this Saturday, June 7. — Susan Safford

The Ritz’s last call party this Saturday, June 7, will celebrate the sale of the iconic bar on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Musicians will drop in to play throughout the day, starting at 3 pm. There will be finger food, tee-shirts for sale, historic videos, and a photo board documenting the bar’s history.

Manager and part owner Janet King said patrons of the bar are expected from as far away as New Jersey.

“Come by to hear the music, eat, and share stories,” she said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The last Ritz final call party, in 2008, was followed by a re-opening party when the prospective owner failed to come up with the cash at the closing.

Ms. King, who did not want to make the name of the new owner public, said she and her sister Chrissy, who also works at the bar, expect this sale to go through. “We are looking forward to trying something new after the final papers are signed on June 23,” she said. They have a purchase and sale agreement and a deposit in hand.

Ms. King said the new owner, a Vineyard homeowner from Texas, is a Ritz fan and plans to maintain the bar as a venue for music. She said he will re-open the kitchen. “He likes the Ritz; he likes the local aspect of it,” she said. “He plans to keep the music going, which is great for me. That’s one of the things I was worried about.” She said he will close the bar after the closing for cleaning and painting and will reopen by July 4.

The Ritz was purchased by Ms. King’s parents in 1967. Ownership was transferred to a trust for Ms. King, her three sisters, and her brother when her mother died.

“I want to get out,” Ms. King said. “I don’t want to be up until 2 o’clock in the morning anymore. I have worked here for more than 30 years. That’s enough for me. I am too young to retire and I can’t sit down for too long so I will be looking for other things to do.”

Last Call Party at The Ritz, Saturday, June 7, 3 pm until close, The Ritz, Oak Bluffs.

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“American Romantic” by Ward Just, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 265 pp. $26.

Put novelist Ward Just’s 18th novel, “American Romantic,” on the no-to-be-missed list.

Following his last novel, a coming of age story called “Rodin’s Debutante,” Mr. Just’s latest novel is an emotionally detailed story about an American foreign-service officer, Harry, and the two women that he loves. It begins on a river in the vague world of ground-level Vietnam War diplomacy, with the excitement of the emerging guerrilla war and the passion of a beautiful, German girlfriend, Sieglinde, an x-ray technician on a hospital ship anchored in Saigon. She first calls him a romantic. It is an early love that is never forgotten.

He marries another and after 30 years of global postings and ambassadorships, Harry’s early idealism becomes little more than cynical posturing as he is haunted by an unsanctioned negotiation with the North Vietnamese years before.

Mr. Just brings his prodigious knowledge of 20th century politics and history to a tale that is entirely personal but greatly affected by that history.

He loves his wife, but he cannot forget Sieglinde. As a diplomat he struggles to justify American interference in other countries’ affairs, while in his personal life, he struggles between his feelings for the two women. Only during retirement after a long peripatetic career does Harry begin to gain an understanding of the forces at work on his life.

Mr. Just’s style is his own. His story telling method varies between third person narrative and an almost stream of consciousness style that seems to mimic the way we think, drifting between memory and conscious speculation, between conversation and historic recreation.

The dialog flows from descriptions of states of mind and memories with little punctuation to separate them. He provokes the bumping of “memories against memories,” as he calls it, and in the process produces a fascinating, emotionally charged world inhabited by people not unlike ourselves who often appear to be floating down the river of history and emotion.

With his wife, Sarah Catchpole, Mr. Just lived for many years in West Tisbury while wintering in Paris. They now live in Vineyard Haven and still winter in Paris.

His novels invariably involve story lines that cover periods in his life. From a childhood in northern Illinois, where his father owned a newspaper, to a distinguished career as a journalist in Southeast Asia, to the intrigues of the politics of Washington, D.C., where he lived and wrote, and a life of living abroad, Mr. Just uses backdrops that he knows intimately, but his books are as much studies of his characters’ emotional histories as they are about history.

In addition to his novels, Mr. Just has written numerous short stories, two non-fiction books based on his work as a correspondent for the Washington Post in Vietnam, and a play. His novel “An Unfinished Season,” also about growing up, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. His novel “Echo House” was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He has twice been a finalist for the O. Henry Award an award for short stories. He was inducted into The American Academy of Arts and Letters last year.