Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer
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Virginia Dautreuil is the new superintendent of the 5,343-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. — Michael Cummo

Virginia Dautreuil, 35, is the new superintendent of the 5,343-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. She fills the position left vacant by the unexpected death of John J. Varkonda in late December at the age of 55 after 26 years in the job. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) appointed her to the job following two interviews.

Ms. Dautreuil is only the third person and first woman to hold the post. The first was Manuel F. Correllus, for whom the forest is named.

Ms. Dautreuil, a native of Newtown, Conn., is an experienced naturalist with knowledge of the Cape area. She currently lives in South Yarmouth with her husband. She said she has a lot to learn.

“At this point I’m looking with open eyes,” she said, “taking it step-by-step and hoping to learn about the forest and the Island. I am looking forward to getting involved in the Island community. I spent all of my summers growing up on Cape Cod and had an internship at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, studying whales.”

Ms. Dautreuil cultivated an early interest in nature and conservation. From the age of 12 until she was in her early twenties she worked as a seasonal volunteer at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. She earned an undergraduate degree in wildlife science at Virginia Tech.

After college she did surveys assessing freshwater stream health for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and worked as a technician in West Virginia, in a forest used for logging, studying salamanders. She also studied the effects of hydroelectric dams on freshwater fisheries projects in Virginia. Ms. Dautreuil worked in Texas for five years as a civilian field biologist with the Texas National Guard, dealing with wildlife and fire management. She received a masters degree in aquatic biology from Texas State University where she studied the effects of wildfires on aquatic life.

The state forest was created in 1908 as the “Heath Hen Reserve,” in an attempt to prevent the bird’s extinction. The last heath hen was seen in 1932. Today it is managed for passive recreation, mostly hiking and cycling on its 14 miles of bike paths.

“We’re excited to move to the Island and are looking for a place to live,” she said. “My husband, Marc, and I both love to fish and go claiming. We like to hike, camp out, kayak, bird watch, and bike. Really almost anything outside.”

She said she is in training for the new position. “I’ll be shadowing other supervisors, learning about the department, doing orientation, that kind of thing,” she said. One of her first jobs, she said, is working with a regional resource manager to learn about the forest and to meet with the local fire control people to get up to speed on the Island’s fire fighting and prevention plans.

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A moving crew jacked up the 32-ton scow, fabricated a steel frame under it, then inserted a dolly to carry it when it is moved. — Photo by Michael Cummo

There was a flurry of activity this week surrounding the Seeker, the unfinished wooden scow schooner that has taken shape slowly on a vacant lot on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, a stone’s throw from Five Corners. Told by lot owner Ernie Boch Jr. that he must vacate the lot he has occupied for three years, boatbuilder Ted Box has been preparing to move the 32-ton vessel about a quarter of a mile east to land owned by the R. M. Packer Company on the Lagoon side of Beach Road.

It will be no small undertaking. The Seeker is close to the width of two traffic lanes. Mr. Box said he will move the boat as soon as he receives a state permit authorizing the move which will require state police supervision to temporarily close Beach Road. Mr. Box said he expects the move to take less than one hour.

In summer heat and humidity last week, workmen from Hayden Building Movers jacked up an I-beam frame welded in place under the scow, which will be moved on two eight-wheel dollies. Watercourse Construction of Vineyard Haven is also assisting in the move.

At some point, a tractor truck will haul the boat to its new location.

Mr. Packer, a longtime supporter of the project, said the boat will be placed parallel to the road in front of one of his warehouses to facilitate a final move to the town launching ramp in the Lagoon for the christening when the boat is ready to float.

Plug is pulled

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Ernie Boch Jr. plans to improve the long moribund lot along Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.

The scow project, which began in 2011, is well overdue. Originally, it was expected to take one year to complete.

After several delays and deadlines, Mr. Boch, a seasonal Edgartown resident and the chief executive of Boch Automotive Enterprises, literally pulled the plug on the project. Electrical power was turned off to the lot. At a meeting in Norwood, location of the Boch main offices, Boch representatives told Mr. Box that he would have to move the boat and clean up the property.

Mr. Box said he was told that Mr. Boch was unwilling to continue to pay for the liability insurance to cover the project on his land. Mr. Boch offered to pay to move the Seeker.

Mr. Box said he paid only a nominal rent to use the lot and that he was grateful for the support he has received from Mr. Boch.

“I take as a sign of Mr. Boch’s support for the project that he offered to pay for the move,” he said. “Their point is well taken. I have seen kids climbing around the boat at night.”

Mr. Box said that short of enclosing the project with a fence there is no way to make it completely safe.

Boch representatives also asked Brian Abbott, co-owner of Gannon and Benjamin boat builders adjacent to the Boch property, to move anything of theirs off the Boch property as well. “They told me their insurance company freaked out when they saw the condition of the property,” Mr. Abbott said.

No end in sight

In a telephone conversation with The Times Wednesday, Ernie Boch described his support for the project. “I love Ted and I love his mission. I have supported him the whole, entire time,” Mr. Boch said. “I’ve supplemented his rent. I’ve taken extension upon extension but it just seemed to me that there was no end. I wasn’t crazy about the conditions there. I didn’t think they were that safe. So Ted and I talked and he decided to move the boat.”

Mr. Boch said he would like to improve the property, which includes a long derelict building. “I would like to develop the property. That whole area will be developed eventually. I would like to do something that everybody agrees with and everybody would like, a nice beautification program and make it a nice place.”

Mr. Boch said that he has no specific plan in mind and is willing to work with interested groups to do something everyone would like. “I am just checking it out now,” he said as he prepared to visit the lot Wednesday afternoon.

Long haul

Mr. Boch first asked that the land be vacated last September. Mr. Boch told The Times then that he wanted to clean up and develop the long vacant waterfront lot, beginning with the demolition of the derelict Entwistle building.

Mr. Box subsequently dismantled the structure that sheltered the project and announced he planned to move the unfinished hull to another lot owned by Mr. Packer next to the Tisbury Shell station, also on Beach Road. That plan was thwarted when Tisbury building and zoning inspector Kenneth Barwick told Mr. Box that the lot was too small to allow for the necessary setbacks and would create a safety hazard.

Mr. Box was unable to find another place to move the boat and continued his work on the hull until he met with the Boch representatives last week and Mr. Packer made his latest offer.

The Seeker project has missed several completion dates set by Mr. Box. His latest scheduled launch date of this August, three years since the start, has now been delayed by the impending move, he said.

“I would like to finish as much of the work on the boat as I can while she is on dry land,” he said. He said a launch date of next spring would be ideal, but he doesn’t know how much time Mr. Packer will give him. When asked by The Times, Mr. Packer did not give a deadline.

The Seeker project has nonprofit status but has been financed primarily by Mr. Box. “I would not have gotten as far as I have without donations of labor, materials, and other support — including the help from Mr. Boch and Mr. Packer and other members of the community,” Mr. Box said.

He plans to use the boat as an educational vessel to teach children about the sea and boats.

The project began in 2011 with a case of mistaken identity according to Mr. Box. Mr. Boch’s friend Livingston Taylor of West Tisbury asked if another friend could work on his boat on the lot. Soon after that request, Mr. Box, knowing nothing about the previous request, presented his plan to build the Seeker to the Boch office. It was accepted.

“They thought I was someone else. I was an innocent imposter,” Mr. Box said, “Even after the mistake was recognized, Mr. Boch stayed true to his word. I admire his generous spirit.”

The project began under a temporary wood-frame, plastic-sided shed with a corrugated steel roof, big enough to hold the Seeker. Most of the work was contained to the shed but the unfenced lot filled up in short order with an array of tools and timber — a band saw large enough to rip whole trees, equipment to move whole trees, and massive tree trunks and piles of lumber.

The lot is now clean and the Seeker is ready to move.

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Barking dogs housed in the kennel behind Animal Health Care on Airport Road have been a source of neighborhood disturbance. — Michael Cummo

West Tisbury selectmen, meeting Wednesday June 25, unanimously approved a plan designed to reduce the volume of sound from barking dogs boarded in the outside kennel space at veterinarian Steven Atwood’s Animal Health Care Associates (AHC) located adjacent to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Almost one year ago, a group of neighbors from the Coffin’s Field subdivision across nearby Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, represented by homeowner Elaine Friedman, asked the board for relief from the barking dogs. The Coffin’s Field group and AHC agreed to attempt to reach an agreement but differences in the data presented by each side’s audio experts lead to differing conclusions and no agreement.

Mr. Atwood’s attorney, Rosemary Haigazian, and an audio expert, Lawrence Copley, hired by Mr. Atwood, presented a plan at the Wednesday meeting to enclose the kennel wall facing the subdivision, hang a vinyl curtain across the longest open wall and apply sound damping material to an interior back wall and the kennel’s ceiling.

Ms. Haigazian said the project would cost between $5,000 and $8,000. She said AHC hoped to get some financial assistance from the neighbors. There were no offers of assistance at the meeting. At the selectmen’s meeting a week earlier, the Coffin’s Field group proposed that Mr. Atwood provide a 12-foot wall made of soundproofing material which AHC argued was too expensive.

Selectmen gave AHC 60 days to complete the work.

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Brett Leonard stands on the lift of his automobile trailer next to a customized 1967 MGB GT with a 4.6 liter Rover V8 engine, he picked up in South Carolina and brought to the Vineyard for a customer. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Like the captain of a sailing vessel, long haul trucker Brett Leonard of Vineyard Haven has to be aware of the tides when leaving or returning to Martha’s Vineyard. He transports cars, mostly expensive cars, five to eight at a time — a one-man, 10-wheel operation called Motor Age Transport. If the tide is either too low or too high, his long, low-slung trailer will hang up on the ramps leading up to the ferries even when empty. He has a habit of returning to the Island without a reservation and waits, sometimes overnight, until there is space for him on the right boat on the right tide.

Brett Leonard sits on the upper deck of his 53 foot long car trailer that can carry as many as eight cars.
Brett Leonard sits on the upper deck of his 53 foot long car trailer that can carry as many as eight cars.

An affable man with an indestructible smile, Mr. Leonard looks younger than his 56 years. His business is hauling cars in his enclosed trailer. He carries just about anything on wheels that will fit, from bicycles and motorcycles to small trucks, but he mostly carries expensive cars costing on average around $150,000, from coast to coast or from Boston to Florida and anywhere in between.

He recently transported a car worth $1 million, a new Bentley worth around $500,000 and three 1970s project cars worth about $3,000 each.

His home base is his home, on a quiet, tree-shrouded residential street off the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road where he lives with his wife, Barbara. They have two children and one granddaughter.

On the left of his single story house is a built-in one-car garage where he parks his Island car, a restored 1970 MG. There is a two-car garage on the right where he once restored English sports cars for a living. Next to that is the classic 1967 Autocar tractor he uses in his trucking business. In front of the garage is a long, black, stealth-like, 13-foot, 4-inch tall trailer that extends 53 feet to the road. It has no visible markings.

Brett Leonard stands next to the 1967 Autocar tractor he rebuilt.
Brett Leonard stands next to the 1967 Autocar tractor he rebuilt.

When Mr. Leonard is not on the road, the trailer dominates the front corner of the small yard. It dwarfs the boats that many Vineyarders keep as ornaments in their yards, but it is partially camouflaged by trees that are so close it looks as though they grew up next to the behemoth. This might explain why his neighbors have not complained.

The trailer can hold as many as eight small cars. His usual load is five to seven at a time.

Trucking cars allows him to combine his love of trucks and cars. He attributes his truck fascination to a cross-country road-trip he took with his parents and three siblings when the family moved from California to the East Coast in a Volkswagen van.

“I know for a fact that I had no interest in trucks until my family took that big road trip when I was 13,” he said. “By the time we got to the East Coast I was interested in trucks. None of it makes sense. You can’t figure these things out, but I have good memories of that trip.”

Not many of the cars he moves end up on the Vineyard. In the spring he usually brings a few cars to the Island from warmer climates, cars he trucks back when their owners head back after a winter in the south. Much of his freight is collectible cars going to or from auctions, and renovation projects headed to new owners, and even a few cars parents send to their kids in college. Mr. Leonard makes 10 to 12 roundtrips most years, moving some 150 to 200 cars.

It usually takes him three weeks on the road to California or Arizona and back, and a week to Florida, his most frequent destinations. He sleeps in his truck most nights on the road, avoiding truck stops at night because they get too crowded.

He said the going rate for car transport is about 70 cents a milem, but it can vary with size and schedule requirements. He pays $2,000 a year for his license plate and over $10,000 for insurance. The fuel for his last trip to Florida cost him over $2,000 dollars. He averages about 6.5 miles to a gallon.

The Autocar tractor is a classic. He restored it eight years ago after literally pulling it from a scrap heap at John Leite’s junkyard in Oak Bluffs, now called MV Auto Salvage, where he had been eyeing it for years.

“I first saw the truck sitting in a field in Falmouth over 30 years ago,” he said. “We got it running and ran it out of John Leite’s for a while but it had constant engine problems so it was left in the junkyard for almost 20 years. I kept my eye on it, and in 2005 I hauled it out and began rebuilding it.” He said that if the truck hadn’t been made mostly of aluminum it wouldn’t have been salvageable.

He replaced the original engine, drive train and suspension system with more modern ones taken from a Freightliner that had tipped over. The sleeper behind the seats he described as old style, small and without many of the amenities of newer trucks with larger sleepers, but he said it fits his style.

Mr. Leonard has only put 450,000 miles on the engine, which he said isn’t much in the life of a truck. He does almost all of his own work except the heavy lifting. “I leave the heavy lifting for the guys at Leite’s.”

He sculpted an impressionist winged figurehead for the hood from a piece of the old aluminum frame. It resembles the “Spirit of Ecstasy” Rolls Royce hood ornament.

His all black trailer is a custom conversion from a furniture trailer. It has a hydraulic lift system that allows him to stack cars two high. His usual load is five or six cars, but he can carry up to eight if they are not too big. He paid about $70,000 for the trailer eight years ago; it would cost him over $300,000 to replace today.

After moving east, Mr. Leonard’s family settled in East Falmouth. He studied electricity and residential wiring at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School because they didn’t have a course in trucks. “I wanted to learn about trucks. The whole time, every spare moment I had I was around trucks. It was what I was really interested in.”

While a senior in high school he got a job at a garage in Falmouth working on trucks, and it wasn’t long before he was sent to help out with some truck work at John Leite’s shop in Oak Bluffs. He began spending more time on the Island. He drove a tow truck and transported crushed cars off-Island.

By the time he was 21 and could legally drive a truck he was trucking tomatoes from Florida to Boston on a regular route. He had his own refrigerated truck not long after.

When he and Barbara, a Vineyard native whose family owned and ran Tony’s Market in Oak Bluffs for many years, married and had kids, he wanted to work closer to home. He gave up his trucks, temporarily as it turns out, and began restoring British sports cars in his garage for almost 20 years.

He financed the truck rebuild and trailer by selling two cars he had restored, a 1968 Triumph TR4-A and a 1954 Ford pickup. His Island car today is a cherry 1970 MGB he rebuilt from three cars he found in The MV Times Bargain Box. He got the cars when he offered to take them away at no charge.

When at home, Mr. Leonard keeps a garden, plays a little tennis with his wife and friends, brews his own beer, and works on his truck which requires occasional trips to the junkyard. “The junkyard has always been a fun place for me,” he said with a smile.

The Pedler house in West Tisbury is one of only one hundred certified passive homes in the US.

Daryl Owens, builder Farley Pedler and their daughter Kazmira at the kitchen counter/dining table of their new home. — Photo by Tony Omer

Certified passive is not a psychological condition. It is the highest energy efficient standard used in home building today, according to Farley Pedler, owner of Farley Built, Inc. (formerly Drews Cove Builders). In May, Mr. Pedler, his wife, Daryl Owens, and their twenty-month-old daughter, Kazmira, moved into a finely appointed 800-square-foot, certified passive home he built on Doctor Fisher Road in West Tisbury. The home is one of one hundred certified passive homes in the United States.

“I have built seven homes on Martha’s Vineyard in the last couple of years that use energy efficient design and construction elements that far exceed the building code requirements,” Mr. Pedler said. “But our house is more energy efficient than any of those.”

Few cost saving measures were used in the modern looking interior of the architect-designed house. Mr. Pedler said the house would cost over $400,000 if he hadn’t built the house himself. He said the energy efficient aspects of the house added about ten to fifteen percent to the total cost.

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The Pedler’s new certified passive house has a fifteen foot high interior peak giving it a sense of being larger than its 800 square feet of floor space.

The Pedler house has a large multipurpose room that incorporates a living room, kitchen, and dining area with a half bath. There is an expanse of windows on the south side, facing a large yard of new grass and woods beyond. The bedroom is a separate room with a full bath that takes up about a third of the total floor space. There is a loft area above the bedroom. The mechanicals are in the full, partially finished basement along with laundry and storage areas.

The house uses a energy recovery ventilator that is connected to a geothermal system. Tubing buried around the perimeter of the house maintains a constant exchange of air with little heat loss, but also conditions the air by removing excess moisture. The heating requirements for the house, even in the dead of winter, are so minimal that a water source heat pump designed to heat a small boat was used.

Mr. Pedler said that he expects to incur only about $1,600 in total energy expenses per year in the new house, while the owner of a conventional built house its size could expect to spend at least $4,000.

The house is wired and plumbed for solar panels that Mr. Pedler said he plans to add in the future. The panels could produce more energy than the house uses, eliminating energy costs.

A passive energy efficient home is built to optimize heat gain in the winter by locating the building so that the windows allow the most amount of sunlight possible. It is super-insulated to retain that heat for as long as possible. In the summer, when the sun is higher in the sky, less sunlight hits the windows and an awning system will be used to block the sun and keep the building cool.

To be certified passive, a house must meet standards set by the non-profit Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), a national organization committed to making high-performance passive building the mainstream market standard. “Only about 100 houses have been certified to date in the United States, and there are at least that many now under construction,” Michael Knezovich, PHIUS director of communications, told The Times.

Mr. Knezovich said PHIUS uses standards first developed in Germany, where thousands of houses have met the stringent requirements. They also use a German computer-modeling program to determine the design’s passive capabilities before construction begins.

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The upstairs loft of the house.

In order to achieve the certified rating, Mr. Pedler was required to hire a PHIUS certified consultant who helped guide the process from design through construction, and a third party PHIUS certified inspector who made multiple inspections during the course of construction. The house plans had to meet minimum standards when cranked through the computer-modeling program. Four blower door tests, where a large exhaust fan is used to detect leaks, were conducted to test the efficiency of the construction at key points during construction.

Mr. Pedler hired an architect with certified passive design experience, Steven Baczek of Reading, who is now working on his fifth certified passive home design. Mr. Baczek told The Times, ”Mr. Pedler’s house is an energy efficient house on steroids.” He said there are four major areas of concern when designing passive homes that breed success or failure: the mechanical elements and materials, air sealing, windows and doors, and insulation.

Mr. Baczek said that meeting with the building team before the design is complete is an important step in getting everyone on the same page. “We try to keep our window of heat loss for the entire project to less than the size of a playing card. Any mistake during construction can open that window.” He said that he hopes his designs will not only help set a new standard for energy efficiency, but will produce homes that will still be relevant in 150 years.

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The house’s southern exposure has the most glass to increase the solar heat gain in the winter. The lower walls are 20 inches thick and filled with insulation.

The Pedler family wanted to buy land in Chilmark, where they rented for four years, but real estate in Chilmark was more than they could afford, so they settled on four plus acres just north of the West Tisbury school in West Tisbury. “Our new house will become our guest house when we win the lottery and build our big house,” Mr. Pedler said, half joking. He said for him, the new house is as much a learning exercise for the future main house as it is a place for them to live. He hopes to begin on the main house in a couple of years.

— Photo by Michael Cummo
Paul Adler
Paul Adler

Alternative energy generation on Martha’s Vineyard has been confined primarily to windmills and stationary solar panels.

West Tisbury builder Paul Adler researched the latest innovations in solar technology and chose to install two fully automatic devices mounted on separate posts that use computers and motors to keep them pointing directly at the sun.

The systems sit on Mr. Adler’s grassy, landscaped, south-facing hillside front yard, above his design-award winning tennis court, and give the appearance of a set from a James Bond movie. Mr. Adler says the two systems are among the most advanced systems on the Island.

One is a 15-foot-diameter reflective parabolic dish that he installed three years ago. It sits atop a 12-foot post supported by a concrete footing 3 feet square and 9 feet deep. The dish concentrates the sun’s energy on a small box and generates temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees. It heats water circulating through a radiator in the box to about 200 degrees, providing all of his hot water needs for his home and his swimming pool.

The second system is a 22- by 24-foot array of photovoltaic panels, mounted on a similar post with a similar footing, that tracks the sun on two axes. Mr. Adler said that it was designed as a commercial system and he was told by the manufacturer that his was the first in the state.

“I feel the tracking principle is paramount,” he said. “I am able to gain an extra 30 to 40 percent more sun hours than with any stationary panel system.” He said they are ideal for small locations like his, without a lot of land, for a large array of panels.

“The solar panels produce all of my monthly electrical needs, which cost me almost $300 before and I sell almost $200 of electricity per month. That’s a $500 per month savings,” he said. The installation cost $28,000. A combination of state and federal tax credits brought the out-of-pocket cost down below $18,000 so he expects to have it paid for in about three years.

“The results are stunning,” Mr. Adler said. So stunning that he received a letter from the Massachusetts CEC (Clean Energy Center) suggesting he was cheating, that his system could not be producing as much as he was claiming. The CEC is a state run office that manages the program that tracks and pays for solar energy credits. Mr. Adler provided proof that his system was providing 40 percent more electricity than the CEC expected and he was exonerated.

Mr. Adler said the payback period for active solar was too long to be worth the investment, until recently. “If a clean energy system can pay for itself in seven years or less, it becomes viable and marketable,” he said. “In the recent past, the average life of active systems was 10 to 14 years, and the payback period was 10 to 20 years. When the system paid for itself, it was time to replace it.” He said that active systems today have a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years, and cost half as much as the older systems and, with government rebate programs, the payback can be from two to seven years.

Mr. Adler said that his interest in alternative energy began as a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the late 1960s. “I have incorporated passive energy saving concepts into houses I have built for several decades,” he said. “My first active alternative energy project was a large water heating panel array I installed to heat the water in my swimming pool.” He replaced that system with the concentrator.

Mr. Adler, who has a distribution arrangement with the manufacturer of the solar concentrator, has sold several to foreign countries. “It’s ironic; the biggest buyers of the concentrators are the middle-eastern countries, who have the most oil,” he said. “They claim they want to conserve their oil by using solar energy, and then sell their oil to us westerners for high profits. It sure makes you wonder about our energy policy when Arabs are buying our energy products.”

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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.