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In yet another county-airport skirmish, Dukes County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders is not processing airport invoices, airport official claims.

The Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission is seeking payment on overdue bills. —File photo by Nelson Sigelman

Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC) chairman Constance Teixeira said that Dukes County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders has refused to process invoices the airport authorized for payment despite a preliminary injunction Dukes County Superior Court Associate Justice Richard J. Chin issued August 7 ordering her to pay duly authorized airport bills

The 17 invoices, totaling approximately $42,000, are for routine airport expenses, and are either approaching overdue status or already overdue.

“We received communication from the county treasurer that once again, and despite a direct court order, she was refusing to process airport invoices for payment,” Ms. Teixeira said in a statement read at an airport commission meeting Friday, November 21.

Under strict state and federal funding rules, airport revenue may only be used for airport-related aviation projects. Though there is no legal requirement to do so, the county-owned airport hires the county treasurer to process airport bills, an arrangement that funnels airport revenue into county coffers.

Airport manager Sean Flynn told The Times in a telephone conversation Tuesday that the airport is evaluating additional legal action, which could include filing a complaint asking the court to hold Ms. Mavro Flanders in contempt of the preliminary injunction, or negotiate an out-of-court resolution to the latest dispute.

A woman who answered the phone in the treasurer’s office Tuesday morning told The Times that Ms. Mavro Flanders was unavailable for comment. Asked if the treasurer was in the office or could be contacted later, the woman repeated that the treasurer was unavailable for comment.

Payment procedure

The county treasurer takes a unique approach in order to calculate how much of her office’s time is devoted to airport affairs. Rather than an hourly rate, the office calculates how much to charge the airport based on invoice inches, according to Mr. Flynn.

He said the county treasurer allocates the airport’s share of the county’s total cost for accounting services, by measuring the length of submitted airport invoices, including invoice pages that have nothing to do with billing amounts, against non-airport invoices.

Mr. Flynn is authorized by the airport commission to approve bills for payment. He said he is frustrated that Mr. Mavro Flanders duplicates the effort of his staff to verify and approve invoices every month.

Mr. Flynn said that in an attempt to make the process more efficient and less costly, invoices now include only the necessary information for Ms. Mavro Flanders to process the bills. “She has been provided with cover sheets which show previous balance, previous amount paid, current charges, current due, and total due,” he said.

Mr. Flynn said he reviews each invoice to make sure the charges were incurred by the airport, and that the charges are accurate, in accordance with his legal and fiduciary obligations. “This is in no way an attempt to be secretive, as to what we’re paying various vendors; this is just to streamline the process to meet all requirements, so that we are providing enough information, but not duplicating effort, not doubling the amount of effort,” he said. “We’re trying to use current technology, current ways of thinking, and not staying with a process that is antiquated, just for the sake of staying with an older process. There are accusations we’re attempting to be secretive. That is absolutely not the case.”

Deja vu all over again

In a series of emails to Mr. Flynn, Ms. Mavro Flanders said she was not refusing to make the payments, but reminded the airport manager that there was insufficient detail in the invoices, a point Mr. Flynn disputes.

She said she would file a formal public records request for the bills, if necessary. As of Wednesday, November 19, the disputed bills had not been paid, according to Mr. Flynn.

The county treasurer’s insistence that the airport provide invoice details and her refusal to process law firm invoices approved by the airport was one of the subjects of a lawsuit filed by the airport commission on July 9.

In his August 7 decision, Judge Chin wrote, “In sum, the County Treasurer believes that she has the legal authority to refuse to pay invoices which have already been duly approved by the MVAC, to obtain privileged and confidential communications between the MVAC and its attorneys without notice to and without the consent of the MVAC, and to release those privileged and confidential communications to the public at large.”

Judge Chin rejected the county treasurer’s claim that invoices approved by the airport commission for payment were lacking detail required by state law.

“Where the MVAC is not using any of the county’s funds to pay its invoices for legal services, it may expend its funds without the county’s oversight,” Judge Chin wrote. The invoices “are not so deficient in detail that they fail on their face to comply with the statute.”

Judge Chin issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the airport commission, and against Ms. Mavro Flanders. “The county treasurer is enjoined from refusing to pay invoices duly approved for payment by the MVAC,” he wrote in his decision.

Judge Chin based his ruling on previous court decisions, state law, and legal documents known as grant assurances which the county approved in exchange for millions of dollars in state and federal funds.

In fiscal year 2012, the airport paid the county $103,396 for accounting services, according to Ms. Mavro Flanders. In fiscal year 2014, the airport paid the county $102,994. In May, just before the end of fiscal year 2014, she said she expected to pay a similar amount for that year.

The seven members of the airport commission are appointed by the elected members of the seven-member county commission. By statute, the airport commission is solely responsible for the airport.

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Members of the Brazilian community celebrated faith and culture at the Whaling Church in October. —Photo by Lynn Christoffers

President Barack Obama took action last week that could lead to protection from deportation and a legal right to work for undocumented immigrants who have been living and working in violation of federal laws on Martha’s Vineyard for many years.

The president’s executive action, long awaited by advocates of immigration reform, and long disputed by Mr. Obama’s political foes, would not provide a path to citizenship for the estimated five million undocumented immigrants who might benefit. It would, in general, allow undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than five years, and who have no criminal record, the right to work legally without fear of deportation for a limited number of years.

“These executive actions crackdown on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay their fair share of taxes as they register to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation,” the White House wrote in a statement issued just before the president addressed the nation on November 20.

Help for families

Pastor Joao Barbosa of the Mission Calvary Church in Vineyard Haven said he believes the changes in immigration policy will help many families on the Island. “It brings good favor for people (undocumented immigrants) who are receiving help from the government, the economy of the country itself,” he said. “When a family knows more about the future, they can buy houses, they can go to school, they can invest instead of sending money out of the country. A lot of people were stressed or worried, now they can make more plans to stay in the country. They’re just thankful this is happening.”

Bishop Paulo Tenorio, spiritual leader of The Growing Church Ministry in Vineyard Haven, also applauded the president’s action. “There are a lot of people that will benefit,” he said. “It’s the right direction. We have a broken system. It’s something that needs to be faced in the country. He’s giving a little push.”

Wender Ramos, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot who just completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan, said he is happy for the change in policy, but he said it came far too late for him.

He came to Martha’s Vineyard at the age of 13 with his mother and sister, all undocumented. He is now a U.S. citizen, and his mother and sister have legal status to live and work in the United States, while they are working toward citizenship. While he said the latest change in immigration policy won’t affect his family, he said he faced significant barriers as he grew up, went to Island schools, and then college.

“It’s something we could have used,” Mr. Ramos said. “Back when I was in grade school and high school, it would have expedited my life as well as my mom’s and my sister’s. We always talked about it, saying we wished this would happen.”

Programs expanded

Mr. Obama’s action expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that he initiated in 2012. The original DACA program was intended to protect children who were brought into the United States illegally as children. Eligible were children who have been in the United States for at least five years, came as children, were in school or have completed school, have no serious criminal record, were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007. Those who met those requirements could apply for a two-year period of protection from deportation, and were eligible for work permits. According to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, more than a half-million people, or about 95 percent of those applications accepted for review, have been approved for DACA status. In Massachusetts, 6,596 applications were accepted for review, and 5,318 were approved.

Under the latest executive action, children who came to the United States before January 1, 2010, no matter what their age now, will be eligible, and the period of deferred action will expand to three years.

The largest group of undocumented immigrants who will benefit from the president’s executive action are the parents of children who were born in the United States, who are legal citizens. In order to qualify, the parents must register with the federal government, pass a criminal background check, and pay any back taxes. If qualified, the parents can apply for a three-year deferred action, and remain in the United States without fear of deportation. They can also apply for work permits.

The president’s executive action does not provide a path to citizenship for anyone eligible for deferred action or work permit status. A future president could also rescind the executive actions.

ICE changes

The Dukes County Jail no longer holds immigrants in custody based solely on a request from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain an individual. The change in procedure follows a federal court ruling in Oregon on April 11 that ruled that practice unconstitutional.

Previously, ICE issued detainee orders that asked local law enforcement authorities to hold an individual in jail for up to 48 hours while ICE decided whether to take the person into federal custody.

ICE issued detainee orders for a wide range of reasons: ICE simply wanted to talk to the person, the person did not appear at hearing, the person was wanted for a serious crime, or the person had already been ordered deported.

In April, U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, ruled that a detainee order alone is not a legal justification to incarcerate someone. The case involved Maria Miranda-Olivares, a woman who was ordered released on bail by a local court after she was arrested on a domestic violence charge. Local authorities kept her in custody because ICE had issued a detainer. The court ruled that keeping her in custody violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment, and the court allowed the woman to seek damages from the jail.

Immigrants were often held in custody at the Dukes County Jail solely on the basis of an ICE detainee order. This month, Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack changed the procedure.

“We are no longer holding anybody on an ICE detainer, if there is no other reason to hold them,” Sheriff McCormack told The Times. “If we get a hit on a detainer, we will call ICE. But if they would otherwise be able to be released, like they made bail, or they were released by the court, if we have no reason to hold the person except the ICE detainer, then we won’t hold them.”

Mr. McCormack said holding people on ICE detainee orders could leave the jail vulnerable to lawsuits.

“The underlying reason amounts to probable cause,” Sheriff McCormack said. “The actual detainer has no charges on it, doesn’t say anything about having enough probable cause to be holding them. The detainer just says ICE has an interest in them. We can’t take somebody’s freedom just because ICE has an interest in them.”

President Obama, in his executive action on immigration, ordered ICE to stop asking local authorities to detain people arrested for minor offenses. The federal government will now only ask local officials to transfer custody of an arrested person to ICE after he or she has been convicted of a felony, or three misdemeanors. ICE will not ask jail officials to detain people, but they will ask local police to notify federal agents when an immigrant convicted of a crime is due to be released.

The president made significant changes to the controversial Secure Communities program, which authorized local jail officials to transmit fingerprints of anyone arrested to ICE where they could be checked against a database.

The Dukes County Jail did not participate directly in Secure Communities, but they did forward fingerprints of everyone arrested by Island law enforcement to Massachusetts State Police. State Police then transmitted those fingerprints to ICE. That procedure remains in effect, according to Sheriff McCormack.

The average monthly household bill is expected to rise by about $30.

Watch those numbers...rates are going up next month. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Brace yourselves, Islanders. Electricity rates are slated to soar 29 percent beginning January 1 for households and small businesses, NSTAR announced. The increase was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities on November 14. For the average household that consumes 500 kilowatt-hours/month that means an increase of roughly $30 a month, at least until July 1, 2015, when rates are adjusted again.

Cape Light Compact PricingResidentialCommercialIndustrial
November 2014 Prices8.892 cents/kWh8.892 cents/kWh7.752 cents/kWh
New PricingResidentialCommercialIndustrial
December 2014 — July 2015 meter reads15.371 cents/kWh14.300 cents/kWh20.070 cents/kWh

The rate hike actually originates with Cape Light Compact (CLC), the municipal buying group from which NSTAR buys electricity for distribution to customers. Whatever CLC charges NSTAR for electricity is passed on directly to the customer, with no profit for NSTAR.

Cape Light Compact consists of 21 towns and two counties on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. The Compact said its mission is “to serve our 200,000 customers through the delivery of proven energy efficiency programs, effective consumer advocacy, competitive electricity supply and green power options.”

CLC has awarded a three-year contract to ConEdison Solutions to supply residential power to NSTAR. Starting with December meter reads, the Compact’s price will be 15.371 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers, according to CLC, versus 8.892/KWh last year.

Mike Durand, NSTAR’s spokesman, compared the relationship of CLC to NSTAR with that of Amazon to Fedex. “If you buy an item on Amazon, you pay Fedex a shipping charge to receive the item. If Amazon raises the price on that item, Fedex doesn’t raise the shipping charge. We’re the Fedex in the rate increase.”

Two harsh winters, particularly that of 2013-14, explain the 29 percent rate spike. “It’s partly retroactive cost recovery for CLC and partly anticipation that prices this year could be as bad as last year,” said Stefan Wallenberg, CLC’s power supply planner.

On the edge
Vineyarders, along with other New England consumers, pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Add to that a seasonal economy with a labor force that is largely year-round, and the effect of the price rise is exaggerated.

“Thirty dollars doesn’t sound like much unless you are already dealing with the Vineyard’s high costs and seasonal job fluctuation,” said David Vigneault, Executive Director of the Dukes County Housing Authority (DCHA). “It’s just loading more straw onto the camel’s back.”

Betty Burton, President of the Vineyard Committee on Hunger and Coordinator of Serving Hands and the Family-to-Family food programs, was shocked to learn of the price spike. “So many of our customers are already living on the edge, I don’t know what they will do,” she said.

A year-round wage buffers the jolt, but does not eliminate the need to rethink a budget. It may mean fewer movies or skipping that longed-for dinner out.

Cynthia Hill of West Tisbury said it will likely mean that “I reduce the gigabytes on my Internet hot spot, and Salty and I will probably select a less expensive package from our satellite TV provider.”

With any solution to New England’s energy crisis at least several years away, the only immediate way to mitigate the impact is with energy savings. Both CLC and NSTAR are urging customers to avail themselves of their free energy audits that will show consumers how to save energy and lower costs.

“Energy efficiency is the single most important way to offset energy costs,” said CLC’s Stefan Wallenberg, making the pitch for the group’s energy assessments, which include giveaways such as LED and compact fluorescent bulbs, caulking against drafts, and rebates ranging from 75 percent to 100 percent for insulation.

Gas fuels hikes
The roots of New England’s energy crisis are in the region’s addiction to natural gas, which became cheap as U.S. production ramped up following the discovery of huge natural gas deposits in Pennsylvania, exploited through the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” As cheap gas flowed into the domestic market, consumers moved quickly to switch their heating and air cooling systems from dirtier oil to cleaner, cheaper gas. So did power generating companies.

Demand for natural gas soared, but the pipeline capacity for getting it here did not. Today, almost 50 percent of the region’s electricity is produced by natural gas, up from only 15 percent in 2000. Pipeline capacity has not changed in 20 years. The bottleneck drove up gas prices. In the queue to buy natural gas, consumers take precedence over generating plants. If there is not enough gas to meet peak heating demand — as happened when the polar vortex hovered over New England last year — power companies are forced to produce electricity using more costly fuels, usually stored oil.

No answer in sight
How Massachusetts and New England solve the energy crisis is now the big question. More pipeline or go alternative?

Three projects for new or expanded natural gas pipelines are under discussion, but there is also strong opposition to pipelines from conservation and alternative energy advocates, to say nothing of people living along the proposed pipeline routes.

Governor Deval Patrick rejected, after initially supporting, the Northeast Direct pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan to bring an additional 800 million to 2.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas through rural northwestern Massachusetts toward the Boston hub.

“It wasn’t just the pipeline itself, but the idea proposed by the Kinder Morgan to have the public pay for it via a tariff,” said Peter Shattuck, Director of Market Initiatives for the Acadia Center, a research and advocacy organization for energy conservation, alternative energy sources and climate change. “Instead, the Governor formed a commission to do an in-depth study of diverse energy sources.”

Of the three proposed pipelines, only the Algonquin Incremental Market, known as AIM, has been permitted. Scheduled to come online during 2015, it will add 350 million cubic feet of capacity to an existing pipeline coming from New York through Connecticut to lower Massachusetts.

“It will create some relief,” Mr. Shattuck told The Times, “but how much natural gas do we really need?

Before investing, we need to continue reducing demand and look at other sources of energy such as wind and hydro, Mr. Shattuck said. Offshore wind projects are maturing due to advances in Europe, and hydro power from Quebec or the Canadian Maritimes offers another abundant, renewable resource. Some of these projects could be online as quickly as any of the proposed pipeline expansions, he added.

The third project is Access Northeast, proposed by Northeast Utilities (NSTAR’s parent company) and Spectra Energy. It would expand existing pipeline capacity in increments of 200 million cubic feet up to two billion cubic feet. Its target service date is November 2018. Mike Durand says the project has not even reached the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for review yet, but “customers won’t pay for it.”

What next?
The spotlight is now on Governor-elect Charlie Baker. During his campaign Mr. Baker opposed the Northeast Direct pipeline and supported Hydro Quebec as a renewable energy source. He also emphasized energy efficiency and proposed a sales tax waiver for energy-efficient appliances and upgrades. Another of his ideas was a LED lighting rebate for businesses and homeowners to encourage the transition from traditional lighting to LED lighting.

“No one knows precisely what the energy system of the future will look like…but it will look quite different from the pipeline- and power-plant heavy system we have now,” Mr. Shattuck and co-author Jamie Howland write in a recent issue of Commonwealth magazine. Although unsure how Governor-elect Baker will proceed with the Patrick study commission, Mr. Shattuck is nonetheless optimistic because “we were hearing good things in the campaign.”

Mr. Shattuck added, “We need to kick this [natural gas] habit rather than pursuing another pipeline fix that would further tie us to the price volatility of a single fuel and make it harder to go clean in the future.”

Matt Beaton, newly appointed by Mr. Baker to be energy secretary, told The Times the new administration will seek a “balanced approach” that includes natural gas, wind, and solar. Asked how Mr. Baker’s administration will work with the energy study commission created by Governor Patrick, he said, “We need to listen to everybody so we can form our own perspective.”

For more information on energy-saving tips and energy assessments, see websites for Cape Light Compact website and NSTAR: capelightcompact.org/chillyourbill and nstar.com.

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Geraldine Brooks was one of the judges for last week's National Book Awards. —Photo by Randi Baird

Geraldine Brooks does not judge a book by its cover.

The West Tisbury resident and Pulitzer Prize-winning author actually read, cover to cover, about 200 books this year as a judge for the National Book Awards (NBA).

In fact, Ms. Brooks and a cohort of four other judges each read that many new novels this year from the more than 400 fiction titles submitted for judging in the fiction category for the prestigious literary awards, which were announced on November 19.

The fiction winner was Phil Klay, author of “Redeployment,” a collection of short stories reflecting a variety of human experiences with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a public affairs officer.

“‘Redeployment’ was my favorite,” Ms. Brooks said last week in an interview with The Times. “A lot of the books were my favorites, that I had to let go of along the way. ‘Redeployment’ is a remarkable piece of writing and an important book. I think it will last in the same manner that ‘The Things They Carried’ reflected the Vietnam War experience.”

“Phil imagines himself in the heads of people whose [war] experience was different from his, goes way beyond anything he has experienced. I am very interested to see what Phil does next,” she said. “Redeployment” was picked from a short list of fiction works by authors Rabih Alameddine, Marilynne Robinson, Anthony Doerr, and Emily St. John Mandel.

Louise Gluck won the NBA poetry prize for her collection “Faithful and Virtuous Night.”

Evan Osnos, with “Age of Ambition,” won the nonfiction award, and Jacqueline Woodson won in the young people’s literature category for “Brown Girl Dreaming,” her memoir in verse.

The National Book Awards were founded in 1950 to promote the appreciation of American literature of the highest quality. The awards are underwritten by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to literary excellence.

Books are submitted for a $135 fee by publishers, including some self-publishing companies, and the qualifying books are sent by the publishers to the judges. The bulk of them arrive midyear, and the judges begin reading them to select a long list of 10 books, then a short list of five books from which the winner is chosen — a gargantuan task of reading, thought, and discussion.

“We divided the entries first through an alphabetic sort by authors’ names, and each judge took a group. You were free to read any other book as well. We wanted to make sure that every entry got a good look,” Ms. Brooks said. All the judges read all of the long- and short-list books.

“There was a wonderful sense of where we are as a literary nation, based on diversity and unifying themes. Many books contained a consoling and redeeming aspect of the power of art. Stories save us in tough times. Survival is insufficient. In one postapocalyptic novel, the survivors take up Shakespeare. In another, a woman translates books no one will ever read. That’s where she finds her solace. In another book, Lila is an itinerant young woman who finds relief in the Book of Job,” Ms. Brooks said.

Ms. Brooks said the selection process was most difficult in the early stages of culling the works. “It was really tough until we got to the long list,” Ms. Brooks said. “Differing literary tastes required more negotiation. When we got to the short list of these worthy books, we agreed to a remarkable degree.”

The NBA board provides guidelines to judges (authors must be U.S. citizens and be living at the time of submission), and the judging group develops its own criteria. “Our criteria said: We are looking for a striking original with masterful craft and beauty of language, free of excess, imaginatively rich and compellingly resolved … a book to reread.… It should be a novel that will stand the test of time, so that when we look back a decade from now … we’ll be proud we chose it,” Ms. Brooks reported.

Ms. Brooks had an idea of the size of her task. “Tony [husband and author Tony Horwitz] judged the nonfiction award several years ago, so I had seen the books piling up when he was a judge,” she said.

Another judge this year was Sheryl Coulter, a Northern California bookseller: “Sheryl said she spent so much time reading this summer that her elbows were being rubbed raw. She went to a skateboard store and got a pair of elbow pads,” Ms. Brooks said.

Basic math indicates that each judge read well over a million words as a NBA fiction judge, not including note-making and discussion about the books. Certainly a labor of love: “I love books,” Ms. Brooks said.

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Volunteers for Vineyard Village at Home give Island seniors their wheels.

Mike Adell visits Eileen Cronin in her Havenside Apartments living room. Mr. Adell routinely drives Mrs. Cronin around on her errands, and the two have become friendly. – Photos by Michael Cummo

Mike Adell bounced out of his hybrid Honda last Tuesday morning and loped up the driveway to Havenside Apartments in Vineyard Haven to pick up the indomitable Eileen Cronin for her weekly food shopping trip to down-Island Cronig’s Market on State Road.

Mr. Adell is one of several dozen volunteers at Vineyard Village at Home (VVH) who make independent living possible for about 120 Island seniors. He is 77 now, fit and enthusiastic.

He has had a big life as a globe-trotting corporate executive and successful entrepreneur. He did not expect the personal payoff he’s received as a VVH volunteer.

“These people are phenomenal. I learn so much from them. Amazing life stories. This service is not a task for me, it’s an opportunity. I’ve made friendships through (VVH) volunteering,” he said. Ms. Cronin, ready to go, greets Mr. Adell and a reporter at her door.

Now in her early 80s, Ms. Cronin has had a lifetime of being ready. The Melrose native’s husband, a Monsanto engineer, died unexpectedly in his mid-forties, leaving his wife and four children. Ms. Cronin went to work, became the financial aid officer at Middlesex Community College and raised the kids. The Wall of Fame in her apartment is adorned with pictures of happy faces of these successful kids and their families, including Island businesswoman and community service volunteer Kate Desrosiers.

Ms. Cronin shows up as a happy, forward-looking woman with inbred Mom genes. On the way to the Honda she reminds a reporter to retie his shoe. “You don’t want to trip on the laces,” she said. On the four-minute drive to Cronig’s, Mr. Adell and Ms. Cronin catch up on life and kids. At Cronig’s, Ms. Cronin grabs a cart and heads inside while Mr. Adell and I repair to the Black Dog Cafe for coffee and a chat.

“We really need more volunteers,” Mr. Adell said. “This is a wonderful experience. There’s a bonding and friendship that occurs. I have six or eight people that I see on a regular basis.” He offered snapshots of the lives of several of his new friends, including several who survived the rigors of World War II in Europe.

Mr. Adell’s stories bring to mind Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, about the people born in the first half of the 20th Century who are now America’s senior citizens. He said he enjoys the social aspect of this generation of accomplished people, watching them change as they interact with the world they worked to create.

“You can just see them emerge in public and social settings, see their strength and humanity,” he said.

Back at Cronig’s, Ms. Cronin was at the checkout line, just in front of Marjory Potts, a West Tisbury senior who is shopping in advance of a memorial celebration last weekend for her husband, Robert Potts, a New York and West Tisbury journalist who died last month.

Hilarity ensues in the check-out line, even causing those in the queue to smile and chuckle. “I’ll tell you, the help Vineyard Village gave to Robert and me was enormous,” Ms. Potts said. Volunteers came and sat and talked, and later in his illness, they would read to him,” she said.

In the obituary for her print and radio journalist husband, Ms. Potts solicited volunteers to VVH service.

One reason VVH needs more help is that the organization has been ahead of the demographic curve. According to a report issued by the University of Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard has the oldest population in Massachusetts and the 2010 over-65 population of 16 per cent will be become 32 percent by 2030.

A nonprofit startup, founded by Polly Brown of Tisbury in 2007, VVH provides services that enable seniors to live independently. Island volunteers, many of them seniors themselves, provide rides, social interaction and access to the community for nearly 120 Island residents. VVH is modeled after the Beacon Hill Village in Boston, a model for 70 grassroots senior service organizations nationwide.

The point, Ms. Brown said, is to allow well-functioning seniors to stay in their homes and participate in their communities. “We provide referrals for home maintenance, health care workers, food preparation and the like. Mostly, we drive people to places they want to go — exercise class, discussion groups, medical and beauty appointments, friends’ homes, grocery shopping, etc.

“We rely on volunteers to drive our members. On a recent Tuesday, we needed 16 drivers! We do about 50 rides a week, every week,” Ms. Brown told The Times in a recent email.

“We began in January 2007. We used the Beacon Hill Village as a model and did some focus groups here, asking people what they wanted and needed,” Ms. Brown said in an interview this week.

“There has been rapid growth in the aging population and a lot of people live off long dirt roads,” she said. “Summer is not such a problem. Winter can be lonely; many people limit their night driving, but we like to get people out. We try to have parties, which makes it difficult to transport a large group back but we go to the high school culinary arts center, for example.”

The volunteer process is simple. “Tell us what you want to do,” Ms. Brown said. “We have a Google spreadsheet volunteers can access for signups. Volunteers choose what they want to do when they can help. There is no particular schedule.

”It’s quite remarkable to see how many volunteers and clients become friends. A young woman who volunteers with us visits a woman who has become a surrogate grandmother and participates in holiday and family celebrations.

“What we are really doing is giving back to Island residents who have given so much themselves to the community.”

Last Tuesday, as we left Ms. Cronin chuckling over our bumbling attempts to hang living room curtains, Mr. Adell said, with a laugh: “Know what? I’m going to keep doing this until they’re driving me around.”

Residents who wish to look into VVH service may call Ms. Brown at 508-693-3038, or email her at vineyardvillage@gmail.com.

Jimmy DiMattia reaches for a can of cranberries at the Island Food Pantry. —Photo by Michael Cummo

“They’re here! Hooray for our boys!” Cheers exploded from the patient crowd outside of The First Baptist Church Parish House on Friday afternoon as MVRHS Football team members arrived in proud procession to help hand out Thanksgiving dinners to Martha’s Vineyard families in need.

“That’s our Island,” one grateful recipient said. “Our ties are unbreakable, even when life feels insurmountable.”
When Norman Rockwell painted Freedom From Want, his iconic tableau of an American family crowded around the white-draped table brimming with plenty, the Thanksgiving meal of golden turkey and all its sumptuous trimmings became grafted upon our cultural definition of the uniquely American holiday. Yet for many families around the country, and hundreds of our own Island community, the requisite Thanksgiving feast would be missing from their family’s picture if not for Serving Hands and Family to Family food distribution outreach.
Betty Burton the oordinator for the past 11 years, leads a generous team of volunteers to manage a thousand details of fundraising, ordering, organizing, storage, delivery, and distributing hefty 50-plus pound bags of ingredients to Vineyard families.
“There is so much that goes on behind the scenes before the people walk in to collect their food, and this year we served nearly 200 individuals with produce and meat that will feed 600,” Burton explained. “Each person walked away with an 11-12 pound turkey, stuffing mix, sweet and russet potatoes, apples, oranges, canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce, two butternut squashes, parsnips, cabbage, and lots of beautiful Island kale.”
The bounty of food is delivered to the grateful Serving Hands pantry through direct donations from farms, the Greater Boston Food Bank, Cronig’s, Reliable Market, and active Island fundraising efforts. “Whippoorwill Farm and Morning Glory Farm each gave us 500 pounds of potatoes, gleaned by The Island Grown Gleaners, not to mention 700 pounds of butternut squash, multicolored carrots and kale. I think everyone walked out with kale this year!”
As Ms. Burton describes the efforts made by her team to make this giving possible, she is energetic and emotional. “You have to grow a different kind of heart,” she said of her own motivation to spearhead Serving Hands, “you never know where life will take you, and you may end up needing these services somewhere along the way. This is what we need to do for our neighbors, our community.”

Ms. Burton describes the Family to Family holiday dinner donation effort as a “truly beautiful community happening –– everyone is friendly, on both sides of the line, there is no shame in needing help.”

She saw a rise in need in response to the financial crisis of 2008-09. “We have skilled people, professionals, who got laid off at that time and because of their age they haven’t been able to bounce back and find new positions,” she said.

While much of the country continues to face economic hardship, many of the meal recipients are unique to the Vineyard economy. “We have the seasonal jobless, coming off of summer and now just trying to make it by,” she said. “We have the disabled and the elderly, I especially think of them, because so many have health costs and limited transport… this time of year makes it hard to have family or grandchildren over for a holiday dinner.”
Trying to get as much food into as many hands as possible, Ms. Burton and her team of volunteers packed pounds of produce and meat into reusable bags, waiting to serve the families who could brave the biting cold. While waiting to enter, an Oak Bluffs resident said, “This is who we are as an Island, it’s all about unity. There would be no Thanksgiving at my house without this generosity.”
Burton explained the strict income guidelines and eligibility required to participate in the service, “but I actually recognize and know most of these families now, so while we are required to have a sign-in sheet, we do everything we can to erase that stigma. Anyone who thinks someone is cheating the system by coming here, I say, would you want to come down and stand in line? It’s not easy. We do everything to make it feel like family… because it is.”
While generous donations come from the farms and Island grocers, it is the individual giving which serves as the cornerstone of this holiday meal effort. “It’s not corporate, it’s direct, your family buys another family a meal” Ms. Burton said. “And this is the time: we only do the fundraising once a year and I need to meet the needs for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter right now.”

Ms. Burton said she is often given checks from people while she is out doing errands, but unfortunately “this year we are a bit behind for our goals.”
She said that out of all the essentials donated to make Friday a success, perhaps the most endearing were from the First Baptist Preschool housed above the Serving Hands food pantry. “The older preschoolers painted the hands of the younger children and handprinted small white paper bags, each filled with potatoes they had actually grown in their garden,” she said. “See? The whole thing just encompasses what Thanksgiving is about.”
While Ms. Burton waits for an angel donor to step up and build a new facility to house vital community outreach conducted by the closely associated Center For Living and future Serving Hands food distribution, she is “extremely grateful to The First Baptist Church as well as the drivers for Island Grown who delivered food this week to dozens of up-Island families who had no way of making it down to Vineyard Haven.”
“Thanks to all our friends and neighbors, hundreds of our Island community will be grateful this Thanksgiving,” remarked a volunteer standing at the door on Friday. When Ms. Burton closed the doors by 4 pm she said, “It’s empty. We have three cases of vegetarian beans left. That’s it. We gave it all.”
Digesting the ubiquitous turkey dinner on Thursday will be easier knowing the spirit of our Vineyard community reigned on Friday, thanks to Serving Hands and all its supporters, to remind us all what the holiday is truly about.

If you would like to contribute to Serving Hands and Family to Family send a check to Vineyard Committee on Hunger, PO BOX 4685, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.

Rockfish opens in Edgartown Tuesday. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Tuesday will mark the opening night of Rockfish, the new eatery and bar at 11 North Water Street in Edgartown, former home of Eleven North and David Ryan’s restaurants. While the address is the same, the place most certainly is not.

Nell, Will, and Geoghan Coogan are the owners, the sibling trio that have been part of The Wharf’s continued success since 2004. “We all have different personalities and experiences working in the business, at The Wharf and elsewhere in the country,” Nell Coogan said. “We all come at it from a different angle, know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and we’ve hired a stellar staff. We’ll be here for people in the winter and we’re excited to provide something warm, fun, and different.”

The pizza oven from the former Lattanzi's restaurant is now the centerpiece of Rockfish. —Photo by Michael Cummo
The pizza oven is the centerpiece of Rockfish. —Photo by Michael Cummo

While Rockfish is only steps away from The Wharf, it feels a world away, and it’s obvious that the owners have created something unique. The space itself has been noticeably transformed. The downstairs bar has been rebuilt out of whiskey barrel staves and brought into the middle of the room, creating a stunning focal point. Upstairs, you’ll notice the newly vaulted ceiling, exposing beautiful beams, reclaimed hemlock, and refined ducting. In the corner is a wood-fired oven that was once at Lattanzi’s. This summer, the oven was moved to Rockfish and dropped in from the ceiling. Now, it is beautifully enclosed by inlaid brick. Surrounding the oven is a stunning copper bar supported by bourbon barrels, which emanated the liquor’s scent when cut to fit the space.

John Roberts of Island Food Realty, LLC, and Island craftsmen Bruce Stewart and Alex Young contributed to Rockfish’s impressive new look. There’s brick, glass, and dark wood accents throughout, illuminated by the warm, inviting glow of Edison lightbulb fixtures. The decor is rustic but contemporary, at the intersection of an Edgartown tavern and a Brooklyn whiskey bar. Call it what you will, it’s a place you’ll want to stay.

The floorplan has been rearranged and there’s increased bar seating, even more bar seats than tables. The vibe is upscale yet casual and the space makes it an ideal spot for a date night or a girls night out, versus the family-oriented dining scene at The Wharf.

“When our family took over The Wharf we walked right in and it was a turn-key operation, we didn’t change much of the place,” Ms. Coogan said. “This has been exciting, we’re starting from scratch. It’s pretty fun.”

The name Rockfish came about during the team’s brainstorming process and it just seemed right. Finally, a name all of the owners could agree on, unlike ‘Two Brothers Tavern’ which despite her brother’s best efforts, Nell just couldn’t accept. Rockfish is also another name for striped bass, an homage to seafood on the Vineyard, as well as ‘the rock’ slang associated with the Island.

Adam Rebello, an Island native and former assistant manager at Farm Neck Golf Club joins the Coogans as General Manager. Mr. Rebello has known the Coogan family since he was six years old, and though it was a hard decision to leave Farm Neck, he knew it was the right one. At the helm of the kitchen staff is chef John Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd previously headed the kitchen at The Wharf. The Coogans called upon him this summer to return to The Wharf and he was hooked by the opportunity to open Rockfish. “Once I saw this place I was sold. I was out of retirement, and back in the game,” Mr. Shepherd said. This is going to be a big deal.”

Mr. Shepherd won’t be the only one with head chef on his resume — he hired a who’s-who of culinary talent in the area. Ms. Coogan describes it as “a kitchen full of top chef material. There’s a lot of potential here.” So what will all of these head chefs be cooking?

Edgartown's newest bar. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Edgartown’s newest bar. —Photo by Michael Cummo

The menu runs the gamut, from bar snacks like Marcona almonds to small plates of shrimp, bacon, and grits, and traditional entree-sized meals. One that’s sure to be a favorite is the seafood paella packed with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams over saffron rice. Then of course there’s the flatbread pizza, served hot and fresh from the wood fired oven, with toppings such as baby clams, chorizo, sausage, mashed potatoes, arugula, ricotta cheese and more. When the oven isn’t pumping out pizzas, it will be roasting homemade marshmallows for s’mores off the dessert menu, or burning wood for the late night crowd after food service.

The menu will start small but will be constantly evolving. “It will be new and fresh all the time, I’ll keep a rolodex of recipes and we’ll go back and revisit ones that were loved, and we’ll refine them” Mr. Shepherd said. The menu boasts flavors and influences from North Africa, Asia, Morocco, the Mediterranean, and the South. No taste is off limits and the diversity in menu offerings lends itself to sharing. The option of ordering smaller plates and sampling several different things will allow diners to experience the range of the menu. The food service is similar to tapas style, where diners will be encouraged to share food and items will arrive as they’re prepared. Typical coursing can also be requested, but management is excited about offering this more interactive family style or “party style” of dining.

To compliment the food, the restaurant boasts two full bars, an extensive 40 plus bottle wine list, and a menu of classic and contemporary signature cocktails. Especially appealing is the Pear Bubbly, made with Grey Goose Pear, St. Germain, fresh lemon juice and homemade simple syrup. There’s also staples like old fashioned, and espresso martini plus a few dark liquor concoctions good for staying warm in the winter.

Rockfish will be open year round for dinner from 5:30 – 10 pm. The bar will remain open until 1am. Reservations accepted for parties of 8 or more only. For more information call 508-627-9966.

Note: The opening of Rockfish, originally scheduled for Monday, Nov. 24, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, November 25.

 

The victory puts the Vineyard up 19-17 in the longtime inter-island rivalry.

Ben Clark smiles as he hoists the Island Cup.

In a defensive game with plenty of fouls by both teams,  Martha’s Vineyard beat Nantucket 21-7 on Saturday afternoon in the annual Island cup football game. Mike Mussell, breaking a Vineyard passing record, threw for two touchdowns to Jacob Cardoza.

From left, William deBettencourt, Julie Pringle and Josh Baker sit on top of an Edgartown fire truck and watch the Island Cup football game. Trucks from West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown showed up to cheer on the Vineyarders.
From left, William deBettencourt, Julie Pringle and Josh Baker sit on top of an Edgartown fire truck and watch the Island Cup football game. Trucks from West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown showed up to cheer on the Vineyarders.

Hundreds of fans — Vineyarders and a robust cheering section from Nantucket — filled the stands at Dan McCarthy Field at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, on a sunny but chilly November day.

Veterans were honored before the game and during halftime.
Veterans were honored before the game and during halftime.

The first quarter remained scoreless, but Ben Clark changed that at the start of the second quarter when he plunged over the goal line for a touchdown. James Sashin’s extra point  made it 7-0, Vineyard.

The score remained the same until 6:07 on the clock in the third quarter, when Nantucket tied it up 7-7.  The game stayed a nailbiter until Mike Mussell found receiver Jacob Cardoza for another touchdown, and Sashin kicked the extra point to make it 14-7, Martha’s Vineyard.

From left, Paul Mayhew, Jacob Cardoza, Austin Chandler and Andy DiMattia celebrate the third MV touchdown, putting the game out of reach for Nantucket.
From left, Paul Mayhew, Jacob Cardoza, Austin Chandler and Andy DiMattia celebrate the third MV touchdown, putting the game out of reach for Nantucket.

With 7:17 left in the fourth, the Vineyard recovered the ball on a bad snap on a Nantucket punt and at 5:56, it was Mussell to Cardoza again, extra point good, and MV was up 21-7 for the final.

Over three and one-half decades, Island Cup dominance has ebbed and flowed. The Vineyarders have won the last nine Island Cup games and the Whalers enjoyed a 9-1 run before Mr. Herman took the Vineyarder helm 28 years ago. This year’s victory gives the Vineyard a 19-17 edge in the rivalry.

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The Magnusons have been married for 46 years.

In an occasional series, some great Island couples tell us how they’ve made marriages last. We salute the stamina, love, good will and compromise required of couples who stay together for a long time. Debbie and Eric Magnuson were married on October 12, 1968, at the Lambert’s Cove Church.

How did you meet? Eric was my sister’s classmate. He is five years older, and I knew him from West Tisbury School.

Who proposed and how? It was a mutual decision — we went together two years.

The Magnusons started dating, and got married, in the sixties. — Photos courtesy of Deb & Eric Mag
The Magnusons started dating, and got married, in the sixties. — Photos courtesy of Deb & Eric Mag

Describe your Vineyard wedding. Small — Lambert’s Cove Church doesn’t hold too many people, so some guests were just invited to the reception at Chilmark Community Center. Decorations were big crepe paper flowers and streamers. We had an Island band, my Dad knew them. Annie Kelly, good family friend, catered it with simple food and punch. My Dad, who liked his drinks, snuck a bottle of something into one bowl of punch and almost gave Annie a heart attack — she was a teetotaller.

How many children? Did any of them stay here? We have two children. Sara was our firstborn and she has given us two wonderful grandchildren — Ashleigh, 20,  and Michael, 17. She lives very near us with her husband, Paul, and the kids. Eric, our second child, has a wonderful family. Wife, Ginger, and boys Ryan, 16, and Owen, 13. They live in Burlington. And we see them as much as we can.

Do you both work? Eric has retired from carpentry but does caretaking, and we have an orchard so that keeps him busy. Debbie had a career of 31 years as a hairdresser, and retired to take care of the babies, newborn to three years. My dream job!

Briefly describe your years together – the good, the bad, and the wonderful….. 45 years of wedded bliss? Yes, most of the time!

The Good: Parenting together, but that was also challenging! We had trips with the kids, trips with just the two of us, which we believe are important. We’ve had a few surgeries but are basically healthy, and looking forward to many more years together.

Has the Vineyard been the best place to live your lives together? A resounding YES!

Why? We both were born here and love the Island, the seasons, the people. I love that when I go to the store or the PO I always run into friends to chat with for a minute. The Island pulls together for others in tragedy and illness. We feel so lucky to live where we do in W.T.

If you had one piece of advice to a couple about to be married, what would it be? Trust, respect, love, care, Golden Rule, go on short trips together — no kids. And date night.

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Locally crafted gifts, like SoFree Aromatics, pictured here in 2013, can be found at the Vineyard Holiday Gift Show. —Photo by Susan Safford

With lights already strung, Christmas commercials on TV, and holiday songs in the air, it can only mean one thing: time to shop! And while those on the mainland may be lining up for sales at big box stores and fighting the crowds in shopping malls, Vineyarders can enjoy a much more laid-back holiday shopping experience. The kick off to the shopping season on Island includes lots of options for checking out flea markets, pop-up shops, and crafts fairs. While shopping for unique gifts you can also help support local businesses, nonprofits, and  Vineyard artists and artisans.

This weekend

Friday, November 21, marks the opening of the annual Holiday Gift Show at the Featherstone Center for the Arts. The preview party from 6 to 8 pm will feature sweet treats and a chance to meet many of the participants. Over 60 artists and craftspeople — a record number — have contributed items this year, including artwork, cards, calendars, ornaments, jewelry, pottery, scarves, fleece wear, and handmade chocolates. The show continues on a daily basis from 12 noon to 4 pm until December 21. Proceeds from the sale are split between the artists and Featherstone.

Every Christmas season, the United Methodist Church in the Campground hosts a Holiday Fair featuring food and shopping. On Saturday, November 22, the parish house will be transformed with vendors selling flea market finds, hand knits, homemade ornaments and other craft items, baked goods, and lots of second-hand jewelry while the cafe sells hot dogs, clam chowder, meatball subs and more. It’s a festive event that helps set the holiday mood. Vendor space is still available. Call the Church Office at 508-693-4424 for information. Fair open from 9 am to 2 pm.

The American Legion will also host their annual Thanksgiving Christmas Bazaar on Saturday. Along with lots of white elephant finds and baked goods, shoppers can purchase raffle tickets for some great mixed packages of goods, or try their luck with the country store mini-raffle items. Open from 10 am to 1 pm at the American Legion Hall, Vineyard Haven.

On Saturday afternoon, an informal group of moms and kids will be hosting a benefit for Heifer International, which aims to eradicate world hunger and poverty by donating livestock to impoverished families to provide food, income, and sustainable resources for other village families. At down-Island Cronigs, 3–6 pm, the kids will be selling their crafts while the moms will offer baked goods. Of the joint effort, organizer Emily Solarazza of Vineyard Haven says, “It’s a way for the kids to be involved. It really helps make it more understandable.”

The Vineyard Holiday Gift Shop will open its doors on Saturday, November 22, on Spring Street in Vineyard Haven. Among the items made by local artists and artisans, the store will carry ornaments, jewelry, handbags, ceramics, preserves, dog biscuits, candles, skin care products, wreaths, metalwork, and much more. Open every day through Christmas Eve from 10 am to 6 pm.

On Sunday November 23, the M.V. Hebrew Center will host their second annual Artist Holiday Sale. A number of Vineyard artists and artisans will participate, selling jewelry, ceramics, glass, soaps, leatherware, handbags, photography, art, herbal treatments and flavored oils. It’s a great opportunity to get a sneak peek at what various Vineyard artisans are offering for holiday gift giving. Open from 11 am to 3 pm at the Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven.

Thanksgiving weekend

On Friday, November 28, the seasonal Oak Bluffs Open Market will move indoors to the roomy Dreamland space above Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company. Multiple vendors will offer everything from jewelry, wampum, pottery and other handcrafts to antiques and artwork. The summer market is a combination of flea and farmer’s market and the indoor version will also include vendors selling local honey, baked goods, and homemade chocolates. There will be a raffle, live music, and refreshments for sale. Call 508-939-1076 to find out about vendor space.

If you didn’t get a chance to visit the Vineyard Artisans Festival over the summer, this weekend (Friday and Saturday, Nov. 28 and 29) is your chance. Every year dozens of the Festival’s artists and artisans relocate from the Grange Hall to the spacious Ag Hall to offer their wares. The selection reflects the variety of artistic pursuits engaged in on the Island. Among the unique gift items to be found are jewelry, pottery, clothing, handmade soaps, Island lavender, wooden, metal and glass items, along with paintings and photography. The participants have had the time to create new works since the last summer event and many offer Christmas ornaments or other holiday items. You can easily spend an afternoon browsing and getting to know some of the Island’s talented artists. There’s a playground out back to keep the kids occupied while you shop. $2 parking fee benefits a scholarship fund for MVRHS students. Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.

More from Island artists can be found at a pop-up shop featuring the work of painter Colin Ruel and jeweler Nettie Kent. They will be showing Mr. Ruel’s beautiful landscapes and abstract works along with Ms. Kent’s unique pieces made from brass, gold, leather and stones at the Harbor Craft Shop next to the Bite at 31 Basin Road, Menemsha. Open Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 pm.

The Antiques Show and Sale will hold its last event of the year Thanksgiving weekend at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. Find unique gifts among the many vendors including those specializing in vintage jewelry, antique tools, maritime collectibles, linens, old books, cottage and Danish Modern furniture, Vineyard memorabilia, artwork, and much more. Friday and Saturday 9-3.