Featured Home

Firefighters hose down a smokey brush fire at the Keene pit in West Tisbury Tuesday night.

Firefighters from four towns were called to a roaring brush fire at the Keene Excavation brush pit off Old Stage Rd. at approximately 8 pm on Tuesday night.

West Tisbury fire chief Manny Estrella said extinguishing the blaze required mutual aid from Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Chilmark. It took 30 firefighters approximately five hours to put out the fire.

“We flowed from 250,000 to 300,000 gallons of water,” Chief Estrella told The Times. “It was a pretty big fire.”  One firefighter was treated for dehydration at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and released Wednesday morning. Since there was no property damage, Chief Estrella said there will be no further investigation into the cause, which he thinks started in a wood chip pile, most likely from a discarded cigarette.

The Oak Bluffs wastewater treatment plant processed 30.3 million gallons of sewage in 2013. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 6:20 pm, Friday

At a recent meeting of the Oak Bluffs Wastewater Commission on October 15, members of the Oak Bluffs Association (OBA), several of them among the town’s largest users, expressed their unhappiness with the current rate structure. They also charged that the town had, over a six-year period, mistakenly drawn over $650,000 from the wastewater enterprise fund, money that should have been used to defray system costs, and as a result the largest users paid more than their fair share.

A closer examination of their complaints revealed that several years ago the confluence of dire financial times and the untimely death of town treasurer Paul Manzi contributed to an accounting oversight, in which a one time emergency transfer from the wastewater enterprise fund repeated for an additional four years.

A look across the state reveals that Oak Bluffs has one  of the highest sewage rates in Massachusetts. As the town considers additional sewering to address the rapidly declining health of water bodies, business owners who contend they’ve already shouldered an inordinate amount of the town sewering costs want to see changes in the department’s operation and rate structure.

Punitive rates
Oak Bluffs wastewater customers are billed on an ascending scale, meaning the price per gallon goes up as usage increases. OBA board director Terry McCarthy said the ascending scale places an undue burden on the larger businesses, especially restaurants and hotels, that already contribute considerable excise tax revenue to town coffers. “From a big user’s point of view, the ascending scale is punitive,” Mr. McCarthy, a former state representative who has harborside commercial interests, told The Times. “They say it’s to make people conserve, but I think that argument is a little specious. With a flat rate, you pay more if you use more, so that incentive is still there. This is particularly hard on restaurants and hotels. If you run a large hotel, what do you do? Make people take shorter showers?”

“The ascending rate structure is endorsed by Department of Environmental Protection because it encourages people to save water,” wastewater commissioner and selectman Gail Barmakian told The Times.  “Some very big users have saved considerable amounts of water, and saved themselves a lot of money, so it does work. Also, you have to consider that being hooked up to wastewater has allowed some businesses to expand and become more profitable. That’s a service to the town as well, but it gives them an advantage.”
About one third of Massachusetts communities bill on an ascending scale, according to the 2012 Tighe and Bond Massachusetts sewer rate survey.

Oak Bluffs property owners are charged a penny a gallon for the first 40,000 gallons used per annum and the rate goes up in 40,000 gallon increments until it tops out at 2.8 cents a gallon for 360,001 gallons and above. There is no difference between commercial and residential rates. Usage rates have not increased since the system went into operation on April 1, 2002.

According to the Tighe and Bond survey, the average yearly charge for sewage in Oak Bluffs was $1,020. The state average was $646. Only 12 percent of communities in the survey averaged $1,000 or more per year. Comparatively, the Edgartown annual average was $520, according to the survey. Tisbury, was not listed in the survey, but according to the town website, the department of public works charges a flat fee of 3.1 cents per gallon.

Sludge is costly
Lisa Merritt, an Oak Bluffs wastewater department administrator and lab technician who’s been with the department since its inception, told The Times there are many reasons why Oak Bluffs sewage rates rank among the highest in the state. “We have to ship our sludge off Island, which costs over $80,000 a year,” she said. “We run a sequencing batch reactor plant (SBR), which is expensive because it requires over 300 grinder pumps, working 24/7, and they need maintenance 24/7. An SBR plant has the smallest footprint and it’s the cheapest to build, but it’s also the least cost-effective in the long run.  Another reason is our effluent — the treated water — is pumped under Ocean Park, which is extremely expensive. Edgartown uses open pits.”

Burdensome betterments
In addition to usage fees, Oak Bluffs wastewater customers pay betterment fees, which cover the actual cost of installing the sewering and thereby “bettering” their property. Betterment fees were initially $10,000 for residences and $20,000 for businesses. In 2007, betterment fees were recalculated based on usage, again hitting the biggest users the hardest.

According to Peter Martell, owner of the 95-room Wesley Hotel, the largest hotel in Oak Bluffs, his betterment fee increased 1000 percent. “The original price for betterments was $10,000 for a residence and $20,000 for a business,” Mr. Martell told The Times. “The state didn’t like that formula for some reason. So my betterment bill went from $20,000 to $200,000 in one year.”

Ms. Merritt said the initial betterment fees were always noted as temporary. “You cannot give a final betterment figure until all of the final bills are tallied when a new wastewater system or any large project is complete,” she wrote in an email to The Times. “It was explained to everyone that the [initial] estimates had been recalculated using water usage and included the final numbers for the completion of building the new wastewater treatment plant. In the case of the Wesley Hotel, the betterment was $168,675.69,” Ms. Merritt wrote. “The new betterment figure started the 20-year repayment period over again in 2007, subtracting what was paid between 2002 and 2007 with a repayment interest rate of 2 percent.”

Room to flow
According to Mr. McCarthy, who was a member of the first Oak Bluffs wastewater committee, it was assumed the treatment plant would need to expand its footprint for additional sewering around the ponds, the harbor, and other critical areas. As a result, they purchased a five-acre lot directly across Pennsylvania Ave., known as the Leonardo property. But when it came time to make the payment in FY 2009, the town was broke.

“When the first year principal was due, [town administrator] Michael Dutton and [town treasurer] Paul Manzi went to wastewater begging us to help pay just this one time,” Mr. McCarthy said.

According to the minutes from the March 12, 2008 water commissioners meeting, “Paul Manzi also requested that the Wastewater Department pay the Leonardo property loan payment this year and for one year only because the Town is in a budget shortfall. The loan payment is approximately $136,000.”

At town meeting in April 2008 (FY 2009), the town approved an article to pay for the Leonardo property. “This year only, the wastewater department will be paying for the principal and interest for the purchase of the Leonardo property,” voters were told in the executive summary.

“We were told this was a one time deal to get the town out of a tight spot,” Mr. McCarthy said. “But subsequent to that in [FY] 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014, the payments continued and nobody was ever told. Never once did anybody, from the finance committee or the selectmen go to the wastewater commission and say, ‘By the way, we’re going to just tap these payments out of your account.’

“Since the money is controlled by the town, even though it’s our fund, it’s very frustrating. There was a total of $794,871 taken out of our account, of which only $136,500 was actually authorized by wastewater commissioners. Somebody made the decision to quietly and covertly make these payments in subsequent years, but no one was told these amounts were being appropriated from the Wastewater Retained Earnings Fund.”

After investigating Mr. McCarthy’s claims, town accountant Arthur Gallagher told The Times that Mr. McCarthy was essentially correct, except that the town, not the wastewater commission, covered the $117,125 mortgage payment in FY 2014.

Mr. Gallagher, who became town accountant in March 2012, said he could only speculate on why the wastewater enterprise fund was repeatedly tapped for the Leonardo property purchase. “What I think occurred is with the death of Mr. Manzi, no one in the Town’s administration knew the terms of the agreement and therefore continued to charge wastewater 100 percent of the pay down,” he wrote to The Times. “Additionally, the consultants hired to fill this void would not be charged with changing and or setting new policies. Not being present during [that] period, this is all supposition on my part.”

Mr. Gallagher said the town will pay off the rest of the loan. “Typically these payments would be split 50-50 with the town,” he said. “Wastewater made the paid first five payments and we’re paying the last five that will be reduced in budget moving forward.”

Water under the bridge
“We’re not pointing a finger at anyone,” OBA vice president Renee Balter said. “We discovered this problem and think it should be given some thought.” Ms. Balter also said that future town meeting appropriation articles should close the loophole that says, “or to take from any other source.”

Some business owners would like to see reduced rates to make up for the yeoman’s share they’ve paid over the years. “If they’ve been taking $100,000 plus every year it stands to reason they could give a reduced rate, or increased flow, to the high gallonage people,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Mr. Martell concurred. “The bottom line is our fees should be dropped,” he said. “I give them the benefit of the doubt, they can’t drop it much. The only way to do that is to expand the system, and the town needs to do that to save the ponds. Hopefully it’s not too late.”

Mr. McCarthy said that the current town sewering and treatment plant are greatly diminished versions of what he and some of the original wastewater commission advocated. “There was a contingent, which I was a part of, that wanted to sewer most of the town, and there was a strong contingent that wanted to kill the whole thing, because they thought sewering would encourage development and ruin the environment,” he said. “Now we’re trying to figure out ways to sewer areas near the Lagoon, Sunset Lake, Crystal Lake, and Sengekontacket, and we’re going to pay a helluva lot more for it than we would have back then. That’s water under the bridge. Moving forward we have to work with commissioners and selectmen to develop a long-range plan to increase treatment capacity, and we have to act quickly.”

Correction: A reference to the Edgartown wastewater plant in an earlier version of this story mischaracterized some of that plant’s operations and accounting systems. There is no additional drain charge. Bills are calculated by the current charge of $68 per drain. The Edgartown system is not almost entirely a gravity collection system. In fact, of the 1,100 accounts there are more than 400 grinder pumps. Edgartown did not avoid sludge shipping costs and spent $110,000 to ship and dispose of 675 tons of sludge off-Island in FY14. Lastly, while a filter press reduces transport costs, the processing and disposal of septic tank waste and the sludge generated from it are operating costs for the facility ($65,000 in FY14). Revenue from septic haulers does not go into the facility’s operating budget, but is returned to the town’s general fund.

by -
0
Island voters went to the polls yesterday and mostly followed statewide trends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballot Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 Election Results (Updated November 7 at 10am)

Aquinnah

Chilmark

Edgartown

Oak Bluffs

Tisbury

West Tisbury

Gosnold

Island Totals

U.S. Senate

x

Edward J. Markey (D)

171

403

1063

1205

1180

1112

27

5134

Brian J. Herr (R)

22

98

607

556

422

286

19

1991

Governor

x

Baker and Polito (R)

40

136

731

677

516

369

24

2469

Coakley and Kerrigan (D)

147

344

894

1037

1051

984

20

4457

Falchuk and Jennings (United Independent)

6

16

41

57

34

35

1

189

Lively and Saunders (I)

3

2

14

10

8

7

44

McCormick and Post (I)

3

5

16

17

19

16

76

Attorney General

x

Maura Healey (D)

166

402

1031

1188

1163

1096

24

5046

John B. Miller (R)

25

96

618

557

420

284

20

2000

Secretary of State

x

William Francis Galvin (D)

160

386

1153

1258

1182

1090

25

5229

David D’ArCangelo (R)

15

77

441

430

314

223

17

1500

Daniel L. Factor (Green-Rainbow)

16

27

54

56

89

66

2

308

Treasurer

x

Deborah B. Goldberg (D)

143

336

920

1025

1025

969

17

4418

Michael James Heffernan (R)

25

105

628

581

436

301

24

2076

Ian T. Jackson (Green-Rainbow)

18

40

55

75

100

76

1

364

Auditor

x

Suzanne M. Bump (D)

144

339

934

1060

1016

967

21

4460

Patricia S. Saint Aubin (R)

20

101

571

531

406

276

20

1905

MK Merelice (Green-Rainbow)

14

36

69

76

105

71

1

371

Representative in Congress

x

William Richard Keating (D)

163

405

1064

1201

1168

1108

22

5109

John C. Chapman (R)

26

93

592

552

423

289

22

1975

Governor’s Council, First District

x

Joseph C. Ferreira (D)

145

382

1126

1229

1193

1029

29

5104

Senator in General Court

x

Daniel A. Wolf (D)

164

399

1073

1196

1193

1128

23

5153

Ronald R. Beaty, Jr. (R)

20

90

544

513

376

234

20

1777

Representative in General Court

x

Timothy R. Madden (D)

166

425

1210

1333

1300

1151

32

5585

District Attorney

x

Michael D. O’Keefe (R)

53

176

869

814

669

487

24

3068

Richard G. Barry (D)

130

303

741

883

868

828

16

3753

Register of Probate

x

Elizabeth J. Herrmann (R)

101

295

1172

1142

1038

795

35

4543

County Treasurer

x

Noreen Mavro Flanders (unenrolled)

123

362

1121

1189

1170

951

32

4948

County Commissioner

x

John S. Alley (D)

132

329

940

1064

1037

886

26

4388

x

Leon Arthur Brathwaite (D)

115

281

785

870

881

774

26

3706

x

Tristan Israel (Unenrolled)

136

326

936

955

1051

871

26

4275

x

David Jeffrey Holway (D)

106

265

835

831

861

730

24

3628

x

Christine Todd (write-in)

12

23

71

86

98

290

x

Leonard Jason, Jr. (write in)

11

21

70

60

90

252

x

Gretchen Underwood

7

14

27

50

40

138

Martha’s Vineyard Commission

x

Clarence A. Barnes, III

134

358

1147

1149

1139

957

4884

x

Christina Brown

110

307

1045

959

938

837

4196

x

Joshua Seth Goldstein

104

286

825

863

885

768

3731

x

Ernest Douglas Sederholm

103

314

847

865

866

808

3803

x

Linda Bauer Sibley

115

305

838

877

922

805

3862

x

Robert McMillen Doyle

105

289

779

808

869

736

3586

x

Fred J. Hancock

93

244

815

950

824

678

3604

x

Abraham L. Seiman

91

232

759

868

778

652

3380

x

James Vercruysse

144

293

786

839

851

744

3657

Up-Island School Committee

x

Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter

116

309

939

1364

x

Michael Marcus

95

279

784

1158

Roxanne Ackerman (write-in)

35

26

29

90

x

Kate DeVane (write-in)

21

39

349

409

x

Robert Lionette (write-in)

24

66

93

183

x

Theresa Manning (write-in)

72

75

227

374

West Tisbury Town Moderator

x

Daniel Waters

1304

1304

Chilmark Proposition 2.5 exemption (Road Repairs)

x

Yes

308

308

No

110

110

Question 1 (Gasoline Tax)

x

Yes

90

211

844

827

748

558

17

3278

No

93

273

783

887

788

763

27

3587

Question 2 (Bottle Returns)

Yes

90

279

576

626

590

665

18

2826

x

No

106

222

1092

1136

1023

725

27

4304

Question 3 (Repeal Casinos)

Yes

127

379

904

839

928

857

30

4034

x

No

68

118

750

900

674

516

15

3026

Question 4 (Earned Sick Time)

x

Yes

120

288

866

969

1001

855

25

4099

No

52

159

762

749

583

501

12

2806

Question 5 (Pilgrim Nuclear Plant) (not binding)

x

Yes

135

344

1004

1097

1129

984

21

4693

No

28

72

414

430

327

239

11

1510

Voter turnout:

Total votes cast:

200

511

1716

1819

1657

1437

7340

Percentage of electorate that voted:

53.8

54.5

52.1

48.9

49.3

57.8

52.73

Jim Carleton (left) and Neil Atkins got to work early Thursday morning at Offshore Ale Co. —Photo by Michael Cummo

It’s not unreasonable to think that the recent establishment of a second craft beer company on the Island, Edgartown’s Bad Martha, might incite competition with longstanding brewers Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs.

Jim Carleton stirs ingredients for a winter ale. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Jim Carleton stirs ingredients for a winter ale. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Not so, says James Carleton, Bad Martha’s manager and chief brewer, who says that on and off the Vineyard craft brewing is a congenial and cooperative industry.

Neil Atkins, Mr. Carleton’s counterpart at Offshore Ale, concurs. “We like to work together, not against each other,” he said. “This holds true throughout the entire craft brewer community.”

In that spirit, these brewers are teaming up to craft a custom English winter ale. Why an English winter ale in particular?

“Old strong English ales age well and are great for cold winter nights in front of a fire,” said Mr. Atkins. “We wanted something that we could hold on to for a while.”

The beer in the making, which Mr. Carleton compared stylistically to British imports like Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Harviestoun Ola Dubh, or Theakston Old Peculier, will intersect with a distinctly American element of beverage craftsmanship: bourbon barrels. Mr. Atkins and Mr. Carleton are using charred oak barrels that have mellowed bourbon whiskey in Kentucky to imbue their developing ale with nuances of oak tannin and bourbon.

Neil Atkins (left) and Jim Carleton peer into the brewing equipment to check the status of their soon-to-be beer. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Neil Atkins (left) and Jim Carleton peer into the brewing equipment to check the status of their soon-to-be beer. —Photo by Michael Cummo

“The beer won’t be served directly from the barrels,” Mr. Carleton said. “It will be moved from the barrels into a serving tank, then carbonated, then served as usual [on draft].”

The first batch of the ale should be available at Offshore and Bad Martha’s in December. Bad Martha’s is currently closed for the season but will reopen at Christmas time. The brewers say the first offering will not yet possess any barrel-derived essences, but will be hearty and appropriate for winter.

“The beer we serve in December will be the ‘regular’ beer — strong, dark, rich and malty — just not barrel-aged,” Mr. Carleton said. “So there won’t be any bourbon character. What we serve in the spring will have bourbon and oak character from aging in the barrels for several months.”

When and where the aged version will be available is pending. Ale lovers stay tuned.

For more information, visit offshoreale.com or badmarthabeer.com.

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported the first batch of the ale would be available only at Bad Martha’s in December. The ale will be available at both Bad Martha’s and Offshore Ale.

by -
4
Brothers Ned Casey (left), and John Casey with a large striped bass caught last year during the spring run. One year later, fishing was poor. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Fishermen along the East Coast can expect to see new regulations in 2015 designed to reduce the harvest of striped bass. That comes as welcome news to fishermen who have expressed concerns for several years over a steady decline in the abundance and size of one of New England’s most sought-after gamefish.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a 15-member body responsible for managing fish species and implementing management plans along the East Coast, last week announced its approval of Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass.

The changes will require a 25 percent reduction in the Massachusetts commercial quota and a reduction in the recreational bag limit from two fish per day at 28 inches to one fish at 28 inches, or a plan that results in a similar 25 percent reduction in the recreational harvest.

The 2014 Massachusetts commercial striped bass fishing quota was 1,155,100 pounds. The season closed following a reported harvest of 1,128,337 pounds.

The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) said it will hold several public hearings this winter on the proposed changes to the bass regulations. “As always, input and participation from stakeholders will be an integral part of this rulemaking process,” DMF said in a prepared statement.

ASMFC said the changes are a response to data that showed a reduction in the number of breeding fish, and continuing harvests above mortality targets.

“The Addendum establishes new fishing mortality (F) reference points, as recommended by the 2013 benchmark stock assessment. In order to reduce F to a level at or below the new target, coastal states will implement a 25 percent harvest reduction from 2013 levels,” ASMFC said in a press release. “Chesapeake Bay states/jurisdictions will implement a 20.5 percent harvest reduction from 2012 levels since their fisheries were reduced by 14 percent in 2013 based on their management program. All states/jurisdictions will promulgate regulations prior to the start of their 2015 fisheries.”

According to the ASMFC, the changes in the management plan that has governed striped bass for decades responds to results of the 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark assessment that indicated fishing mortality was above target in 2012, and female spawning stock biomass “has been steadily declining below the target level since 2006.”

The ASMFC said that while “the stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring,” the number of spawning fish is expected to continue to fall below the set target.

“I congratulate members of the management board for making tough choices yesterday to ensure the long-term health and viability of our striped bass fishery resources,” board chairman Douglas Grout of New Hampshire said. “The board struck an important balance in taking immediate action to reduce fishing mortality back to the target while also recognizing the unique characteristics of the Chesapeake Bay fisheries.  The action will assure a more rapid increase in the abundance of spawning fish which has been declining in recent years.”

Welcome change

Kib Bramhall of West Tisbury, a dean of the Island’s recreational fishing fraternity and a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby hall of fame, has seen striper numbers decline and rebound, only to decline again. In 1981, he set a Derby shore record when he landed a 42.14-pound striped bass on the fly rod.

“I believe that striped bass are in serious trouble again,” Mr. Bramhall said. “The overall recreational catch is down something like 60 percent in the last several years, and the Derby weighed in 40 percent fewer stripers than last year. You can’t make this kind of stuff up.”

Mr. Bramhall said he applauds the ASMFC decision to implement a 25 percent reduction, but he wishes the Chesapeake, where the reduction is set at 20 percent, faced a similar cutback.

“It is fine to limit recreational anglers to one keeper per day,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how individual states come up with size limits.

“It will be largely up to recreational anglers to use peer pressure to enforce new regulations. There aren’t enough EPOs (environmental police officers).”

Not optimistic

Justin Pribanic holds a large striped bass he caught on a fly rod off East Beach and then released. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman
Justin Pribanic holds a large striped bass he caught on a fly rod off East Beach and then released. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever, a Maine based nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to making striped bass a gamefish along the entire east coast, is not optimistic that the ASMFC reductions will  alter the decline in striped bass.

In a newsletter to members, Mr. Burns said the ASMFC technical committee gives the new changes only a 50 percent chance of rebuilding the spawning stock. He pointed to the unwillingness of Chesapeake Bay area commercial fishermen to support conservation measures on the basis that they fish on a stock of non-migratory and plentiful male fish. “This argument is hard to buy since the recreational catch in the Bay has declined from about 6.7 million fish in 2006 to 3.2 million in 2013,” Mr. Burns said.

Bay area commercial fishermen, he said, also claim that stripers are eating too many young blueclaw crabs that the fishermen depend on for the rest of their living. “The truth is that stripers have been coexisting with the crabs in the Chesapeake Bay forever, and many people feel that over-harvest and environmental conditions within the bay are the real culprits in the low crab population,” he said.

Mr. Burns pointed to one high point during the ASMFC hearing. “Paul Diodati, the Director of Marine Fisheries in Massachusetts, made the point that the coastal states had already lost a great deal of money with the striped bass population downturn, and that many anglers have been deprived of highly valued recreational opportunities,” he said. “Listening to ASMFC fishery debates over the years, I have never heard anyone stand up for the value of recreational fishing and the need for a robust fish population to the extent that I did during this meeting. That may be a good sign for the future of fishery management.”

Mr. Burns said there is no telling what the future holds for striped bass. “So while the vote this week mandating regulatory changes for 2015 is a step in the right direction, we would be surprised if those changes will substantially improve the striped bass population, or even make any difference. The battle is a very long way from being over.”

Huge hit

Darren Saletta of Chatham, president of the Massachusetts Commercial Striped Bass Association, which represents the interests of more than 130 commercial bass fishermen, said his organization supports the science the ASMFC has applied to managing striped bass and the goal of sustainability. However, in a telephone call with The Times on Tuesday, Mr. Saletta, a charter captain as well as a commercial fisherman, said he does not agree with a 25 percent cut across the board.

Mr. Saletta said that the recreational fishery, which has experienced uncontrolled growth over the past 15 years, generates little accurate data as opposed to the commercial sector, which is tightly monitored and has been held in relative check when compared with the recreational take. He would like to see the responsibility for a reduction in harvest fall more heavily on the recreational side of the ledger.

“The commercial fishery should be subject to a more modest reduction, such as seven to 10 percent, somewhere in there,” he said. “Twenty-five percent of 1.1 million is a lot of fish, a lot of money. It is a very direct economic hit on a commercial fishery in the state.”

Mr. Saletta said the reduction in the recreational bag limit from two to one will not affect the recreational economy. Fishermen will still fish, he said. “Do we need to take 25 percent from a fishery that is a fraction of the recreational fishery?” he asked. “That’s a huge hit. That’s a lot of money.”

The driver of this BMW said he swerved to avoid a dog. Photo by Rob Gatchell.

Oak Bluffs police plan to seek charges against Mark Roaen, 58, of Oak Bluffs, in connection with an accident that knocked out power to sections of Oak Bluffs Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Roaen was behind the wheel of his 1998 BMW 528i when he smashed into a utility pole on County Road, just opposite Leslie’s Lane in Oak Bluffs about 11:15 am. Mr. Roaen told police he swerved to avoid a dog that ran across the road.

Oak Bluffs Police Lt. Tim Williamson said that based on the absence of skid marks and the statement of a witness police believe Mr. Roaen was distracted by a cell phone.

Police will seek charges of negligent operation, marked lanes violation and impeded operation, he said.

Mr. Roaen was transported to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital where he was treated and released.

NSTAR utility crews remained on-site replacing the snapped utility pole and wires until about 8 pm, Tuesday.  

Lee Heyman (right), along with captains (left to right) Aubrey Ashmun, Olivia Ogden and Sydney Davies, discuss strategy during a critical timeout in the second period. —Photo courtesy of Robin Davies

On Friday afternoon the Martha’s Vineyard varsity girls field hockey team lost to Medway, 2-1, in double overtime to officially end their season. Senior star Aubrey Ashmun gave the Vineyarders a 1-0 lead with 42 seconds remaining in the first half through a penalty stroke. Aubrey, who has been the backbone of the team with 10 assists, scored her first goal of the season. Sophomore goalie Julia Bettencourt was remarkable, standing on her head to keep shots out of her net. Julia came up huge with 14 saves and is now the number 1 ranked goalie in the EAC.

The ninth-seeded Vineyarders were disappointed after Medway scored with just over four minutes left in the game, then again in the second overtime to end their season. But coach Lisa Knight was tremendously proud of her team; “This team has been exceptional all year… Even though we lost, there can’t be a regret from any of those girls.”

by -
0
Martha’s Vineyard wide reciever James Sashin catches a Mike Mussell pass, which ended with a touchdown, on the first drive of the game. – Photos by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Vineyarders ran big plays early and often to beat the Bourne High School Canalmen, 41-6, Friday night at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.

After stifling Bourne on downs in the game’s opening possession, senior quarterback Mike Mussell unleashed a 39-yard strike to a wide-open sophomore James Sashin for the score barely two minutes into the tilt. James Sashin added the first of his six extra points for a 7-0 Vineyard lead.

The Vineyarders took over on downs after the ensuing Bourne possession and on the first play from scrimmage, junior back Jacob Cardoza scored on an 80-yard burst up the middle for a 14-0 lead as a thin Halloween night crowd was settling into their seats shortly after MVRHS cheerleader Oshantay Waite sang the national anthem.

Vineyard running back Jacob Cardoza scoes a touchdown.
Vineyard running back Jacob Cardoza scoes a touchdown.

The rejuvenated Vineyarder squad (3-5), which has won three of its last four games after an 0-4 start, has been piling up impressive numbers over the last two weeks. On Friday night, Mike Mussell was 5 for 7 passing for 158 yards with three TD passes as well as receiving a touchdown pass from James Sashin. Mike has 14 TD passes thus far this season.

Juniors Jacob Cardoza and Ben Clark each scored twice. Ben Clark had 117 yards rushing to lead the team. Jacob Cardoza, with 101 yards rushing, also eclipsed the single season reception yardage record (576 yards) set in 1992 by Albie Robinson.

The first half offensive onslaught continued with a 40-yard pass from Mussell to Cardoza and a 64-yard catch and run by Jacob Cardoza. Bourne scored on a 28-yard run by Dylan Kehoe. The point-after failed and the teams headed to the locker room with the Vineyarders leading 27-6.

Ben Clark closed out the Vineyarder scoring in the second half with TDs in the third (24 yards) and fourth quarters (66 yards).

Head coach Donald Herman, who has endured the worst start (0-4) in his 29 years on the Vineyard sidelines, said he was heartened by the effort on Friday night.

“Yeah, we had some big plays,” he said. “It’s nice to see that we are starting to figure some things out. We were able to take advantage of some of the defensive schemes that Bourne was playing, but the important thing was that our kids executed well.”

Asked for his takeaway from this game, he provided the following assessment. “We are on track to being where we want to be, one step closer to a 6-5 winning season. We’ve won three of our last four and we have three games left and a lot of work to do to get there.”

While the Vineyarder offensive production was impressive on Friday night, Mr. Herman had kudos for his defense and the kicking game, featuring sophomore James Sashin whose punting work was impressive, including one booming 40-yard kick into a stiff wind.

Some fans came to the game dressed in Halloween costumes.
Some fans came to the game dressed in Halloween costumes.

Bourne produced an effective running game which kept the quick-strike Vineyarders offense off the field for extended periods of time. Longtime Vineyarder fan Richard “Stoney” Stone, sitting gamely atop the bleachers in frigid conditions, offered this appraisal. “I think Bourne has had more time of possession than we have,” he said.

In truth, Bourne did run the ball effectively against a Vineyarder defense that bent but didn’t break, coming up with big plays to stop the Canalmen four times on downs, including one series in which the Vineyarders tallied tackles for lost yardage on three consecutive plays.

“We’ve got an excellent linebacking corps,” Stoney said. “Austin Chandler (15 tackles to lead the defense Friday night) is having a fantastic season with Ben Clark, David Macias. Luke DeBettencourt, Andy DiMattia (14 tackles on Friday night) had very strong games.”

He noted that David is the only senior in the group. “We started some sophomores on Friday and we’ll start them again,” he said.

Which bodes well for the future? “We need numbers. Overall the numbers  are low,” he said. In fact, the Vineyarders suited up only 28 players on Friday night to face a 1-7 Bourne team with only 23 players in uniform.

At halftime, a passing Bourne fan agreed. “It’s tough. You know, most of our kids have been playing together since Pop Warner and they’ve kept playing into high school,” he said.

The Vineyarders play next Friday at Joseph Case High School in Swansea. The game against an 0-8 Cardinal squad begins at 6 pm.

They meet Bellingham High School at home on November 14 before hosting Nantucket for the annual Island Cup matchup at 1:30 pm, Saturday, Nov. 22. The schools’ JV teams play at 10:30 am.

Representatives from the Massachusetts Health Connector, Vineyard Health Care Access, and state representative Tim Madden held a joint press conference at the Dukes County administration building on Friday to hammer home one point — the time is now for uninsured Islanders to get insurance, and for insured Islanders to get a health insurance check-up. The next open enrollment period starts November 15, and everyone who is in Health Connector coverage, or was placed in temporary coverage over the last year needs to reapply if they still want to be covered by insurance through the Commonwealth.
“Our mission is to connect people to comprehensive and affordable health insurance,” said Ashley Hague, deputy executive director of Massachusetts Health Connector (MHC). “Our number one goal is to ensure our current members are able to transition without a gap in coverage.”
Ms. Hague stressed that everyone who has coverage through MHC, also known as “The Exchange” or “The Marketplace,” or who was placed in a temporary plan in the past year, needs to submit a new application. Open enrollment concludes February 15, 2015. Since 2006, by law, with some exceptions, all residents of Massachusetts were required to have health coverage that met state standards. For those residents not covered by an employer or commercial health plan, the state created an agency, the Massachusetts Health Connector, to act as a broker for qualifying insurance plans.

When the ACA, also known as Obamacare, went into effect on October 1, 2013, the Massachusetts health care plan was required to retool and offer ACA-compliant plans though ConnectorCare, a new website, which did not work.

Gov. Deval Patrick recently said the new website is being fixed at a total cost of $254 million, which is $80 million, or 46 percent, more than initially projected, according to a recent report in Commonwealth magazine.

Ms. Hague said the technological glitches that plagued the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority last year have been resolved, and the new website, MAhealthconnector.org, will have a simpler, shorter application that can be done in one sitting. The website also has a list of health insurance “navigators” and certified application counselors. Each state has a navigator program, which is required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Navigators work one-on-one with local residents to guide them through the stultifying requirements and shifting options in health insurance today.

Island navigators
Last May, Sarah Kuh, director of the Vineyard Health Care Access Program (VHCA), applied for a grant to fund VHCA navigator training and  and to subsequently qualify as a state navigator for Dukes County. In August, VHCA was selected as one of five new navigators in the state. There are 15 navigators statewide. Now, trained specialists at VHCA can advise the insured and the uninsured, small businesses owners, the self-employed, and seasonal workers. The multilingual staff can assist all Island residents, including members of the Wampanoag tribe. All four of the VHCA client services staff, Ms. Kuh, Mary Leddy, Maria Mouzinho, and Vani Pessoni, are Certified Massachusetts Navigators.
“I want to give a big shout-out to Sarah Kuh,” Representative Tim Madden said. “Her passion for the job, her commitment to the job, and her thoroughness on the job is incredible. A lot of people put in grant applications, but very few are awarded. Having someone on Island that people can actually sit with and help them through it, step-by step, makes a huge difference.”
“It’s very exciting to be included in the navigator program because we feel like we’ve been navigating for decades,” Ms. Kuh said. “It’s not just filling out a form. It’s understanding the implications that go along with it. We look at the different programs, their benefits, how to use the insurance, and what happens if you need to see a medical specialist or behavioral health professional. Hopefully the people in the community know they can come to us with any questions or problems: that is what we’re here for and we’re happy to help.” Ms. Kuh added that there are hundreds of Vineyarders who need to reapply to keep their insurance.

“While we encourage people to seek out assistance from navigators, we also encourage them to make appointments with them ahead of time,” Ms. Hague said. “We had situations where there were lines out the door, and while that’s a great thing, it’s probably not efficient for anybody.”

Mass outreach
Ms. Hague said in the coming months, the Health Connector program is launching an extensive outreach campaign. “We’ll be sending postcards and letters in the mail so we ask people to please read their mail from the Health Connector,” she said.

In addition to newspaper and radio advertisements, people will also be notified by phone, and some will be notified in person by outreach staff who are planning to make over 200,000 home visits. There are three groups the Health Connector is targeting with its outreach program. One group is the 100,000+ people in the Commonwealth Care or Medical Security plan.

“I am becoming more familiar with the Island and high percentage of seasonal employment here, so this plan is significant,” Ms. Hague said. “The plan was supposed to be closed last year but will be closed January 31, 2015. Subscribers in that group must submit a new application by January 23.”

Another group, individuals in temporary Medicaid, will have their coverage end in three phases. Coverage for the different sub-groups will end January 15, February 1, and February 15. Each group will be repeatedly notified of their respective deadline, Ms. Hague said. The third group being targeted is the 40,000 who successfully enrolled through the website and by phone last year.

“That group is probably the trickiest to help, because they already did this, and might not think they have to reapply,” Ms. Hague said. “But we need the most up-to-date information, address, age, and number of dependents, in order to get them the right benefits and to get the most generous benefits we can.”
Ms. Kuh said that for a single person to qualify for ACA subsidy, the income cutoff would be around $45,000 a year. “Sometimes people don’t know that they’re eligible for help and they’re paying way more for insurance than they can really afford,” she said.
“It’s really important for people to just check and see,” Ms. Hague said. “Even if you’re already insured through your employer, you might be able to take $50 a month off your commercial premium.” She added that people who weren’t eligible for Commonwealth Care last year may be eligible for subsidy under the ACA, which has a higher income cut-off.  Under the ACA, people earning below 400 percent of the federal poverty line may be eligible for assistance.

According the the Department of Health and Human services, the poverty line for an individual is $11,670, so an individual makingunder $46,680 is potentially eligible for health care subsidy. “Most of the people in our health care reform since 2007 are people working,” Ms. Hague said. “Just because you have access to employer sponsored insurance and you were previously crowded out from enrolling in a subsidized program through the state, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case now, so just check and see.”
“There’s also Mass Health Premium Assistance,” Ms. Kuh said. “For a family or person making under 300 percent of the poverty level, Mass Health can pay their share of their employer insurance premium. “It’s not easy to get but when you can, it’s a huge financial help for families,” she said.
Appointments at VHCA can be made by phone at 508-696-0020, or on the website mvhealthcareaccess.org or at the office at 114 New York Ave. in Oak Bluffs. To kick off the open enrollment period on Saturday, November 15, the VHCA office will be open from 12 noon to 2 pm to answer questions and to make consultation appointments.

by -
3
Election day is Tuesday. —Photo by Michael Cummo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Baker (charliebaker2014.com) of Swampscott, is a former Secretary of Administration and Finance under Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci, and former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. His campaign is focused on issues that include economic growth, schools, and safer, stronger communities.

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

First-term incumbent U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D) (markey.senate.gov) faces a challenge from Republican Brian J. Herr ® herrsenate2014.com/.

Incumbent Congressman William Keating (D) (keatingforcongress.com) of Bourne is running for re-election from the Massachusetts ninth district, which includes Martha’s Vineyard. He faces a challenge from John C. Chapman (R) (johnchapman2014.com) of Chatham.

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

Longtime Secretary of State William Galvin (D) (billgalvin.org) faces a challenge from David D’arcangelo (R) (davein2014.com).

In the race for state treasurer, Deborah B. Goldberg (D) of Brookline (debgoldberg.com) will square off against Michael Heffernan (R) of Wellesley (mikeheffernan2014.com). Ms. Goldberg is a former Brookline selectman and former executive at Stop & Shop, which her family founded. Mr. Heffernan is a technology entrepreneur and former banking executive.

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

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

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

District attorney for the Cape and Islands Michael D. O’Keefe (R) of Sandwich (daokeefe2014.com) seeks reelection to another term. Mr. O’Keefe was first elected in 2002.

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

Dukes County Commission

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

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

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

Martina Thornton is the current county manager.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The county commissioners

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

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

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

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

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

The following names appear on the ballot.

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

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

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

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

Martha’s Vineyard Commission

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

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

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

How it works

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballot referenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Town Voting Locations

Polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm.

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

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