Op-Ed

Chilmark has long recognized the importance of affordable housing to the well-being of the town. Without housing for people who were born and raised here, without housing for those who teach our children, police our roads, build our houses, raise and catch our food, we would be a community without a future.

As far back as 1976, Chilmark was among the leaders in enacting a zoning bylaw establishing a youth lot program, aimed at enabling Chilmark youth to own and build on lots less than three acres. This successful program continues to enable many talented and contributing members of our community to remain in Chilmark.

However, youth lots may be transferred to buyers who are not eligible for affordable housing and, accordingly, are not a long-term solution to our affordable housing need. With two subsequent bylaw amendments in 2002 and 2004, the town approved a more comprehensive homesite housing program, designed to enable small lots to be permanently available to income-qualified people as either rentals or owned lots. The town’s developments for six homesite leased lots and six homesite rentals at Middle Line Road and four homesite leased lots at Nab’s Corner are significant town initiatives under these affordable housing bylaws.

However, with the recent release of the housing needs assessment by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, which quantifies the continuing need for affordable housing, it is clear that Chilmark’s initiatives are but a drop in the bucket of need. To add to the problem, a second recent commission report by the Healthy Aging Task Force underscores the increasing need for housing solutions for the elderly.

Many of these people could be cared for by family or health care professionals, if only there were a place for their caregivers to live. The absence of suitable caregiver accommodation hastens the departure of the person in need to institutional facilities elsewhere — often off-Island — when there is nothing that person wants more than to remain in their own home receiving the care he or she needs.

These needs did not escape our notice, and well over a year ago, we began to consider how to increase the inventory of affordable and elder-care rentals in town. A goal was to do so without involving the town in expensive housing development but to encourage Chilmark property owners to create and offer these housing options.

Not surprisingly, these concerns are shared by other Island towns. In fact, years ago, West Tisbury enacted a bylaw that permits “accessory apartments” as affordable housing and for immediate family members. It does not, however, address the caregiver concern, something that the Chilmark housing committee (CHC) thought was important for Chilmark.

After much study, discussion, review of similar bylaw provisions, and dozens of meetings, we prepared a draft bylaw to address these needs.

We have met on many separate occasions with the planning board and its bylaw subcommittee, the building inspector, the board of health, the zoning board of appeals, the town clerk, the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, and the board of selectmen to gather input. We listened, received many comments, and incorporated them as work progressed through 19 drafts.

An informational flyer was distributed to all Chilmark landowners. Two informational meetings have been held to gain input from the public. Comments from these forums were instructive, and although the proposed bylaw has already been printed for the annual town meeting on April 27, the CHC plans to offer amendments on the town meeting floor to address these important concerns.

As a bylaw change, this article requires a two-thirds vote. It is our hope and belief that our generous, compassionate community will once more extend itself to allow the creation of some badly needed affordable rentals which will allow people who prefer to “age in place,” or who are limited for other reasons, to receive the care they need at home from a caregiver or family member living on site, and also to allow for on-site housing for family members, such as children, parents and in-laws.

Chilmark Housing Committee

Jim Feiner, chairman; Andrew Goldman, Ann Wallace, Bill Rossi, Bill Randol, Michelle Leonardi, Zee Gamson, Jessica Roddy, Roland Kluver

In an unprecedented decision, we, the members of the West Tisbury Finance Committee, voted to “not recommend” the warrant article enabling the town to spend money on its budget. The reasons are simple.

By current projections, the town of West Tisbury will face a 9.6 percent increase in its tax levy for fiscal year (FY) 16, requiring an override of Proposition 2.5. The projected 9.6 percent (over $1.3 million) increase comes on top of a 6 percent increase last year. By comparison, increases to the town’s levy over a period of eight years, from FY07 to FY14, averaged 2.43 percent per year. This is a worrisome trend.

Town financial managers have done an exemplary job in retiring old debt as we have taken on new obligations, in order to minimize levy increases. They are to be commended for their efforts, as are other town departments that have maintained as close to a level budget as possible.

However, two factors will continue to challenge the town’s attempt to maintain fiscal discipline in the years ahead: exploding education costs and OPEB (other post-employment benefit) obligations.

All can agree that we want the best possible education for our children. The difficulty arises in balancing the costs associated with achieving that goal against other competing needs of the community. Education costs currently comprise 57 percent of the town budget. Education expenses account for 82.5 percent of the total increase to the town’s operating budget for FY16. West Tisbury’s share of the cost of operating the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) alone will increase 11.8 percent this year, with the average per capita student spending rising to $29,061. The increase over two years has been 22.2 percent.

Compared with other towns, the UIRSD currently ranks third highest in the state for per-student spending, and over twice the state average. Closer to home, UIRSD spends 23 percent more than any of the other school districts on the Island.

The problem of education costs is exacerbated by inadequate state funding. The commonwealth’s contribution to the UIRSD budget via Chapter 70 aid for FY16 was $812,797. The total operating budget for the UIRSD for the upcoming year is more than $10.5 million. In stark contrast to UIRSD’s ranking in actual per-student spending, it ranks second lowest in the state in per capita student funding received from the commonwealth. Compounding the problem are proliferating state unfunded mandates, which obligate school districts to commit significant financial resources to programs for which there is little offsetting financial assistance.

The current dynamic is unsustainable. The UIRSD and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School must look for efficiencies to reduce education costs, given the significant impact they have upon the town budget. The Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) recently sponsored a forum on the Cape attended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission, a group tasked with obtaining community feedback on the Chapter 70 process and identifying issues unique to Cape communities. It was well attended, with numerous school superintendents from across the Cape lining up to make their appeals to the commission. The pain felt by Cape communities was clear; budget pressure has resulted in school closures, program cancellations, and the release of teachers as well as administrators. Here on the Island, we have not yet had to confront difficulties on the scale experienced by many communities on the Cape.

In order to avoid more painful choices in the future, we urge greater fiscal restraint by our schools. We also would ask school representatives to avail themselves of future opportunities to communicate with the MMA, as well as state representatives, to seek a reassessment of the now-outdated 1993 Chapter 70 funding formula, as well as a re-evaluation of unfunded mandates, with a view toward either better funding or providing relief from the latter.

Unfunded OPEB obligations (nonpension benefits paid to employees after retirement, such as health, dental, and life insurance) present a second disconcerting financial trend. Due to pressure from bond-rating agencies and others concerned that local governments meet these commitments, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) now requires financial statements to reflect these liabilities, including a plan of how OPEB liabilities will be amortized over a 30-year period. The town of West Tisbury has made meaningful progress in meeting this commitment through its regular contributions to an Island-wide trust fund. Other Island governmental entities under our budget review have less robust plans to meet OPEB obligations. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission has approximately $2.2 million in unfunded liabilities, the Up-Island Regional School District $15 million, and the Regional High School $33 million.

While not unique to our community, unfunded OPEB liabilities, if not seriously addressed, are likely to have a significant effect upon the long-term finances of towns Island-wide, and render moot efforts to moderate fluctuation in tax assessments from year to year.

The FinCom “no” vote is a beginning; we need the entire community to pitch in to solve this very real problem.

 

The  members of the West Tisbury finance committee are Katherine Triantafillou, Gary Montrowl, Sharon Estrella, Greg Orcutt and Doug Ruskin.

 

This map prepared 24 years ago labeled "Design Concept for Vineyard Haven Port Redevelopment and Transportation Hub" shows a new terminal on Beach Road and a town park and marina where the present terminal is located.

Having lived for better than 80 years (40 full-time on this Island) I know climate changes. I was here for the blizzard of ’78, and plenty of hot humid days since. And I was also here when the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) began. So I am a little put off by last week’s commentary (“A weighty choice awaits the MVC”) by the directors of 350 Martha’s Vineyard Island (350MVI) that the most important thing for the next director of the MVC to deal with is “climate change/global warming.”

The MVC is a regional organization. Can our Island region change climates? Or cool the earth?

According to Steamship Authority (SSA) traffic reports, we are toting about 1 percent more people to this Island every year — people you can count — not just computer-modeled temperatures. Now that seems to me to be a regional issue. What are we going to do with all those people?

The answer is simple; we will crowd them on to ever smaller lots. But how will we feed them? Not with local farms alone. How will we heat all those houses? Fuel all those cars and pickups and SUVs? The SSA will just have to do it — more boats — bigger boats — more trips per day.

I am sure that Stop & Shop, UPS, and all the other transporters can make bigger trucks, longer trucks, and plenty more of them. The problem is, what will we do with them when they arrive? Will we remove the Vineyard Haven Post Office so a wide curve can be made at Five Corners for the ever-longer trucks (or the articulated truck trains) to make the turn up the hill?

Will we be stuck in ever-longer lines to get up the hill or down Beach Road ourselves, in ever more cars or shuttle buses? Since these turns must be negotiated before we can eat, I think we have come upon a real “regional” issue. It perhaps is not as sexy as climate, but it is a damn sight more realistic an issue for the MVC.

So what is the answer? Move the Steamship terminal, of course. Where? Down Beach Road past Packer’s terminal, where traffic can exit both ways on the straightaway. Will it be easy? Of course not, but compared to slowing climate change it will be a slam dunk. Cost? Have you seen the national budget lately? It’s full of local projects like this.

And once the SSA has vacated that area, Vineyard Haven would have an opportunity to create a charming, income-producing town marina that incorporates eateries and shops along the waterfront, which would draw residents and visitors alike to shop, to stroll, to enjoy the area, while some of the land becomes available for badly needed parking. Is that a natural, or what?

This is not a new idea. Almost 24 years ago the MVC produced a drawing of a design concept of the move by John Schilling Sr., a member of the planning staff at the time who also served on the Tisbury board of selectmen. Will the Commission noodle around for another 24 years talking about changing the climate, while something doable here at home deteriorates further into deleterious fuel-spewing gridlock? Why not prioritize finding a new director who will work with Tisbury’s visioning effort and assist the Commission in worthy work which will win accolades from Islanders and visitors for decades to come?

J.B. Riggs Parker of Chilmark is a former Martha’s Vineyard member of the Steamship Authority, Chilmark selectman and planning board member.

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Farm Pond. – Alison Shaw
Farm Pond. – Alison Shaw

Sooner or later, the nitrogen pollution threatening the health of Martha’s Vineyard coastal ponds will affect us all. Some, because we swim, fish, kayak, or sail in the Island’s 27 saltwater or brackish ponds, or are lucky enough to live along the Island’s 290 miles of shoreline. Others, because our jobs are dependent on our visitor-based economy, and the ponds are an important part of what makes the Vineyard attractive. And all of us because we pay taxes and are, or should be, concerned about the hundreds of millions of dollars it could cost to solve this challenge and meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

In the next couple of years, discussion about this issue will be transitioning from concern and analysis, to making some pretty momentous decisions about what to do.

Fortunately for us, the Cape Cod Commission just completed the first phase of a multi-million dollar Water Quality Initiative, and next week CCC Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki is coming to Martha’s Vineyard to share the results. This will give us a head start in our discussions about how best to proceed, from extending sewers and using alternative technologies, to regulatory reforms and monitoring. How can we minimize costs, and what are potential sources of financing?

Most of the so-called “manageable” portion of the excess nitrogen — that is, the part that doesn’t come from air pollution — is caused by wastewater, or to be more specific, urine being flushed down tens of thousands of toilets, getting into the groundwater, and flowing into the ponds.

About 64 percent of the Vineyard’s land area is made up of watersheds that drain into nitrogen-sensitive coastal ponds, either through runoff or groundwater flow. Excessive nitrogen over-fertilizes aquatic plants, resulting in odorous, unattractive ponds devoid of eelgrass, fish, and shellfish, adversely affecting the valuable tourist industry and coastal property values.

So what can we do to prevent excessive nitrogen from ruining the ecology of our coastal ponds? How can we prevent the nitrogen-laden wastewater from individual on-site residential septic systems in the watersheds of each pond from flowing through groundwater into our coastal waters? There are a variety of techniques available, but almost all are very costly.

Last year, the Island towns endorsed the lowest-hanging fruit, namely limits on the use of nitrogen fertilizer. That is just a small start. For some ponds, we can dilute the nitrogen by improving tidal flushing to the sea with widened inlets or more pond openings. And growing oysters and other shellfish can reduce nitrogen somewhat, though this is not yet recognized by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

But the main solution will have to be treating the wastewater before the nitrogen reaches the pond. Nitrogen can be reduced at the source with techniques such as composting or urine-separating toilets, but it isn’t clear whether they would get broad public acceptance. Sewering and centralized treatment remove about 95 percent of the nitrogen, and have the advantage of being able to deal with pharmaceuticals and other newly emerging contaminants, but are only cost effective in high-density areas. On-site innovative alternative septic systems remove about 40-50 percent of the nitrogen compared to standard Title 5 systems, but this may not be enough for many watersheds. Both methods are costly to install and maintain.

We have enough of a problem dealing with the impacts of already existing development, but future growth will only exacerbate the problem. It might also make sense to consider board of health and zoning regulations that limit the number of bedrooms in a house, set limits on how much nitrogen a new project can generate, or require that the nitrogen generated by a development project in a critical watershed be offset with nitrogen reduction elsewhere in the watershed. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) does this when it reviews Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs). Land acquisition for open space also reduces the generation of nitrogen.

The MVC has been working with Island towns for over a decade to do extensive water testing and land use modeling, which was used in the Commonwealth’s Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP), which is in the process of preparing comprehensive reports for each of our watersheds. Some have been released and more are on the way. Town officials, committees with representatives of the towns in a watershed, and pond associations are now grappling with how to use the MEP reports to come up with solutions.

As part of its Water Quality Plan, the Cape Cod Commission developed a number of tools that allow technical experts and the general public to compare various wastewater treatment options for each neighborhood or watershed, and to track the parcel-specific wastewater loads. They also had two teams working on alternative approaches. One focused on traditional collection systems of sewers and centralized treatment plants. The other looked at non-traditional or enhanced natural systems, starting with the premise that collection systems should be avoided or minimized to the greatest extent possible.

Given the enormous future financial burden of dealing with this problem, we need to find the most cost-effective techniques. Many of the techniques and conclusions of the Cape’s Water Quality Study are likely to be applicable to Martha’s Vineyard, so we should take full advantage of the work that was done by our neighbors on the Cape.

The public meeting on Smart Wastewater Management will be held on Thursday, November 20, at 5:30 pm at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. Information about the Cape’s Water Quality Plan can be found at www.capecodcommission.org.

Mark London is executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

A client of ours recently asked, “What’s the story with this noisy solar installation in Edgartown?”  (MVTimes, Sept. 25, “Solar array generates electricity, contractor generates complaints”). We will tell you what we told her, and more.

A noisy PV (photovoltaic) installation should be an oxymoron, but there it is, in the Smith Hollow neighborhood. The noise is caused by large centralized inverters (the least resilient way to design a system) that are poorly located (near homes).

That is just one of many unfortunate design decisions the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC) made in the design of installations for Edgartown, West Tisbury, and Tisbury. The systems were hurriedly installed by off-Island, low-bid companies — one of them went out of business before completing the job — and it shows.

The installation on the Katama plains, for example, covers prime agricultural land. What were the selectmen thinking? It has droopy wires that can blow in the wind and rub against the racking, the panels are misaligned, and the array is so low to the ground that mowing the grass will be difficult. We were amazed to see weeds growing up between the panels recently. It looks like an abandoned ruin less than a year after completion.

We urge you to look at the comparable ground-mount installations by on-Island Vineyard Power (VP) at the Aquinnah and Chilmark landfills, and compare. You’ll see something fundamentally different in terms of land use, design, aesthetics, quality, and productivity. These systems have a higher initial cost, but will provide greater value per dollar spent and will be easier to maintain long-term.

Our criticism is self-serving — there are no two ways about it — because South Mountain Co., which we are a part of, is the designer and contractor for the VP systems. But we feel compelled to bring attention to the issue to dispel the misperceptions these systems foster and to urge those considering solar to do the research. We did not bid on the CVEC systems because we felt there were too many flaws in the siting, the specifications, and the process.

In our opinion, the CVEC systems are good for the towns and the Island. Expanding the use of renewable energy is important. But there’s no reason to do things poorly when they can just as easily be done well. Especially something like this, which could be there for 40 years, looking good and producing well, or not. Hopefully our town officials have learned good lessons.

We are not the only Island solar company. There are other competent local companies with the capacity to do these large installations. It’s a shame to import mediocrity. Not all solar is the same. Do the homework. Learn the difference. Stay local. Give solar the good name it deserves.

John Abrams and Rob Meyers are among the 19 co-owners of South Mountain Co., a West Tisbury architecture, engineering, building, and renewable-energy company. Mr. Abrams is CEO. Mr. Meyers is energy services general manager.

Although last winter was particularly severe both in its cold and snow cover, many Vineyarders complained early this summer that there were more ticks than ever. This is intriguing because the proliferation of these pests in earlier years was often ascribed to relatively mild winters. There may be other examples of such dubious assumptions, which have led to flawed proposals for controlling ticks.

The apparent contradiction of received wisdom about the arachnids reminded me of a campaign last year to reduce their number by slashing the Vineyard’s deer population (MV Times,  Aug. 29, 2013, “Sam Telford from Tufts talks tough on ticks”; Vineyard Gazette, Jan. 31, 2013). Although the main advocate for drastically reducing or extirpating deer, Sam Telford, has made a strong argument for re-approving the vaccine against the disease, which became yet another victim of our litigious culture when it was withdrawn from the market after lawsuits, my experience suggests that his direct linkage between the number of deer and cases of Lyme disease is weaker, and is based on a failure to compare different eco-systems.

Here’s the current doctrine: the main vector for Lyme disease is deer ticks — that much is certainly true — as Mr. Telford says, up to 94 percent of female ticks have fed on deer. This is where I become suspicious for a couple of reasons. First, because of the words “up to,” which indicate that there is a range. The second is because the specific numbers of both ticks and deer in such diverse environments as wetland forests and grasslands, and most importantly the ratio between them, is essential to understanding the true significance of any numbers, and the factors behind them. Ninety-four percent of 100 ticks per acre with two deer would be utterly different, to take an extreme example, in its impact on humans, than 94 percent of 10,000 ticks per acre with one deer.

My reasons for suspecting that Mr. Telford’s conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis are founded on decades of life outdoors on the Vineyard. Here’s what I’ve noticed. When my family and I walk along mown paths in oak forests between Menemsha and the Brickyard in June and July, we almost invariably pick up a few deer ticks, despite the fact that we can see for considerable distances under the trees, and deer are usually absent or sparse. But after 20 years and tens of thousands of hours of yard work and thrashing through brush in a sassafras, beech, maple and tupelo (Beetlebung) forest in Aquinnah during the same months, we have yet to pick up a single tick, although deer are visible all day long in an area with far more places to hide.

Mr. Telford might be tempted to respond that these observations are just the anecdotal experiences of one man and his family, but I’d suggest that the difference has been too great and consistent over decades to be easily dismissed. It would be wiser to find the reasons behind the observations than to dismiss them. Here’s my hypothesis.

The abundance of deer and near absence of ticks in Aquinnah’s lush wetland forest, and abundance of ticks despite a lower number of deer in Chilmark’s dry oak forest suggest that the differences go deeper than the relationship between deer and their parasites. In fact, it suggests that it has something to do with the types of forest. One of the chief differences between them is that oak forests produce more starch in the form of acorns that squirrels can hoard, leaving plenty for other rodents such as white-footed mice, which serve as the hosts for immature deer ticks. The mice are a crucial carrier of the ticks, which thrive, even when there aren’t many deer, if the rodents are plentiful.

The evidence from our forest in Aquinnah also suggests that the contrary is true — that the ticks nearly disappear when there are plenty of deer, but few mice. This difference has been so flagrant in my experience that I think the common term for Ixodes scapularis, “deer tick”, is a misnomer, which misdirects attention towards the wrong animal, just because it is a bigger and more obvious target. The ticks should probably be renamed the “white-footed mouse tick,” “oak tick,” or “acorn tick.”

This brings me to the question of good versus bad solutions. Mr. Telford “makes no bones that his primary short-term objective is to significantly reduce the deer population on the Island” by killing them. Perhaps he should watch a TED talk by Alan Savory in which Mr. Savory says that his greatest regret is that he told African governments to cull ten of thousands of elephants in order to manage their reserves, causing the extermination of 40,000 elephants, although his analysis turned out to be backwards.

There are two better ways to reduce the number of Ixodes scapularis on the Island than unleashing a shooting-fest, one of which is so well-known that I was surprised that Mr. Telford did not mention it. It involves the use of tickicide-treated rollers at passive feeding stations for white-tailed deer. According to Cornell University, study after study (Carroll et al 2002, Pound et al 2000, Pound et al 2000b, Solberg et al 2003) has shown large reductions in tick populations following the use of such devices.

Another entirely compatible solution would be to favor vegetation that does not produce surplus starch for mice. I imagine that this solution would be preferable to people who would rather see a few trees removed from their views, than the disappearance of deer, which provide the countryside with much of its charm.

If I were a hunter, and I am indirectly, in the sense that I have allowed specific hunters to hunt on my land, I would also be opposed to Mr. Telford’s plan, since it would result in the rapid reduction of the very deer hunters enjoy stalking. It might be fun at first, but would end up destroying a pastime that many people enjoy.

One thing I agree on with Mr. Telford is that the problem of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is huge and must be addressed. The question is simply, how? The answer is probably to attack the problem in several ways at once. One way is to continue encouraging sustainable hunting, since it plays a positive role in maintaining the Island’s ecological balance. Another way that should be implemented simultaneously is to install feeding stations or salt licks with tickicide-treated rollers in oak forests and other infested environments. A third one is to favor vegetation that does not encourage the proliferation of mice and their ticks. The fourth way, which Mr. Telford and I agree on whole-heartedly, is to push for the re-approval or improvement of the vaccine.

In the meantime, we should be wary of listening to any calls to manage nature through destructive intervention or violence, since such approaches have caused enormous unintended consequences in the past.

Duncan Caldwell is a Fellow at theMarine and Paleobiological Research Institute of Vineyard Haven and a Lecturer in prehistory, Doctoral module, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

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This winter found many of us trying to get inside from the cold, where the comforts of modern life awaited — warmth, lights, electronics, appliances, and a hot meal.

You may not have realized it, but the infrastructure that delivers energy to us, upon which all these comforts depend, was under great stress.

Massachusetts does not produce coal, oil or natural gas. We are at the end of the energy pipeline for all those fuels.  Over the past 30 years our region has shifted more of our energy use away from coal and oil toward natural gas.

Yet our demand for gas, both in the heating and electric sectors, has been increasing much faster than the supply of gas that pipelines deliver us. During this cold winter, we saw spot market prices for natural gas and electricity rise significantly. This not only made electricity generated by gas more expensive, it also meant that as the heating sector used more gas there was less available for power plants. There were times in this past, brutally cold January when our region’s electric grid manager, ISO-New England, needed to run old, inefficient and dirty “peaker” power units just to keep the lights on.

These cold periods that stress our energy infrastructure also tend to be quite windy. We have all seen the meteorologists on TV telling us about the “wind chill effect,” and winter is our windiest season. Massachusetts is not at the end of the wind pipeline. In elevated locations, along the shore and particularly offshore, we have our own vast supply of clean wind energy waiting to be tapped.

Over the past 13 years, our company has been developing America’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, on Horseshoe Shoal. During that time Cape Wind would have provided significant energy, economic, and environmental benefits to Massachusetts and beyond.

During a severe three-day cold snap in January, 2004, ISO New England contemplated the need for rolling blackouts because of the shortage of natural gas for electricity generation.  The U.S. Department of Energy studied the region’s energy vulnerability and noted that during the entire three-day period winds over Nantucket Sound were strong and, had it been built, Cape Wind would have been operating at full capacity during most of that period and provided significant electric reliability benefits.

This past winter, Cape Wind would have eased the stress on the natural gas and electric spot markets and reduced price spikes. Had Cape Wind been operating, National Grid and NSTAR would have also saved millions of dollars this winter under their contracts with us compared with relying upon spot markets. Over time, Cape Wind’s impact in reducing electricity spot market prices will be significant, more than $7 billion over the life of the project, according to a study by Charles River Associates. Wind power consistently reduces electric spot market prices wherever it has already been installed on a significant scale, such as in Europe or in parts of the U.S.

Offshore wind is also particularly valuable during a less windy season, summer. One might think of the “dog days of August” when temperatures are high but winds are calm. Yet offshore, it’s a different story, where the sea breeze kicks in during hot summer afternoons. In fact, we have found that during the highest summer electric demand hours, Cape Wind would double its average hourly electric production.

There is a lot of interest in the direct bill impacts for electricity consumers from Cape Wind.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (MDPU) carried out lengthy adjudicatory proceedings and heard from energy experts and project supporters and opponents alike. The MDPU concluded that Massachusetts residential and business electric consumers will see an increase in the range of one to two percent on their monthly electric bills attributable to National Grid and NSTAR’s power purchase from Cape Wind. As with every other energy technology, the cost of harnessing offshore wind will fall as it is further built out and greater economies of scale are achieved.

Those who scoff at the energy contribution that offshore wind can play ignore key facts.  Denmark today gets 30 percent of its total electricity needs met by a combination of onshore and offshore wind power. Although Cape Wind’s electricity will be sold to electric consumers statewide, Cape Wind’s electricity supply will be consumed almost entirely on the Cape and Islands. Cape Wind’s turbines will produce power 88 percent of the time, and in average wind conditions will supply 75 percent of the average electricity demand of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

It has been a long road for Cape Wind, but we are now in our financing stage and preparing for project construction. Right now Europe is successfully operating 64 offshore wind farms that were built over the past 23 years, creating 58,000 offshore wind jobs in the process.  Massachusetts has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world and will soon have North America’s first offshore wind farm. Cape Wind will provide greater energy independence and electric reliability while also creating good jobs and contributing to a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable energy future.

Mark Rodgers is the communications director of Cape Wind, based in Boston.

After some of my concerns about “medical marijuana” dispensaries were published in last week’s Martha’s Vineyard Times [Island health care professionals not sold on medical marijuana, November 21], I got a call from a friend who has been successfully battling cancer. She told me that “marijuana tea and candy are the only things that helped my appetite. My weight had gone down to 98 pounds. I am now 112 pounds. And it let me sleep. I don’t think that I would be alive today without it.” I am glad my friend found relief.

Marijuana may be useful in alleviating the symptoms of a variety of medical illnesses and syndromes, including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and cancer. It can enhance appetite, induce sleep, and be pleasurable. Criminalization of marijuana use has been costly and destructive to society. Nonetheless, it is hard for me to see how making “medical marijuana” available through the dispensaries that may soon open on Martha’s Vineyard is a safe or wise route for us to follow. Here are my concerns:

There are no long-term studies of the use of medical marijuana and few studies of its therapeutic effect. Medical marijuana’s risks versus its benefits are entirely unclear.

Marijuana is associated with a variety of medical problems, including respiratory disease, decreased coordination, decreased ability to learn, decreased short-term memory, increased anxiety, paranoia, and dependence. One out of 10 users and half of daily users will become addicted. Withdrawal is associated with anxiety, irritability, anger, insomnia, and depression. Most of these symptoms are the very reasons why many recreational marijuana users end up pursuing “medical marijuana.” To what extent is it being prescribed simply to prevent withdrawal? The three most common reasons for the prescription of marijuana are musculoskeletal pain (30 percent), insomnia (15.5 percent) and anxiety (13 percent).

Young people are at particular risk of becoming dependent. I have seen countless people in my practice who started using marijuana as adolescents and went on to become addicted to other drugs, developed chronic psychiatric illnesses, and appeared to have plummeting academic and social function related to marijuana use. Does anyone really believe that “medical marijuana” won’t increase access to people who don’t truly need it for medical reasons? And that it won’t be shared, sometimes with teens and even pre-teens? Beside other risks, marijuana is a “gateway drug.”

Marijuana use is associated with the onset of chronic psychotic disorders. In a study of 45,000 Swedes over the course of 15 years, individuals who had used marijuana by the age of 18 were six times as likely to develop schizophrenia. An analysis of seven cohort studies revealed a 40 percent increased risk in those who had used marijuana and as much as a 200 percent increase in very frequent users. Over the course of my career, I have seen many people who developed a new onset, primary psychotic disorder. Most of them had developed these symptoms after heavy marijuana use.

I have already seen individuals in my practice who are addicted to opiates and other substances who have obtained prescriptions for “medical marijuana.” To what extent will “medical marijuana” legitimize marijuana use for addicts, individuals with psychiatric illnesses, teens, and other at-risk populations?

The people who will be prescribing “medical marijuana” will be physicians who are asked to do little more than take a two-hour online certification course. Who will these doctors be? No doubt some will be experts in treating specific syndromes for which marijuana will be useful. Will the doctors who prescribe really be experts in evaluating addiction risk as well as all of the medical and psychiatric conditions that marijuana can impact? Will they closely follow patients for the risk of side effects? Will they be responsible for the driving accidents that will occur under the influence or for the people who will become dependent or for their patients who will develop psychiatric disorders as a result?

Marijuana is a complicated substance, which contains more than 400 chemicals that contribute to its effects. Content will vary from variety to variety and from dispensary to dispensary. Today’s marijuana has six to 20 times more tetrahydrocanabinol (THC) — the chemical in marijuana most closely associated with its effects — than marijuana in the 1960s. There are medications such as Marinol, which is essentially synthetic THC, which offer much of the medical benefit of marijuana. Why not use purer, safer, standardized, better-studied substances that are dispensed in pharmacies to obtain the same medical benefits?

Dr. Charles H. Silberstein, a psychiatrist, practices at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

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Intended to reduce the visual impact of the Vineyard Haven based Stop & Shop, architect Chuck Sullivan has reduced the second floor sales area by 250 square feet, as well as moved the facade 15 feet back on the Water Street side. — Photo courtesy of MVC

For many years, Stop & Shop has been a local employer and member of the Martha’s Vineyard community. We have worked diligently to provide quality products and friendly customer service at our Edgartown and Tisbury stores and to support the Vineyard community and its schools.

As Stop & Shop prepares to celebrate its 100th year in business, we look forward to continued contributions to Vineyard schools and community needs. We value our partnership with Martha’s Vineyard, and in past years, we have donated generously to the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, the Tisbury Fire Department, Tisbury Ambulance Services, various Vineyard church and Island food pantries, the Martha’s Vineyard Red Cross, the Martha’s Vineyard Red Stocking Fund, and other Island causes.

Our Tisbury store, once an A&P, has been an ongoing challenge for us in terms of its limited size and capacity to properly serve our customers, with its narrow aisles, crowded shelf space, limited fresh products, and inadequate parking. In addition, our rundown, deteriorated buildings along Water Street leave a poor first impression of Martha’s Vineyard, and they will only decline further in time.

I know firsthand of these challenges. Years ago, I lived on the Vineyard while managing both the Tisbury and Edgartown A&P. I continue to be deeply impressed with the Vineyard’s natural beauty and with the integrity, character, and independence of its residents. Stop & Shop respects these values and is committed to operating stores in Tisbury and Edgartown that reflect the local Vineyard culture.

With this in mind, we came to the decision that a new Stop & Shop store was needed in Tisbury — one that could offer a wider selection of products, improved displays and more modern amenities, such as wider aisles, and more parking. We have proposed a new store that will be an asset to Tisbury in offering an improved shopping experience year-round and a design in keeping with Tisbury’s historic character at the gateway to the Vineyard.

We also will be creating new jobs. Stop & Shop today is one of Martha’s Vineyard’s largest employers. Our new Tisbury store, as proposed, will add 64 full-time and part-time Island jobs in season — 43 of which will be year-round.

Working closely with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and after listening carefully to the public, we have made numerous improvements to our proposal. The commission and the public have made this a better plan, and we are thankful for that. The revised design gives the look of several smaller stores and includes a deck for shoppers, overlooking the harbor.

Stop & Shop will continue to do all it can to provide Tisbury with the best shopping experience possible, and we are hopeful the Martha’s Vineyard Commission will approve our revised proposal that we believe is in the best interest of everyone.

Joe Kelley is president of Stop & Shop New England.

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“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” as the saying goes, really captures the essence of what is about to happen to WMVY, the Island’s radio station. The voices that we all have become so familiar with and the people behind those voices that we have come to rely on for a multitude of reasons, all of which are important to our daily lives in one way or another, are about to be silenced.

When I was contacted last week by Barbara Dacey, a longtime friend and employee of WMVY, and more importantly a well-known on-air personality and community supporter, to share the news of WMVY’s fate, I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it and, as you will no doubt see, am still struggling with the consequences of the decision to take WMVY off the air.

How could this jewel of a community radio station, the soundtrack of our lives on the Vineyard for almost 30 years, be losing its all-too-familiar 92.7 frequency?

During all of those years, WMVY has remained one of the many very special parts of my life on the Vineyard. In the early 1980s, when WMVY first “hit the airwaves” as an automated station, I was working for Mark Lender Goldsmith. The station was new and trying to find its identity and routinely had glitches, most notably dead air. Mark, with his dry sense of humor, wanted the station to run an ad which stated, “When you hear dead air — remember Mark Lender Goldsmith.”

In spite of those occasional mishaps in the early days, Vineyarders continued to listen and support began to grow for this fledgling radio station. Today WMVY has become an integral part of Vineyard life and one that we cannot afford to lose.

I joined WMVY as a sales executive and later became its general manager. Getting involved in the early years was an exciting and rewarding experience for me personally and also for the many talented people that made WMVY a success through their hard work and dedication. They deserve our sincere gratitude for what they have accomplished and what they have added to our lives,

From the beginning, it was the goal of WMVY, its management, and staff to be a local resource for the Vineyard in very practical ways, and they have been true to their commitment. Where would we be without their public service announcements, local news and weather, and Steamship Authority reports. Ask yourself, how will this important information get communicated in the future? In addition, please don’t forget their longstanding support for our local nonprofits, including their sponsorship of events that have raised much needed funds or their making the station’s resources available for on air interviews so worthy causes may communicate their messages to the public. Covering local high school sports has allowed Vineyard families access to games that otherwise would have been missed.

The music format was introduced in the 1980s. It worked then and it continues to work today. WMVY’s personal approach to programing allowed the talented on air professionals to share their passions for a wide variety of music, old and new, reaching out to listeners of all age groups and musical tastes. Where else can you find a radio station that showcases local artists that we all know and enjoy?

Time is running out, and this may have been the last year that you could have tuned in to WMVY and listened to Arlo Guthrie sing Alice’s Restaurant at noon on Thanksgiving Day, a tradition that’s been around almost 30 years. WMVY’s management and staff are now attempting to stay alive as a nonprofit commercial-free Internet station, streaming daily to the thousands of listeners who tune in, while they continue to search for another FM frequency to serve the Vineyard.

In order to accomplish this goal, WMVY needs to raise $600,000, to fund their operations during this critical transition period. They have launched a campaign to raise funds to support their new mission and friendsofmvy.org is now accepting pledges, to be collected only if they reach their goal within the next eight to 10 weeks. Can it be accomplished in such a short period of time? I sincerely hope so, for it would be a significant loss to our Vineyard community if WMVY were silenced completely.

While WMVY has fulfilled the needs of a diverse listening audience for all these years, the one common element that I feel certain about is that its existence has become important to all of us. For me, it is difficult to imagine waking up each weekday morning without Laurel Redington’s voice, on Sunday mornings without Sunday Morning and All that Jazz, or on any morning without the local news and weather. What will you miss?