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To the Editor:

The recent spike in unsolicited offers from competitive electricity suppliers is directly related to the spike in the cost of electricity this winter. Several people have asked for my opinion of these offers, and for information on the rate increase in general. Hopefully this memo will help readers understand these issues.

Before I get to the competitive supply offers, I’d like to provide a brief summary of the factors that caused the recent spike in electric rates. I think it’s essential to understand these factors when considering a change of supplier.

 

Rate increase

The price of electricity in New England is higher from January through March due to natural gas pipeline-constraint issues. Approximately 50 percent of the electricity generated for the New England grid uses natural gas for fuel.

In addition to electricity generation, natural gas is used for space heating. This creates competing demand: Occasionally natural gas is consumed as quickly as our infrastructure can supply it. This increased demand causes winter prices to spike three to four times higher than spring and fall prices. With no new pipelines planned for the short term, the New England natural gas market is likely to continue this pattern of wide seasonal price fluctuation for the next several years.

It’s worth noting that the current dip in oil prices has a negligible effect on electricity prices. Oil is used as a fuel for generating New England electricity during peak demand times only. During theses peak demand times, only 6 percent of New England electricity comes from oil. Most of the time, less than 1 percent of New England’s electricity comes from oil.

 

Competitive supplier offers

The variation in seasonal rates provides an opportunity for power suppliers to offer teaser rates that are lower in the short term but increase over time. Remember, our electric rates are likely to decrease for the second half of the year, so changing suppliers now, while the default supplier charge is high, may work against you for the second half of the year. Many competitive suppliers include fees for cancellation of service, so attempting to switch back in July could cost more than maintaining your current supplier relationship. As with any contractual relationship, it makes sense to read the terms and conditions thoroughly before signing. The following is a list of things to consider when doing so:

 

  • What is the contract term, and what happens at the end of that term? Will the rate become variable?
  • What are the fees associated with early termination of the contract?
  • Will the supplier offer a written contract for review before signing?
  • What are the monthly fees charged in addition to the charges for electricity?
  • How will changes in your usage affect the rate?
  • Is there a clause that enables supplier cancellation of the contract if the economics change for the supplier?
  • Will the rate change if you install a net-metered solar PV system?
  • What happens if the utility regulations change? Is there an opportunity for the supplier to add a fee in reaction to regulatory or policy change?

 

I certainly don’t want to create the impression that all competitive supplier offers have pitfalls. Some of them may well provide a better option. I’m merely suggesting that readers evaluate any offer thoroughly.

 

Rob Meyers

West Tisbury

Mr. Meyers heads up the Energy Services division of South Mountain Co. —Ed.

 

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Mark B. Norton, 47, of Falmouth died unexpectedly on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. He was the beloved son of Allen and Judith Norton of Edgartown. A memorial visitation hour will be held on Thursday, April 16, 11 am followed by a 12 pm service in the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs. Burial will follow in the New Westside Cemetery, Edgartown. A complete obituary will follow in a later newspaper edition.

The crowded field reflects a vigorous contest over town leadership.

Oak Bluffs voters will decide a five-way race for two seats on the five-member board of selectmen when they go to the polls on Thursday, April 16. Incumbents Kathy Burton and Greg Coogan will attempt to retain their seats in the face of challenges from Brian Packish, Abraham Seiman, and Raymond Taylor.

Kathy Burton
Kathy Burton

Kathy Burton, a selectman for six years, is seeking re-election to a third term. She is a member of the intergovernmental task force to the Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, was a member of the Cottage City Historic District Commission for many years, and serves on the Oak Bluffs Affordable Housing Committee. She and her partner have lived in Oak Bluffs year-round for 22 years and raised a 19-year-old daughter, Annie, now a sophomore at UMass Amherst majoring in chemical engineering.

She is currently a branch manager for Santander Bank in Edgartown.

Greg Coogan
Greg Coogan

Greg Coogan is seeking his fifth term on the board of selectmen, which he currently chairs. The former Tisbury School math teacher is retired following a more than 30-year career in education. He has served on the conservation commission and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

Brian Packish
Brian Packish

Brian Packish, a lifelong resident of Oak Bluffs, is chairman of the planning board and chairman of the streetscape master-plan project. He also serves on the joint Tisbury–Oak Bluffs Lagoon Pond committee, the roads and byways committee, and many other town and civic groups. He is the father of a 13-year-old daughter, and he owns and operates a landscape company in Oak Bluffs.

Abe Seiman
Abe Seiman

Abe Seiman and his wife have been homeowners in Oak Bluffs since 1962, and retired here six years ago. Prior to his retirement, Mr. Seiman was a pharmaceutical statistician and health care administrator. Currently he serves as a member of the finance, personnel, and affordable housing committees, and on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the Healthy Aging Task Force.

Ray Taylor, a Navy veteran and former police officer for the town of Wellesley for 10 years, works full-time for Cape Cod Express on-Island as a CDL class A driver. The father of two daughters, ages 20 and 26, he says community service is an important part of his life. He is vice chairman of the Oak Bluffs finance and advisory committee.

Ray Taylor is one of the candidates for a selectman's seat in Oak Bluffs.
Ray Taylor is one of the candidates for a selectman’s seat in Oak Bluffs.

 

Q and A

The Times posed a series of questions to each candidate and asked that they respond in writing. The questions and their responses follow.

Why did you decide to run for election (or re-election) to the board of selectmen?

Ms. Burton: I am running for re-election to the board of selectmen to continue the work this board has begun. This board has worked diligently with the town administrator, the finance committee, school representatives, town departments, and voters to dramatically improve our town finances from the negative to the positive. Our Standard and Poor’s bond rating has gone from AA- to AA+, which is a two-step increase, further demonstrating financial stability. We need to continue to practice fiscal responsibility as we balance many pressing needs facing Oak Bluffs, to include rising school budgets due to increases in our student population, much-needed infrastructure improvements, measures to improve and protect the health and quality of our saltwater ponds, and more.

Mr. Coogan: I am now in my 12th year on the board, and I feel my job is not done. I think my strength on the board is coming to every meeting with an open mind. It is a difficult process sometimes to reach a consensus with all the parties involved, and I believe that my contribution helps to make that happen. We regularly have complex problems that come before us, and we are more often than not the final decision maker. Calm, reasonable approaches are necessary, though not always popular with some; still, we must make those decisions in the best interests of all the people of Oak Bluffs. I feel that I have done that and my record shows that to be true.

Mr. Packish: My decision to run for selectman was developed over a lifetime. I grew up in Oak Bluffs, attended the Oak Bluffs School and now reside in Oak Bluffs with my family. Growing up Oak Bluffs is a privilege. I love seeing many of the same people I remember as a child both summer and year-round, and have grown to have friendships with them as an adult. My daughter, Tyla, is now being afforded the same opportunities.

I attended every town meeting growing up, and have always had a desire to serve. I slowly became involved in governing the town of Oak Bluffs in various ways over the years. My passion for Oak Bluffs and the residents continues to grow today.

During my involvement as chairman of the planning board and chairman of the streetscape master-plan project, I have had the opportunity to speak directly with the people on an up-close and personal level. I have learned so much from them. These discussions have given me insight that I believe can be valuable to the town and its people.

It is my belief that I can bring a fresh perspective, a strong work ethic, and a voice for the taxpayers of Oak Bluffs.

Mr. Seiman: I decided to run for election because, although I admire the progress that the administration has accomplished in the past six years, I feel that it is time for adding some new ideas, integrating more residents in the decision-making process, and placing the greatest attention toward providing for their needs. While all of the candidates support these goals, I am the only one, thus far, to provide a practical plan to accomplish these goals, as stated on my campaign card.

Mr. Taylor: I decided to run for selectman because in order to effect any real change within town government, one must start at the policy decision-making table. The town has come a long from the financial mismanagement of the past. Therefore, it has to remain committed to its stated strategic goals of sustainable budgets and living within its means. That means living with the limits of Proposition 2.5.

 

What would you suggest be done to reduce the pressure on town taxpayers?

Ms. Burton: To reduce pressure on town taxpayers I suggest we continue to practice fiscal responsibility; that we work with our legislators and the governor’s new Community Compact Cabinet, created to “protect local aid,” to ensure a positive “local aid” rather than $150,256 in negative local aid; that we work to protect and increase local revenues. With community support, I suggest a park and ride at the old landfill, incorporating solar panels to reduce the town’s energy expenses. We face many challenges as we carefully increase staff and administrative support. I suggest that the next budget include an administrative support position to research and write grants, offsetting taxpayer costs for necessary projects. We have many talented department heads who successfully apply for grants. I can only imagine that we would be able to secure more with a grant writer on staff.

Mr. Coogan: First, we are very lucky to have such a strong tax base from our real estate. We get no real outside help from the commonwealth. In fact, we owe them more than we receive from them in any subsidies. We have to find ways to control school and insurance costs. We still give our children the great education they deserve, and provide adequate health care to our employees. The rest of our departments had minimal increases (if at all) in their budgets this year. It continues to be very difficult to live within the confines of Prop 2.5 when some costs exceed that with single- and double-digit increases.

Mr. Packish: It is my belief that only through proper planning, public outreach, and respect for the taxpayer’s voice can we reduce the pressure of taxation on the town’s people. A solid, well-represented process will reduce costs and administrative load. Projects and initiatives can be done faster and cleaner with less cost. If we embrace a process, for the people by the people we will strengthen our community and create an environment of participation. By doing so, we will reduce the tax rate and improve the quality of life for our citizens one step at a time.

Mr. Seiman: As a member of the finance committee, which along with the board of selectmen and town administrator is responsible for producing the budget, we all have come to realize that many of the items that make up the budget are beyond our control. For example, the yearly, increasing, unfinanced requirements demanded of our school systems, the negative state aid, and costs of goods and services. Massachusetts allows for a yearly 2.5 percent increase in the property tax (Prop 2.5), and

for the past several years, we have managed not to exceed that amount with the exception of 2014. This was accomplished by minimizing the amount allotted to each department. However, the possibility of increasing summer revenues, especially amounts arising from tourism, could be the answer to avoid further tax overrides in the future. Some suggestions: increasing marina fees, metered town parking, and increasing the penalties for parking and speeding tickets, littering and alcohol/drug-related driving.

Mr. Taylor: The very best way for an Oak Bluffs taxpayer to reduce the pressure on their property tax bill is to support leaders that are committed to balanced budgets without overrides. The pressure from negative state aid, fixed contractual obligations, unfunded liabilities, state mandates, local infrastructure needs, and an aging population are going to put real fiscal strain on the town’s operating budget. We will need leaders who understand these issues and more.

 

Please describe the state of Oak Bluffs.

Ms. Burton: Oak Bluffs is recovering from a very difficult time. Our finances have improved, and are stable. With consistent attention and oversight, they’ll continue to improve. We have completed projects important to our town, such as the universal-access fishing pier and the revenue-generating harbor fuel facility. I am looking forward to participating with town boards, town departments, and our town administrator in the oversight of town goals such as the completion of our fire/EMS station, the North Bluff seawall reconstruction, the boardwalk, downtown improvements, and the implementation of projects necessary to improve the quality of our important saltwater ponds.

Mr. Coogan: I love living in Oak Bluffs. We have a very complex culture within our town. The seasons bring us such diversity with our population and with our various interests. We are the town that needs to serve all interests from our beaches to both of our education institutions to the many nonprofits that lie within our borders. We are not a wealthy town, yet we strive to help all the people of the Island because we are in many ways the center of the Vineyard both culturally and geographically.

Mr. Packish: After a long period of time without a town accountant in place, the economics are beginning to improve. We are still in need of restoring services to the taxpayers, and have many projects the residents are pleading to have accomplished. The town beaches are a jewel to our community; access and condition should be a priority. Our ponds need to be prioritized, and Little Bridge desperately needs our help. If elected, these are a sample of items I would work diligently to resolve.

Mr. Seiman: Oak Bluffs retains its character of untouched natural beauty, most popular beaches, and center for entertainment. It is a mecca for the arts, such sports as hiking and fishing, quiet walks, and historic sites. This is particularly true during the spring, fall, and even winter, when Oak Bluffs is less crowded and the all-year-round population has a greater chance of partaking and appreciating all of these advantages of living in Oak Bluffs.

Mr. Taylor: The state of Oak Bluffs is that of a town in flux. Residents know how far we have come financially, but have we ignored the security, serenity, and sanity of local residents? Some might say the town hall currently has too much of an off-Island feel to it. I personally love the unique characteristics of Oak Bluffs residents. The board of selectmen should be a representation of the whole community we love.

To the Editor:

Your obituary of Bob Carroll, unsigned, contained a brief but tendentious account of Mr. Carroll’s feud with Henry Beetle Hough, who was my great-uncle. It went like this:

“The Harbor View Hotel also figured large in Bob’s long-running fight with Henry Beetle Hough, the publisher and editor of the Vineyard Gazette, over Mr. Carroll’s interest in developing his property. Bob just did not like Mr. Hough, a college-educated off-Islander who received the newspaper as a wedding gift, telling him what he should and should not do.”

These two sentences are remarkable less for what they say than for what they omit.

Mr. Carroll’s “interest in developing his property” was a resolute desire to fill in wetland between the Harbor View and the Edgartown Lighthouse and construct a tennis court. This plan, it seems to me, speaks for itself, and Henry Hough was far from alone in opposing it. It was the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, in the end, which said no to Bob Carroll.

It is true, but only in the narrowest sense, that Mr. Hough was an off-Islander. He was born in New Bedford, but from his earliest childhood he spent his summers at the family house, called Fish Hook, in the hills of North Tisbury. Henry’s mother was the daughter of a Holmes Hole whaling captain, and his father had relatives in Oak Bluffs. By the time he fell out with Bob Carroll, Henry had been on the Island, publishing the Gazette, for 50 years.

It is also true that the Gazette was a wedding present from Henry’s father — this was in 1922 — but the relevance of this to Henry’s dispute with Mr. Carroll seems murky to me. Wedding gift or not, the Gazette won renown in the world of journalism, and beyond, under Henry Hough’s stewardship, as even Mr. Carroll would have conceded.

Your obituary writer seems to hold Mr. Hough’s college education against him. I’m not sure why that should have disqualified him from publishing a newspaper on the Vineyard, or from opposing the destruction of Vineyard wetlands, but it might help readers to know that the college was the Columbia School of Journalism, where Henry won a special Pulitzer Prize for historical research.

Henry’s father was a New Bedford newspaper editor, and his brother was editor and publisher of the Falmouth Enterprise. It was, and still is, a newspaper family, and we are all, for the record, college-educated.

 

John Hough

West Tisbury

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Peter Temple, a resident of Aquinnah, is the only local finalist.

In a file photo from May of 2014, MVC commissioners Joan Malkin, John Breckenridge, Doug Sederholm and Fred Hancock discuss a vote on the Stop & Shop proposal. — Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s VIneyard Commission (MVC) has narrowed its search for a new executive director to four candidates. Mark London, executive director since 2002, will retire on August 1.

Search committee chairman Doug Sederholm said the original applicant pool numbered 33. The four who remain share not only New England backgrounds but also very strong qualifications for the job, he said.

In a conversation with The Times, Mr. Sederholm said the committee seeks a leader with strong experience in planning. “Tremendous environmental changes are coming,” he said. “The long view is crucial. At the same time, the commission must focus on the regulatory issues facing them now. The executive director has the special role of supporting the commissioners in balancing the future with the immediate.”

The four finalists are Adam Turner of New Saybrook, Conn.; Bradford Washburn of Boston; Deborah Melino-Wender of Newport, R.I.; and Peter Temple of Aquinnah.

Mr. Turner’s professional career spans 30 years, and includes extensive coastal management work in island environments such as the Florida Keys. For the past seven years, Mr. Turner has been town planner for Colchester, where much of his focus has been on land-use regulation.

“I have worked with town leadership to create a planning division that has become a model in development responses to identified issues,” he said in his cover letter.

Mr. Washburn received his M.A. in Regional Planning at UMass in 2004, and has put that degree to use. His experience in the field includes stints as senior planner at the Boston Redevelopment Authority and as planning director in Easton. He currently serves as assistant director of the state Office of Coastal Zone Management.

Mr. Washburn said, “I can offer the commission over 12 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. I am a skilled leader who can effectively manage and motivate staff and is capable of navigating a diverse political landscape in order to advance the commission’s vision.”

Mr. Temple is the only local candidate, a fact that he views as a strength. “All my professional and civic work on Martha’s VIneyard has been driven by a passion to sustain the Vineyard and keep it a special place,” he said. “To me, this position is an opportunity to pursue my passion at a higher level. Commitment and tenure are not issues.”

His resume includes nine years as executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative, which supports the nonprofit community. Among his civic commitments, he has served 16 years on the Aquinnah Planning Board, the past five as chairman.

Ms. Melino-Wender of Newport, R.I., is the current director of development for the town of Dartmouth, a position she’s held since 2010. She is responsible for community and economic development, strategic planning, and grant development. Previously she was executive director of the Capital Center Commission of Providence, responsible for design review, implementation of regulations, and coordination with all parties involved in the development of downtown Providence.

She said, “I understand the issues confronting community leaders and how to effectively work with community representatives, staff, business leaders, and various elected and appointed government officials.… I have extensive experience with the issues facing coastal communities.”

Ms. Melino-Wender holds a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Harvard School of Design.

Public interviews of the four final candidates are scheduled for 5 pm, Wednesday, April 8, and 6 pm, Thursday, April 9.

The new executive director will preside over an agency with an operating budget of $1.5 million. Salaries and employee benefits, which include the cost of funding retirement benefits, lay claim to the largest share, $1.1 million of the MVC budget. The commission has 10 staff members. Mr. London earns $128,224 annually.

The bulk of the MVC’s income comes from Dukes County taxpayers through town assessments based on property tax valuation. All seven towns in Dukes County, which includes Gosnold, share the cost of planning, according to their relative property valuation.

Photo courtesy Facebook

Ahhh delivery pizza, how we’ve longed for you! We just heard from Porto Pizza in Vineyard Haven that they will be reopening on April 10, and their delivery service returns too. For now they’ll deliver as far west as up-Island Cronig’s and the West Tisbury School, and as far east as the Edgartown Triangle, for a $5 delivery fee (but don’t serve Lambert’s Cove or Dodgers Hole Road). Come July and August they limit their deliveries to Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs only, so if you’re in Edgartown or West Tisbury, take advantage of this coveted service while you can.

We also heard that Lobsterville Bar and Grille will be back serving the Oak Bluffs harbor on May 14 with returning executive chef Phil Hahn, formerly of the Falmouth Yacht Club. Mr. Hahn will be making his signature New England clam chowder, crab cakes, lobster mac ’n’ cheese, and preparing scrumptious hand-picked lobster rolls and hand-cut Belgian fries. We can hardly wait.


Know about any more restaurant reopenings? Let us know at calendar@mvtimes.com. We’ll be publishing a comprehensive list soon, and would love your help in making sure it’s complete.

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7:10 am, Wednesday

A tanker truck carrying 11,500 gallons of gasoline rolled over in the middle of the Bourne rotary late Tuesday night closing the rotary and bridge, State Police said. All traffic is being detoured to the Sagamore Bridge.

Island commuters can expect delays.

The truck has been removed and environmental cleanup crews are working to assess the damage. The bridge is expected to be closed throughout the morning commute.

Ethel Judith “Judy” Mayhew, 67, died on Tuesday morning, March 24, 2015, at her home in West Tisbury. She was the wife of Daniel L. Mayhew and mother of Daniel P. Mayhew, Mark Crowley, Paula Haynes, Jeanne Lotrionte, and Patricia Irwin, and sister to Alana Hickey and Robert Dunham.

Judy will be cremated, and a memorial service will be held at a later date, with a complete obituary appearing at that time. Donations may be made in her memory to the Animal Shelter, PO Box 1829, Edgartown, MA 02539. Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs. Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for online guest book and information.

 

The Island Bridge Club held its Thursday-night game on March 12.  Eight pairs competed. Finishing in first place were Dan and Nancy Cabot, followed by Bea Phear and Barbara Silk in second place, and Carol Whitmarsh and John O’Keefe in third.

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The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School boys basketball team plays a strong Wareham team (17-5) Saturday, February 28 at 1:30 pm.

A bus will carry Vineyard fans to the game Tuesday.

Bus transportation has been arranged to carry fans to the playoff game between the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys basketball team and a strong Wareham team (17-5) to be played at Wareham Saturday, February 28 at 1:30.

The bus will pickup fans at the Woods Hole Steamship Authority terminal at approximately 12:45 pm on Saturday February 28. Those intending to ride the bus should plan to take the 12 pm ferry from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole. The bus is scheduled to depart the game in Wareham in time for the 3:45 pm return ferry to Vineyard Haven.

People may sign up for the bus trip at today’s girls home game at 4:30 pm, or at the MV Hoops club Facebook page.