Martha's Vineyard News Briefs
Edgartown boards vie for legal settlement windfall
Edgartown water commissioners and the selectmen have agreed to ask voters to fund a new water line that was installed along North Water Street.
The water main was part of a privately funded project to relocate overhead utility wires underground. When that project went far over budget, partly because the water main had to be replaced, residents who funded the original project asked selectmen for town funds to cover the new main.
Selectmen requested that the water department contribute $160,000 from a $275,000 legal settlement that the town received three weeks ago. The settlement was part of a class action suit over well water contaminated by a gasoline additive.
But water department superintendent Fred Domont objected during the selectmen's meeting on Monday, saying that money had already been tabbed to fund painting of the town's water standpipe. He said that if ratepayers had to foot the entire bill for the painting, the average homeowner would see a $100 annual water rate increase.
The compromise was reached Tuesday, after selectmen agreed to restore the funds to the water department over a period of years. The authorization will come in the form of an article on the December 9 special town meeting warrant.
Oak Bluffs stops new sewer connections
Oak Bluffs wastewater commissioners voted unanimously Friday to halt new sewer hookups until the town can identify and fix the problem of treated effluent surfacing in Ocean Park. The moratorium will also put a hold on hookups on properties already approved for connection to the town's sewer system.
The moratorium comes as the board of health considers a regulation that would require residents who currently have cesspool systems, yet live along a sewer line, to connect to the sewer system.
The special town meeting scheduled for December 12 will include a warrant article asking voters to authorize $250,000 to fund further engineering study and ultimately the correction of the Ocean Park effluent problem. That amount would come from a wastewater district savings account, not from town revenue.
The properties already approved include residences in the area between the Ocean View Restaurant and the East Chop Beach Club. Also already approved are homes along Vineyard Haven Outer Harbor, on the Oak Bluffs side of the Lagoon Pond Drawbridge.
Permanent Endowment Fund awards $35,000 in fall grants
The Permanent Endowment for Martha's Vineyard announced the award in October of grants totaling $35,050 to 17 nonprofit organizations on Martha's Vineyard.
"This fall, we received the largest number of grant applications in our 26-year history," said Debbie Hale, Permanent Endowment fund chairman. "There is a tremendous amount of need in our community right now. But although we were not able to meet every request for funding, the Endowment is pleased to be assisting more than half of the organizations seeking support for their work in the areas of art and culture, education, the elderly, the environment, health and human services, housing and youth. Certainly, there is much being done to better the quality of life on Martha's Vineyard and the Endowment is delighted to participate in that effort."
Grant recipients included Adult and Community Education of Martha's Vineyard, the American Red Cross Cape and Islands Chapter, Aquinnah Cultural Center, FARM Institute, Habitat for Humanity of Martha's Vineyard, Island Children's School, Island Community Chorus, Island Health Inc, the Joint Edgartown/Oak Bluffs Committee on Sengekontacket Pond, Martha's Vineyard Art Association, Martha's Vineyard Community Services' Daybreak Clubhouse, Martha's Vineyard Film Festival, Oak Bluffs Council on Aging, Rising Tide Therapeutic Equestrian Center Inc., Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and Women Empowered.
The Permanent Endowment Fund was established in 1982 and is focused exclusively on addressing the needs of the Vineyard. It has more than $6.5 million in assets. More information on the Permanent Endowment Fund is available on their website at endowmv.org or at 508-338-4665.
West Tisbury selectmen, assessors see a land acquisition opportunity
At a joint informational meeting Tuesday between the West Tisbury selectmen and the town assessors, the selectmen learned that the town may be able to acquire more than 4.2 acres off State Road that is eligible to be taken for unpaid taxes. They also heard the assessors vow to take a more proactive role in analyzing property assessments developed by the professional consultant, Vision Appraisal, before tax bills are sent next year.
The available land is off Shubael Weekes Road near the Tisbury line, Kristina West, principal assessor said. The property abuts two existing affordable housing parcels.
The news drew the attention of selectman Jeffrey S. (Skipper) Manter and Michael Colaneri, chairman of the assessors. "This could be a good affordable housing opportunity," Mr. Manter said. Mr. Colaneri is also a member of the town's affordable housing committee.
Ms. West and the assessors told selectmen that the revaluation process will change going forward, as a result of widespread taxpayer dissatisfaction and 108 abatements issued in 2008.
"Nothing was done incorrectly, but there are things that could have been done or are typically done but weren't," Ms. West said.
The professional assessor's job had been vacant for several months before Ms. West arrived in September, a month before valuations were sent.
"Going forward, we are going to do interim adjustments annually, as needed," she told the two obviously relieved selectmen. "For example, we will likely reduce values somewhat this year to reflect the market while staying within Department of Revenue guidelines, and adjust again in 2010," she said, noting townwide revaluation is a triennial event, to occur next in 2011.
"In 2011, we will identify anomalies that may arise following the Vision Appraisal valuations and evaluate them against market values well before tax bills are issued," Ms. West said.
SSA summer/fall schedules will not change
Steamship Authority members, meeting in Woods Hole Tuesday, approved 2009 summer and fall operating schedules for the Vineyard that are unchanged from this year. A money-saving proposal from management, made a month ago, to shift a late trip from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven, favored by the Tisbury selectmen but opposed by Oak Bluffs businesses and Marc Hanover, the Vineyard member and an Oak Bluffs resident and business owner, was scrapped.
Tisbury selectmen Denys Wortman and Tristan Israel attended the SSA meeting to lobby the members to change the summer schedule so that the 7:30 pm boat that has departed Oak Bluffs would leave from Vineyard Haven instead next summer. At the selectmen's own meeting later Tuesday, Mr. Wortman reported unhappily that the SSA members had spurned their request.
Steve Sayres, boatline counsel, suggested doing a survey to find out which Island port the majority of passengers prefer. Mr. Wortman commented at the selectmen's meeting that most people would prefer to come and go from the same port, depending on where they live.
With an eye on fuel costs, and having in mind their efforts to reduce vessel trips and vessel speed to conserve fuel, the members agreed to hire consultants Hedge Solutions to develop a hedging strategy that would protect the boatline against sharp spikes in fuel oil costs in calendar 2009. The cost of this hedge, management estimated, would be about $.15 per gallon. A May 2008 rate increase helped the boatline offset the sharply rising cost of fuel oil during the first half of the year.
Readers will find this week's sports coverage on pages 6 and 7 of Go Vineyard!, the advance report on Saturday's inter-island football showdown that appears as a special pull-out section this morning.
Bunch of Grapes is back
The Bunch of Grapes Bookstore is back, but not in its familiar Main Street building, which continues to be under reconstruction, following the July 4 fire that destroyed Café Moxie, next door, and damaged the bookstore.
Dawn Braasch, whose Vineyard Booksellers Group is the new owner of Bunch of Grapes, announced this week that the store, temporarily located on Church Street next to Beadniks, will be open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, and until 9:30 pm on Fridays. The full-service Bunch of Grapes is still full-service, Ms. Braasch assures her customers, offering fiction, non-fiction and children's titles, as well as Vineyard books. All Bunch of Grapes gift cards and frequent buyer cards will be honored, Ms. Braasch says, and the store will take orders for books, which will be available within a few days. This weekend, the store's familiar staff and Ms. Braasch will dispense hot cider and former owner Ann Nelson's famous cheese balls to customers, along with book talk and recommendations.
Deborah Little offers a full range of handcrafted caskets for your loyal and loving non-human companions, including "all creatures great and small," according to a press statement released this week. Ms. Little's SummerStone service offers distinctive, fully lined and trimmed, hand-crafted caskets, with ornamental handles, for dogs and cats. Special orders are welcome. "Give them the goodbye they deserve," Ms. Little urges. Call 508-696-3963