Friends raise funds for parents of preemie
Friends of Amanda Berninger and Erik Nelson are organizing a fundraising effort to help the new parents care for their newborn baby, born prematurely on January 22. The child, Autumn Rose Nelson, weighed less than two pounds when she was born, and is being cared for at a Boston hospital.
Ms. Berninger is a cashier at Tony's Market, and Mr. Nelson works at the Edgartown refuse district. They live in Oak Bluffs and plan to marry this fall, according to their friends.
The couple has rearranged their work schedules so they can travel to Boston three days each week. Their insurance coverage does not cover the cost of parking, transportation, or meals while they visit their baby in the hospital.
The fundraising drive is being organized by Tony's Market, where donations are being accepted. "We are going to match the first $1,000 of contributions," said Dave Richardson, owner of Tony's. Those who wish to give can also send a check payable to Amanda Berninger, P.O. Box 2106, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.
Tisbury selectmen change upcoming meeting dates
The Tisbury selectmen reviewed warrant articles submitted for the April 14 annual town meeting at their meeting Tuesday.
There were no department reports this week, allowing extra time for discussion of the warrant articles. Town treasurer Tim McLean, finance and advisory committee chairman Larry Gomez, and other town officials offered comments. The selectmen removed several articles, because, they said, they are concerned about the economy and keeping town spending down.
In other business, the selectmen voted to join the Vineyard Electric Cooperative (VEC), at a cost of $25, on the advice of Peter Cabana, the town's Cape Light Compact (CLC) representative.
The selectmen also voted to appoint Mr. Cabana at his request as Tisbury's VEC volunteer director until June 30, 2009, when they annually review and make committee appointments.
Due to vacations and scheduling conflicts, the selectmen changed their upcoming meeting dates to February 17, March 3, and March 17.
Island Bowl & Board not affected by family bankruptcy
Bowl & Board, the Massachusetts based retailer of home goods, clothing, and gifts, recently declared bankruptcy. But the owner of Bowl & Board in Vineyard Haven said the bankruptcy does not affect the Island store.
Maria Metters said her father founded the small chain of stores in 1965, but she owns the store on Main Street in Vineyard Haven through an independent corporation.
Her brother, Mark Giarrusso, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the three mainland stores he manages.
"We've used the family name Bowl & Board, given that my father started the business," said Ms. Metters. "My brother's situation is completely separate. We do share vendors, share ideas, but financially we are completely separate."
Mr. Giarrusso's efforts to sustain his business during the economic downturn, including his reluctant decision to declare bankruptcy, were chronicled in a series of reports on National Public Radio, which Ms. Metters said had caused some confusion among her customers.
High school committee meets past and present
Presentations from students past and present livened up the regional high school committee's meeting Monday night.
Class of 1960 alumnus Donna Gazaille shared her high school memories as part of an ongoing commemoration leading up to the graduation of the high school's 50th class this spring.
Turning to the present, guidance director Michael McCarthy, adjustment counselor Amy Lilavois, and several students provided an overview of two successful student retreats held at the Hebrew Center, the December 17-18 Peer Outreach Retreat, and the January 13-14 Race Culture Retreat. Physical education and health department chairman Anne Lemenager and staff presented this month's department report.
Mr. McCarthy also provided the results of an exit opinion survey taken by 163 Martha's Vineyard Regional High School seniors. Overall, the students indicated satisfaction with the quality of education at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, its programs, services, and facilities. Survey responses were consistent with national norms.
Principal Stephen Nixon told the school committee that the Performing Arts Center's elevated seating section has been closed by Oak Bluffs Building Inspector Jerry Weiner until issues of inadequate aisle lighting and a lack of handrails are addressed (see related story pg. __). Mr. Nixon said the closing means the loss of 371 seats for the drama department's four performances this weekend of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
In other business, the school committee approved a motion to support legislation to create an Island-wide General Accounting Standards Board trust fund for unfunded liabilities, such as health and dental insurance benefits for Martha's Vineyard Regional High School District retirees. There is no obligation right now to contribute, superintendent of schools James Weiss explained.
In response to school committee members' questions about insurance issues and field trip policies raised in the High School View published in last week's Times, Mr. Weiss assured, "We will come to you with a revised policy to clear up some of the confusion."
In the superintendent's report, Mr. Weiss noted that based on enrollment projections received from the New England School Development Council, the high school might lose about 100 students by the 2018-2019 school year. However, enrollments Island-wide are projected to remain flat over the next five years.
Mr. Weiss also provided a chart showing fiscal year 2010 town assessments for the high school, with calculations using both the state's wealth-based statutory formula and the Island's former regional per-pupil formula for comparison.
Although the two formulas are supposed to equal out by the end of a five-year phase-in period for the statutory formula, Mr. Weiss cautioned that if Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's budget goes forward, the transition period might be stretched out another two years.
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School school committee meets again March 2.
Choir provides comfort for those on the threshold of life
Male and female singers interested in joining the newly formed Martha's Vineyard Threshold Choir are invited to learn more about the organization.
The concept originated in Oakland, Calif., as a way to provide compassion and comfort to those on the threshold of life. According to a press release the threshold choir honors the ancient tradition of singing at bedsides in small groups when called in by families and caregivers. The repertoire is chosen to respond to individual musical tastes, spiritual direction, and physical capacity.
Interested singers are invited to attend an introductory session, which will be held on Feb. 14, 17, 18, and 21. For more information, call Cheryl Burns at 508-693-8214, or go to www.thresholdchoir.org.
Edgartown moves closer to wind power
Edgartown has received the green light to continue studying the feasibility of a wind turbine that would supply power to all the town's municipal buildings. The turbine would be located at the town's wastewater treatment plant.
The next step is to install a meteorological tower to gather wind data. This study, and two previous studies, were funded entirely by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
"The town hasn't had to spend any money yet, which is always good," said wastewater plant manager Joe Alosso.
Mr. Alosso said it costs about $200,000 annually for electricity to operate the wastewater plant, the second largest expenditure in his budget. Initial studies show a wind turbine would cover those costs, as well as electricity costs for all municipal buildings, including the school, town hall, and highway department facilities.
Sign missing from Lambert's Cove Inn
The sign at Lambert's Cove Inn and Restaurant at the end of Manaquayak Road in West Tisbury was discovered missing on Sunday. Manager Andrew Roth said he last saw the sign Saturday night when he returned to the inn around 9 pm after attending an event. On Sunday around noon, however, he noticed the sign was missing when he returned from walking his dogs on Lambert's Cove Beach.
"The post was standing strong - it had a couple of scrapes on it - but the sign was nowhere to be seen," Mr. Roth said. "The arm of the sign was just snapped off. I looked on the ground and in the woods, but there was no sign."
Lambert's Cove Inn and Restaurant owners Scott Jones and Kell Hicklin just replaced the custom-made sign, valued at about $2,000, about six months ago after a motorist knocked it down, and had the post set in cement, Mr. Roth noted.
West Tisbury Police Officer Dan Rossi responded to Mr. Roth's call about the missing sign around 2 pm Sunday. His report stated it appeared a short-wheel based car or truck turned right off of Lambert's Cove Road and skidded into the signpost. A neighbor told Officer Rossi he last saw the sign at 9:30 pm Saturday night.
After searching the area and not finding the sign, Officer Rossi issued an alert with a photo to all Island law enforcement agencies. By Monday, there had been no reports of an accident near the location of the signpost.
Mr. Roth said although Lambert's Cove Inn and Restaurant is hosting a mystery weekend on April 3-4, "the case of the missing sign" is not in the script. He is offering a $200 reward for the sign's return, and asks that anyone who has any information about it to contact the West Tisbury Police at 508-693-0020.
Photo courtesy of Boston Celtics/ Sports Action Photography
Celtics honor Spc. Chris Brown of Oak Bluffs
The Boston Celtics honored Specialist J.N. Christopher (Chris) Brown II of Oak Bluffs with a Heroes Among Us Award in a ceremony on January 12 at a home game with the Toronto Raptors.
The Boston Celtics Charitable Foundation selects honorees who have made an overwhelming impact on the lives of others. Specialist Brown was nominated for the award after receiving the Massachusetts Medal of Merit for helping save a woman's life in Blandford on December 14 when deployed with the National Guard in the wake of an ice storm.
Spc. Brown, his dad Jim, his sister Abby Walsh, and her husband Sean Walsh were chauffeured to the game compliments of Weldon Executive Coach, the Celtics' official limousine service.
Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard, presented Specialist Brown with the Heroes Among Us award during a special in-game presentation at center court. To top it off, the Celtics won in overtime 115-109. After the game, Spc. Brown also received congratulations from Juliette Kayem, Massachusetts Director of Homeland Security.
Spc. Brown's mother, Deb, watched the event on TV at home in Oak Bluffs and listened to a blow-by-blow account via cell phone from her husband. Later, the Celtics sent the Browns a video of the presentation as it was broadcast on the JumboTron at the game.
The Massachusetts State Lottery sponsors the Heroes Among Us program, with support from WEEI 850 AM and Comcast SportsNet. To date, more than 380 individuals have received the award since it was established in 1997.
New Bradley Square plan still stirs controversy
A vocal group of property owners and residents of Oak Bluffs again criticized the Bradley Square affordable housing project, at a public hearing before the Martha's Vineyard Commission last Thursday evening.
The Island Housing Trust, a co-applicant of the proposal, presented modifications to its project slated for the corner of Dukes County and Masonic avenues. The new plan, reached after a professionally mediated negotiation with a group of Oak Bluffs concerned citizens, would reduce the height and the overall square footage of the project, as well as increase the number of parking spaces to 20.
Though opponents of the project wanted the Martha's Vineyard Commission to stop the project, land use and planning committee chairman Linda Sibley told the packed hearing room that legal constraints prevented that, because the Martha's Vineyard Commission had already granted approval for the original project.
"Even if we had second thoughts, we can't roll that back," said Ms. Sibley. "We can really only address the question 'Is the modification better or worse.'"
The applicants asked for an expedited vote on the modified Bradley Square plan, in order to begin construction this summer. The commissioners agreed to conduct a committee review on February 17, and scheduled deliberation and a vote on February 19.
In other action at last Thursday's meeting, the Martha's Vineyard Commission closed the public hearing on a 12-unit condominium project proposed by Donald Muckerheide, on his property at 114 and 116 Dukes County Avenue. The public hearing, which began on July 17, was continued seven times, as the project was completely revised. The commission has scheduled a vote on the project for this evening, February 12.
Quinn bill money among state cuts
State budget cuts may reduce the amount of money the state contributes to salary increases for local police officers that earn advanced degrees.
The Quinn Bill, passed by the state legislature in 1970, provides salary incentives for police officers who earn degrees in law enforcement and criminal justice. Salary increases range from three to 30 percent, and continue through the officer's career. Oak Bluffs voted to participate in the state program.
The state may cut Quinn Bill reimbursements from 50 to 36 or 38 percent of the salary hikes.
"The town voted it with the understanding that the town would pick up 50 percent of the cost," said Mr. Dutton. "The town would be unable to pick up that lost 12-14 percent."
In the current fiscal year, Oak Bluffs voters appropriated $127,748 to cover its share of police salary increases.
Governor Patrick names stimulus czar; Senate and House announce oversight panel
Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday named real estate executive Jeffrey Simon as head of an economic recovery infrastructure program readying to distribute much of the Bay State's share of a $789 billion federal stimulus package that appeared to near completion in Washington.
Simultaneously, legislative leaders announced a temporary joint committee to oversee and review state spending of anticipated federal funds and Governor Patrick unveiled a website intended to allow the public to track bids, funding, and project progress.
Governor Patrick hesitated to estimate the Bay State's share, but said between $1 billion and $2 billion for infrastructure alone appeared likely. Mr. Patrick said his administration has heard estimates for Medicaid assistance within the $1.6 billion it has budgeted through fiscal 2011. Projections for education aid and safety-net programs were harder to pin down, aides said.
Some education funding would go directly to municipalities, Mr. Patrick told reporters. He said various criteria imposed through federal and state formulas would govern how the infrastructure money is spent. He said job creation, "long-term economic value," and "regional equity" would be highly slotted criteria on the state level.
Mr. Simon, president of the Boston based Simon Properties real estate development services firm in Boston, will start as infrastructure investment director this week, reporting to Patrick and Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan.
"It's not enough to paint bridges, to pave roads, and to improve public buildings," Simon said. "The personal dignity that comes with being a productively employed member of society is strong, immediate, and deeply held. We're going to put people back to work, building worthwhile projects that will benefit us all far into the future. We will do this with openness, with honesty and with professionalism."
Governor Patrick said all the projects would be bid out publicly, and that the website would list all stimulus contracts, all bidders' names, and "regular progress reports of work carried out under these contracts."
Separately Wednesday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray indicated the new temporary committee would also review current state laws, regulations and policies and make recommendations designed to access additional state funding or spend money more quickly to lift the economy.
Governor Patrick in December released a $4.7 billion short-term wish list for infrastructure projects, after then-President-Elect Barack Obama had made clear his intentions for a massive economic stimulus. On Wednesday, Mr. Patrick declined to delve into details about which "shovel-ready" projects would see the first flush of funding, how many jobs would be created, or when the stimulus would kick in.
Sen. John Kerry told reporters Tuesday that funds from the stimulus bill could begin flowing to the states next week and said he'd spoken to Patrick about potentially using funds to help finance commuter rail expansion to Fall River and New Bedford.
Governor Patrick said Wednesday he was "very enthusiastic" about the South Coast rail project, but noted its cost exceeds $1 billion and said he didn't expect to be able to devote all of the infrastructure aid to that project.
Medical Reserve Corps elects new officers
The Martha's Vineyard Medical Reserve Corp, a volunteer organization including non-medical and medical volunteers who assist and support the Island's emergency personnel in the time of need, announced new officers. They are: chairman Shirley Fauteux (Oak Bluffs health agent); vice-chairman Chuck Cotnoir (Dukes County emergency management director); treasurer Matthew Poole (Edgartown health agent); and clerk Carol Bardwell (Martha's Vineyard Hospital chief nurse executive).
For more information, visit mvmedicalreservecorp.org or call 508-696-3844.