Cokie Roberts throws a curve at NPR brunch
Cokie Roberts, NPR senior news analyst and ABC News political commentator, was to appear at a fundraising brunch at the Farm Neck Golf Club tomorrow morning, August 14, in support of the local NPR station. The Brunch was scheduled from 10 to noon.
Yesterday, Ms. Roberts told NPR she planned to attend Eunice Kennedy Shriver's funeral in Hyannis Friday instead.
The "brunch" is now lunch and will happen from 1 to 3 pm. NPR said refunds would be offered for those who cannot make the change in their schedules, and tickets will still be available at the door. For more information, call Susan Loucks at WCAI (508) 548-9600, ext. 101.
Drug task force air search yields pot plants
A helicopter search for marijuana growing operations conducted by state and federal authorities in coordination with State Police and local police netted 169 marijuana plants from several Island locations last week. State Police Sergeant Jeff Stone said police expect to issue summonses related to the seizures within a week.
Among the properties entered by police following air surveillance was one on Skiff's Lane in West Tisbury owned by Oak Bluffs School principal Laury Binney.
In a phone conversation with The Times yesterday, Mr. Binney said no marijuana plants were seized from his property. "It was next to my property," he said. "They're not my plants. The report I got from my wife was they went off of my property to get the plants. It's a vacant lot. I got a call from my wife that a helicopter was over my house. They went into the brush and started pulling the plants."
Mr. Binney said he was not home at the time police seized the plants. He said police have not approached him, but he is sensitive about widespread speculation around the Island that he may be involved in cultivating marijuana plants.
"It's causing me major headaches," Mr. Binney said. "In my business, it's not fun. I had my superintendent ask me about it. I told him it was not on my property."
Martha's Vineyard school superintendent James Weiss acknowledged that he talked to Mr. Binney about the speculation.
"I don't believe he is involved," Mr. Weiss said. "I don't anticipate taking any action at this point."
Sergeant Stone, who leads the drug task force, declined to comment on specific locations where plants were seized, or the names of those who will be summonsed to court, citing the ongoing investigation. In all, police raided 13 different locations in West Tisbury, Tisbury, and Chilmark. Last year authorities seized nearly 300 plants during their annual air surveillance operation. Sgt. Stone said last week's search was hampered by weather, resulting in fewer plants seized.
Pot-seeking helicopters disturb West Tisbury residents
Last Thursday, August 6, the loud whirring of an unexpected helicopter rotor irritated and alarmed West Tisbury residents whose homes border the state forest. The helicopter, which was being used by the Massachusetts National Guard in a training operation for cadets, was operating in association with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on an annual marijuana search.
"It is frightening," exclaimed Karen Elgart, a West Tisbury resident who lives on Skiffs Lane. "That helicopter is in my neighborhood every year, and they don't go over the house just once, they go over multiple times."
Ms. Elgart, who likened the uproar created by the helicopter prop to living in a war zone, said she was relaxing in her back yard when the helicopter began circling. "This racket goes on year after year, but since it's not in other neighborhoods, people don't think about it," she said. "It's just harassment as far as I'm concerned. There's nothing but trees and flowers out here."
State Police Sergeant Jeff Stone, who also leads the Drug Task Force on the Vineyard, explained that similar helicopter searches occur all over Massachusetts throughout the year. He said a representative from the Mass. National Guard called the state police to inform them of their search before it began.
"They mix training with spotting marijuana," said Sgt. Stone. "They have been doing it at least once a year for numerous years over the Vineyard."
Cynthia Bloomquist, who also lives on Skiffs Lane, said she was furious about the helicopter disturbance and couldn't understand why the marijuana search occurs over her neighborhood each year. "You'd think that after this state changed the law on pot, the areas they searched for pot would change, too," she said. "It's so damned irritating when this goes on, wasting tax-payer dollars. It's a real invasion of property to be out there and have people just overhead, and hear these helicopter blades."
Police nab drug suspect as he gets off ferry
Armed with a search warrant, members of the Martha's Vineyard drug task force, Tisbury and State Police arrested Victor Cruz at the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal Tuesday night on drug trafficking charges.
Mr. Cruz, 28, had just got off the 7 pm ferry when police met him. During a search of his person, police found 182 Percocet and 47 OxyContin, according to State Police Sgt. Jeff Stone, head of the drug task force.
Police charged Mr. Cruz with trafficking in a class B controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a class B controlled substance.
Mr. Cruz was held on $5,000 cash bail in the Dukes County Jail Tuesday night. He was arraigned Wednesday morning in Edgartown District Court, and ordered held without bail. Mr. Cruz is free on bail from a separate case in New Bedford. In that case, he was warned that any subsequent arrest meant he could be held without bail for up to 60 days.
Sergeant Stone estimated the street value of the drugs at $9,220. He said Mr. Cruz provided an address of 20th Street in Edgartown, but he is originally from New Bedford.
Police believe Mr. Cruz has been involved in transporting drugs to the Vineyard. He has a history of prior arrests in New Bedford.
OB School plans for feeds and food for Obama media
Oak Bluffs School is preparing for its role as the Island's media center, during an upcoming Vineyard visit by President Barack Obama and his family during the last week in August.
"We've been in contact with the White House travel office, and they've been negotiating with us to use our building to house the White House press corps," Oak Bluffs School principal Laury Binney said on Tuesday.
Superintendent of public schools James Weiss said any expenses would be reimbursed. "Basically, we're renting them a space," Mr. Weiss said. "Our only goal in this is to supply the location and be as helpful as possible."
Expecting at least 30, Mr. Binney plans to put the working press in the school's gym and cafeteria from August 23-31. Although two days of professional development workshops for teachers are scheduled at the school during that time, Mr. Binney said there is plenty of room for everybody.
He already received a breakdown of the electrical needs and is working with an Island electrician, who is assessing the school's power supply and estimating costs.
"They just need a couple of big feeds into the building, but given we use both 110 and 220 in our kitchen and other areas, I don't think it's going to be a problem," Mr. Binney said. There will be two large vans with equipment for satellite transmissions in the school parking lot as well.
The press corps also requested 24-hour access to the school building. "Someone just needs to sleep on a cot and be available, should something happen in the middle of the night that requires the press corps to come down and file a story," Mr. Binney said.
Since school custodians work in the building from 6 am to 10 pm, he said he plans to hire someone to remain in the building for the "graveyard shift."
White House personnel also contracted with Oak Bluffs School's head cook Leah Miranda to provide muffins and other breakfast fare.
Although Blue Heron Farm has a basketball court the President can use, Mr. Binney said he made sure the school's gymnasium floor was polished to a shine, just in case.
"Maybe if it rains, he'll come over here to play," he said. "And we've got showers, too."
Housing fund director Patrick Manning resigns
The Island Affordable Housing Fund (IAHF) announced Monday executive director Patrick Manning resigned, effective September 1.
Mr. Manning was appointed IAHF's executive director in January 2007. His appointment followed a 12-year career as a state legislator in New York. A press release issued by IAHF on Monday said that Mr. Manning resigned because family obligations in New York will prevent him from continuing a full-time role at IAHF.
"I have enjoyed the time that I have spent with my affordable housing family, and I wish them all the best in the future," Mr. Manning said in the press release. "It is a stellar team with a timely mission; however, the Island Affordable Housing Fund needs a full-time director on-Island, and I cannot provide that to them at this time. I am honored to have worked with such a dedicated group of individuals."
IAHF will conduct a national search for Mr. Manning's successor.
In other news from IAHF, the board elected Walter M. Vail of Oak Bluffs as a member on Monday. Mr. Vail served in many housing oriented positions in his professional career and was a founder of Beacon Mortgage Company in Manchester, N.H.
An Oak Bluffs summer resident for more than 50 years, Mr. Vail moved to the Vineyard full-time in 2008. Among his many professional and community activities, on the Island Mr. Vail has served as president of the East Chop Beach Club and the East Chop Tennis Club.
Tisbury beer and wine bill progresses
Tisbury town administrator John Bugbee and state Rep. Timothy Madden testified briefly before the state legislature's Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure about Tisbury's beer and wine license bill on August 4.
Tisbury's beer and wine license bill, H1907, was reported out of the committee with a favorable recommendation, along with several other towns' liquor license bills.
As a next step, the bill goes before the full legislature. Once approved by the house, senate, and the governor, a beer and wine ballot question may be put to voters on the spring 2010 town election ballot.
The bill got its start in January when a group of 11 Tisbury voters filed a petition with the town clerk requesting that the selectmen place an article on the town meeting warrant for approval to file a home-rule petition (HRP) request with the state legislature to grant licenses for the sale of beer and wine in restaurants, inns, and other establishments. No bars or package stores would be allowed.
Voters approved the article 136-109 on April 15, the second night of Tisbury's 2009 annual town meeting.
Representative Madden filed Tisbury's bill.
Mr. Bugbee explained to the committee that Tisbury's bill is the same as one approved in 2008 authorizing a ballot question about allowing beer and wine sales in Tisbury.
The April 15, 2008, ballot question vote resulted in a tie, 690 against, 690 for. A recount on May 2 confirmed the question's defeat by two votes, 692 against, 690 for.
"Clearly the businesses in Tisbury want to know whether beer and wine sales may be a possible new revenue source for them," Representative Madden said. "When you have a vote that ends in a tie like that, even though the recount changed it a little, you can understand that the question still remains."
Chilmark housing bid may be three parts
Chilmark selectmen will study the possibility of dividing the estimated $1.5 million Middle Line Road affordable housing project into three parts for the construction phase.
Responding to a request by builder and Chilmarker Robert Elliston, selectmen J.B. Riggs Parker and Frank Fenner instructed executive secretary Tim Carroll to research a three-part bid plan. The selectmen agreed with Mr. Elliston's assertion that the $1.5 million job was beyond local contractors' bonding ability.
Ag Fair traffic plan approved
West Tisbury selectmen last week approved an annual traffic rerouting plan to accommodate visitors to the Agricultural Society Fair and Livestock Show to be held this year from August 20 to 23 at the fairgrounds on Panhandle Road.
As in previous years, Panhandle Road will be one-way for the duration of the fair, with traffic flowing from State Road to the intersection with Middle Road and Music Street, Thursday through Sunday, 9 am until midnight.
Drivers traveling east on Middle Road must turn right onto Music Street. Traffic on Music Street may not proceed on Panhandle Road past the Middle Road intersection for the duration of the fair.
SSA meets Tuesday in Oak Bluffs
The Steamship Authority (SSA) members will hold their August monthly meeting in Oak Bluffs Tuesday. The agenda includes a review of 2010 schedules and a vote to end winter fast ferry service.
Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, said the board would review a proposed draft of the 2010 summer and fall schedules. Mr. Lamson said there are no significant changes. "It is pretty much the same as we ran this year," he said.
The members expect to vote on a request by the New England Fast Ferry (NEFF) company, which now provides service to New Bedford, to modify its license agreement and end winter service during the months of December through March.
Mr. Lamson said that ridership has dropped due to the economic slowdown. He said the lack of work has affected the number of contractors who used to ride the ferry back and forth. Management supports the request, he said.
Management will also provide an update on current projects that include the Oak Bluffs terminal reconstruction and improvements. The boatline meeting begins at 10:30 am in the Oak Bluffs Library meeting room.
OBPD sponsors Junior Police Academy
The Oak Bluffs Police Department's annual Junior Police Academy for children ages 11-14 will take place August 24-27, 9 am-2 pm, in the Oak Bluffs School's community room.
Academy Director Officer Christopher Oteri is seeking junior recruits for the free program designed to introduce children to the different aspects of policing the Oak Bluffs community. Recruits will learn more about such topics as arrest procedures, medical emergencies, seat belt safety, defense tactics, and emergency vehicles.
Each day's program features a theme that the group will discuss, such as accountability, respect and self-esteem. A variety of enrichment activities and daily field trips also are scheduled.
Interested participants must collect an application at the Oak Bluffs Police Department at 1 Ocean Avenue and submit it by 4 pm on Wednesday, August 19. Call Officer Oteri at 508-693-0750 with questions.
Squash Meadow Construction LEED tour
Squash Meadow Construction of Oak Bluffs will hold a Green Building forum on the site of what a company press release said is the first LEED (Lead in Energy and Environmental Design) certified residence in Oak Bluffs.
Company representatives will give a LEED presentation, followed by a question and answer session and a tour of the house located at 15 Green Avenue in Oak Bluffs at 5 pm, Wednesday. For more information go to squashmeadow.com.
Chilmark selectmen put off special
Chilmark will not convene a special town meeting (STM) in September, selectmen decided last week.
The special town meeting will instead be set for mid-November, after final plans are complete on repair work at the police station and the community center, the key topics for which a September STM was intended to address.
Selectmen also approved permanent employee status for Todd Christy, administrative assistant to the planning board and housing committee, and they agreed to advertise an opening for an at large member to the Martha's Vineyard Center for Living, formerly known as the Island Council on Aging.
In other news, selectmen have completed preliminary interviews in closed session with candidates for town clerk. Public interviews with finalists will be held at 6 pm on August 18, before the regular selectmen's meeting.
Selectmen also tabled discussion of the Martha's Vineyard school superintendent's office plans, pending receipt of additional financial detail.