Gatchell family prepares its annual holiday welcome
Continuing a tradition that began 32 years ago, Lynn and Robert Gatchell of Oak Bluffs will hit the switch on their annual Christmas light display on Thursday.
The Gatchells' holiday extravaganza includes more than 20,000 lights, a flying reindeer, candy canes, talking Santas, a toy train, choir singers, penguins, a homemade igloo and a 40-year-old nativity set outside their home on County Road.
Mr. Gatchell said the display would be bigger than ever this year, with the addition of more lights and a Christmas tree on the new balcony of his restructured garage.
The display also serves as the centerpiece of a food drive for the Island Food Pantry. While enjoying the lights, drivers-by are encouraged to drop off canned goods.
The Gatchells' light display will be turned on after their Thanksgiving dinner. Their house is located on 148 County Road in Oak Bluffs.
FAA gives Edgartown wind turbine clearance
Edgartown has cleared a significant permitting hurdle in its efforts to build a large-scale wind turbine at the town's wastewater facilities off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road. The Federal Aviation Administration has determined that the proposed 328-foot turbine will not be a hazard to air navigation. The determination is based on a study that analyzed the impact on scheduling and routing of aircraft on public, private, and military airports.
"This aeronautical study revealed that the structure would have no substantial adverse effect on the safe and efficient utilization of the navigable airspace by aircraft or on the operation of air navigation facilities," the FAA wrote announcing its decision.
Wastewater facilities manager Joe Alosso, who is spearheading the project, considered clearance from the FAA one of the most difficult milestones in the long regulatory permitting process.
Edgartown faces tough choices on energy
Kitt Johnson, chairman of the town's energy advisory committee, urged Edgartown selectmen to set priorities among several alternative energy projects under town consideration. Mr. Johnson discussed status updates, challenges, and the benefits of solar arrays, a wind turbine, and an experimental tidal energy engine, placed off the town's shoreline at the Monday selectman's meeting.
"The wisest thing the town can do is put in place the ability to make some of its own electricity, at a fixed price," Mr. Johnson said. He told selectmen that Edgartown could quickly begin to generate power to offset the town's electricity bill of approximately $600,000 by installing solar arrays on the Edgartown School and the highway garage. Contractors are willing to finance the project, with no initial cost to the town.
Mr. Johnson also advised that the wind turbine project at the wastewater treatment plant, currently going through the regulatory process, is not a sure thing. He is concerned that a project that size will have trouble with financing and will require large up-front fixed costs. He is also taking a skeptical approach to the energy savings. "Nobody's run any formal economics," he said.
Mr. Johnson said the tidal energy project faces some significant obstacles. An application for the next step, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process, is due February 28. An application for a similar project ran to 900 pages. Failure to secure the next permit means the town would lose the exclusive right to test tidal generators in Muskeget Channel. "We've got a big chore in front of us," he said.
Fund for fire victims
On November 2, an early morning fire badly damaged the Fisher Road, Edgartown townhouse apartment where Alexis Burney, her fiancé Keith Yasinsky, and Ms. Burney's two girls and a boy - aged 5, 6, and 8, respectively - lived.
The family's Yorkshire terrier puppy died in the fire, and many family possessions were destroyed. The family is still in temporary housing.
Ann Hunt of the Bank of Martha's Vineyard (Sovereign Bank) reports that an account for the Burney-Yazinsky family has been set up at the bank. Donations may be made at any branch or mailed to Bank of Martha's Vineyard, P O Box 2151, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.
MVC holds Island Plan public hearing
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the Island Plan on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 7:30 pm at its offices on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs.
The MVC began drafting the Island Plan more than three years ago as part of an ambitious multi-year planning effort intended to provide a blueprint for all phases of Island life.
The public hearing is a prelude to an expected commission vote to adopt the plan on December 10.
A copy of the latest version is available online at www.islandplan.org, as well as from the MVC offices. It highlights changes to the plan, as a result of public comments received on the draft, which was released last summer, the MVC said in a press release.
For more information, refer to the website or call 508-693-3453.
Fund set up for injured high school cheerleader
A fund has been set up for Amanda Gonsalves, age 17, who suffered neck fractures during cheerleading practice on November 19 at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).
While practicing a stunt, another cheerleader fell on Ms. Gonsalves, according to her aunt, Margaret Oliveira. Based on her injury, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter airlifted Ms. Gonsalves to Massachusetts General (Mass General) Hospital. She was diagnosed with two cervical vertebrae fractures. Fortunately, her injuries did not cause paralysis.
Ms. Gonsalves, an MVRHS junior, is the daughter of Laura Hayden of Edgartown and John Gonsalves of Oak Bluffs. Although she has returned home, her aunt said she must wear a brace and avoid movement for the next two weeks.
After that, Ms. Gonsalves has to return once a week for the next 21 weeks to Mass General for continued treatment and therapy, Ms. Oliveira said.
Those would like to contribute to Amanda's health care and support during her recovery may send donations with the notation, "In honor of Amanda Gonsalves," to the Island nonprofit organization You've Got a Friend, Inc., P. O. Box 1317(A), West Tisbury, MA 02575.
Contributions also will be accepted at all Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank branches and should be labeled for Amanda's fund.
The MVRHS cheerleading squad on which Ms. Gonsalves participates is a school-sponsored sports activity, under the direction of coach Rebecca Cass, principal Steve Nixon said.
According to a Science Daily article online dated November 16, stunt-related injuries accounted for 60 percent of U.S. cheerleading injuries from June 2006 through June 2007. The statistic came from a new study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Aquinnah special takes up where it left off
Having failed to maintain a quorum needed to complete a special town meeting held on Nov. 17, Aquinnah voters will be asked on Tuesday to take up where they left off last month.
The special town meeting will reconvene at 7 pm on December 1 to take up the last four questions, including number 12, which proposes to reduce the quorum requirement for town meetings from 10 percent of all registered voters to five. Aquinnah has had repeated difficulty attracting enough voters to complete town business.
Earlier, voters approved new zoning regulations governing wind turbines. The zoning law amendments required and achieved a two-thirds majority in favor.
Forty-six voters participated on November 17, but a quorum call after eight of the 12 articles on the warrant had been approved revealed that too few voters remained to continue.
Also left to be considered are questions that would allow the tax collector to charge $5 for each demand for payment of a tax bill; appropriate $1,500 to update town GIS maps; and appropriate $800 for additional revaluation expenses.
Deer shotgun season begins on Monday
The Massachusetts two-week deer shotgun season begins one half hour before sunrise Monday and ends one half hour after sunset on Saturday, Dec. 12.
While risk to non-hunters is minimal, public safety officials advise people entering wooded areas to exercise caution and wear bright colors, preferably blaze orange, particularly at dawn and dusk, when deer and hunters are most active.
Hunting is prohibited within 500 feet of any occupied dwelling or building, without the authorization of the occupant or owner, and 150 feet from hard-surfaced roadways. Hunters must wear a minimum of 500 square inches of blaze orange on the back, chest, and head.
Environmental police sergeant Matt Bass advised hunters to wear the required blaze orange on their head and body at all times, including when sitting in a tree stand or a ground blind.
Sergeant Bass said hunters should be aware of the location of walking trails, houses, and roadways. It is not always safe to shoot even when a hunter meets the required distances, he said, particularly when hunting in thick brush.
Mr. Bass said walkers and hikers must be cognizant that it is hunting season and dress appropriately. He said blaze orange is not required "but it is a good idea."
All deer taken during the Vineyard shotgun season must be appropriately tagged and brought to an official deer checking station in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, the Wampanoag tribal headquarters building in Aquinnah, or Larry's Tackle shop on Upper Main Street in Edgartown.
The primitive firearms deer season begins Monday, Dec. 14, and ends Saturday, Dec. 31.
In 2008, Island hunters checked in 418 deer during the shotgun season. Statewide hunters took 11,217 deer last year. Vineyard deer hunters took a total of 696 deer over the archery, shotgun and muzzleloader seasons in 2008.
Any hunting related problems should be reported to the police at 911 or the environmental police dispatch number at 1-800-632-8075.
Break-in at West Chop house
Four liquid-crystal display (LCD) televisions and a desktop computer were discovered missing from a West Chop home, after a caretaker reported signs of a break-in, according to Tisbury Police Chief Daniel Hanavan.
When the caretaker stopped by the house on November 11, she found a door forced open and called the Tisbury Police, Chief Hanavan said. He declined to give the address of the house to guard against others nearby being targeted.
Police officers discovered four Samsung LCD television sets missing, one with a 36-inch, one with a 52-inch, and two with 40-inch screens. A Gateway desktop computer also was taken, Chief Hanavan said.
If anyone has been offered a television for a bargain price that matches the description of the ones taken or has any information, call investigating officer Detective Mark Santon at 508-696-4240.
As a reminder, Chief Hanavan suggested that homeowners take the precaution of locking their doors and letting neighbors know if they are going away.
Swine flu clinics at RHS and Oak Bluffs School
The last two in-school H1N1 (swine) flu immunization clinics will be held at Oak Bluffs School on December 2 and at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School on December 4, in cooperation with the Martha's Vineyard Public Health Coalition.
Superintendent James Weiss said yesterday the numbers of absentees at the high school are down to normal levels, following the outbreak of swine flu in late October.
There are a few cases among the Island's elementary schools, he added, the largest number, 10 or 11, at the Oak Bluffs School.
"It may well be that vaccinations have done their work," Mr. Weiss said. "We're probably talking about 70 to 75 percent coverage in the schools that have had clinics already." He estimated that parents of about 50 to 60 percent of students in Island public schools gave permission for their children to receive shots or nasal sprays in the in-school clinics, and another 10 to 15 percent of students were immunized by their family physicians.
Committee approves superintendent's budget
The All-Island School Committee (AISC) narrowly approved superintendent of schools James Weiss's $3.57 million shared services budget for fiscal year 2011 at a meeting Monday night. The vote was 6-5 in favor. The budget is 2.21 percent larger than the current year's $3.5 million spending plan.
Mr. Weiss's budget includes his office and shared services programs for schools Island-wide - for example, special education, administrative support, and enrichment programs.
The $77,348 budget increase Mr. Weiss proposed included funds for a school physician ($8,500), two additional special education assistants ($22,471 and $24,304), salary increases for non-union employees (a pool of $5,000), contractual step increases for union employees ($12,158), health insurance ($84,122 for new personnel and a possible 12-percent increase), and a $2,058 salary lane change compensation.
The AISC voted on October 8 to keep the current formula used to determine assessments to the local school districts for shared services programs.
The MVRHS school district pays a 20-percent share and Island elementary schools pay varying percentages based on enrollment numbers. The high school does not pay a portion of programs and services that relate only to the elementary schools, however.
Shares for the MVRHS school district ($328,124) and the Up-Island Regional School District ($759,724) decrease in the FY11 budget by 2.76 percent ($9,301) and 1.15 percent ($8,839), respectively.
Shares for Edgartown ($781,820), Oak Bluffs ($982,637), and Tisbury ($725,280) increase by 4.88 percent ($36,345), 4.75 percent ($44,547) and 2.05 percent ($14,596), respectively.
West Tisbury oyster season now open
West Tisbury's oyster season got under way Monday and is expected to remain open through April. The limits remain the same as they were last season. Commercial fishermen are allowed to take one bushel basket daily. Families are allowed a one-half bushel per week. Fishing is permitted on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 am to 4 pm. Oysters over 4 inches must be returned to the water.
Selectmen approved the recommendations of town shellfish constable Tom Osmers for the 2009-2010 oyster season at their meeting November 18.
Executive secretary Jennifer Rand told the Times that licenses for the oyster season may be purchased in town hall. A family license is $25, a non-resident license is $150, and a commercial license costs $150.
The selectmen also discussed arrangements for the town holiday party, scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 10, from 5 to 8 pm at the Ag Hall, dividing up a "to do" list and debating whether to have music or not and, if yes, for how long. There will be one hour of music, to be arranged by selectman Richard Knabel, while selectman Skipper Manter coordinates procurement of the four turkeys and two hams.
Mr. Knabel reported briefly on the outcome of the nine-member delegation's recent meeting in Boston with Ian Bowles, the Commonwealth's Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs regarding offshore wind energy issues. According to Mr. Knabel "some progress was made, but not as much as is needed."
The next selectmen's meeting will be December 2.
Corps will open all Sagamore Bridge lanes
In an effort to avoid traffic tie-ups over the holiday weekend, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers temporarily shut down work yesterday on the Sagamore Bridge until Monday when it will resume deck repairs and paving.
Delays on the Sagamore Bridge often create a ripple effect that extends to its counterpart the Bourne Bridge, the span across Cape Cod Canal that Vineyarders most often use.