Oak Bluffs facing another tough budget season
Members of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, financial advisory committee (FinCom), and school board met last Thursday to discuss how to close a budget gap for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2010.
Town administrator Michael Dutton outlined fixed costs, including a steep increase in employee health insurance benefits and a scheduled three-percent wage increase for most of the town's employees.
While there are still many variables that will determine the budget gap, Mr. Dutton said this week that as finances stand now, before the first attempt to trim, the town is likely to face a $1.1 million shortfall.
"There really is nothing sacred," Mr. Dutton said at last week's meeting. "An analysis of the entire town and all the services we offer is necessary. Everything is on the table."
The group, led by FinCom chairman Mimi Davisson, discussed general areas for cutting costs, and took an informal straw vote to identify priorities.
Among revenue areas favored most by the group for further exploration were a hotel and meals tax, increasing fees and licensing, better use of town property to generate revenue, town garbage service, regionalization of services, and reducing or eliminating the most expensive employee health plans.
Bridge Housing back in business
Bridge Housing, a 22-unit affordable housing development in Tisbury, has a new life, according to Bridge Housing Corporation board member Isaac "Ike" Russell.
In September, the group said its seven-year effort to get the project started was over, because the loan the group used to purchase the 14.8-acre site at State Road and Deer Hill Road was due October 30, and the corporation had no source of funding. The project has successfully defended a series of lawsuits and has all the necessary permits for the project.
But Mr. Russell said the lender, Boston Community Capital, came to the Island to meet with board members in late November and agreed to extend the loan for ten more months.
"They are a social lender," Mr. Russell said. "They want to see us succeed."
MVTV now offers online video on demand
MVTV now offers video on demand at MVTV.org. The new service gives viewers with high-speed Internet access the capability to watch videotaped Island town government meetings and other programming online. Video on demand programs also will be archived on the server, according to MVTV station manager Stephen Warriner.
To access the new service, go to MVTV's homepage and click on "video on demand" in the list at left. Mr. Warriner said users who experience difficulties should contact MVTV at 508-696-9760.
Sengekontacket dredge project put off for this year
Another hitch in the permitting process means that plans to dredge the Sengekontacket Pond channel cannot begin until next fall, at the earliest.
The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) notified Oak Bluffs last week that it would review the project. Notice of the review will be published December 23, to be followed by a 21-day comment period.
"Although we have six months in which to review your certification and concur with or object to it, we will make a vigorous effort to complete our review shortly after the close of the 21-day comment period," wrote CZM project review coordinator Robert Boeri.
Oak Bluffs voters have authorized the town to borrow $500,000 for the dredging project, which is intended to promote tidal circulation and improve water quality.
"The window of opportunity is gone," said selectman Duncan Ross, at the board's regular meeting on Tuesday. "That's all I have to say. I would like to say a lot more. But I won't."
Hospital receives new CAT scanner
A new state-of-the art GE computerized axial tomography machine, more commonly known as a CAT scan, arrived and was moved into the new Martha's Vineyard Hospital Tuesday.
Tim Walsh, hospital CEO, said that what passerby see on the outside as the $42 million building nears completion is only part of the story. He said the upgrade of most of the equipment is a major step for the Island.
Mr. Walsh said the existing CAT scan takes eight-slice images. The new machine is capable of taking 64-slice images. "It is quite a machine," he said. "You can do a lot with it."
The Martha's Vineyard Hospital radiology department is electronically linked to Massachusetts General Hospital, which is assisting the hospital with the equipment upgrades. The building is on schedule to be completed in February, Mr. Walsh said.
Shotgun slug hits Chilmark house
Monday afternoon Chilmark Police responded to a call from Arba Clark, caretaker for a house located on Chockers Lane about a hole in an outside wall caused by a shotgun slug.
Following a search and the discovery of a casing, police determined that a Winchester 12 gauge slug was fired from Chockers Lane through thick brush, a distance of 25 yards, hit the lawn and ricocheted into the wall of the unoccupied residence and penetrated into the rear bedroom.
Anyone with information is asked to call Chilmark Police at 508-645-3310.
Shotgun slug shatters VTA bus window
A report of a gun shot that shattered a Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus window sent Edgartown Police to the VTA lot in the Martha's Vineyard Airport business park late Wednesday morning.
VTA administrator Angie Grant told police that she heard a loud gunshot and learned a short time later that a window on the passenger side of a transit van parked in the VTA lot had been shattered. Police also found a puncture hole in the seat next to the shattered window.
Ms. Grant told the responding police officers she thought the damage was caused by hunters in the area. Later, cleaners found shotgun slug in the van and gave it to police.
Ms. Grant also gave police a security tape that showed several flashes that appeared to be coming from beyond an adjacent boat storage yard and resembled gunfire at night, the police report said.
The window damage occurred during the first week of the two-week deer shotgun season and two days after a hunter was wounded by buckshot not far from the VTA lot in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.
A one-ounce, 12 gauge slug of a type commonly used on the Vineyard can be lethal up to 350 yards and can break a window past 750 yards. However, a slug fired from a weapon held level loses velocity and drops quickly - almost two feet at a distance of 150 yards.
The VTA lot abuts a triangular section of airport owned woodland bordered by the airport, the business park and West Tisbury Road.
Airport manager Sean Flynn told The Times that Wednesday morning an airport employee heard gunshots and found a vehicle parked in the Nectar's nightclub lot adjacent to the woods. The hunters had shot a deer. They were told they could not hunt on airport property and left.
Mr. Flynn said it was only later he learned about the VTA bus window.
Ms. Grant told The Times the incident was unnerving because the slug had to have traveled across the entire parking lot. Hunters in the state forest need to be aware of their surroundings she said and not overzealous.
Chilmark votes to fund Middle Line Rd. rentals
Faced with a $2 million decision on affordable housing, Chilmarkers voted with their fannies Monday evening, keeping most of them firmly planted in the easy chair at home. About 80 voters, roughly nine percent of the 863 registered, attended the special town meeting and they agreed, in a 60-3 vote, to borrow $1.4 million and appropriate another $600,000 from various other in-hand Community Preservation Act funds to build three rental duplexes at the town-owned Middle Line Road project. Voters quickly approved each of the other eight articles on the meeting warrant.
There was little discussion and no debate, but then the Middle Line Road affordable housing project has been a town topic for five years and at five town meetings. And, voters know that the borrowing must be addressed in a town election, when they will be asked to exclude the debt from the town's Proposition 2.5 levy base. The question may be put to voters on January 19, when a special state election will be held to fill the Senate term left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, or at the town's spring town election.
The cost of borrowing, according to a statement circulated to voters before the meeting, is modest, about $151,000 the first year, if the best interest rate the town can get is four percent. That would increase the town tax rate by five cents per thousand. After the debt is retired in 15 years, the town projects net operating income over the next 10 years at $637,000.
The Middle Line Road project, six rental units and six single-family houses, will be built on 21 acres of heavily wooded town-owned land located about a half mile down Middle Line Road, a dirt road that runs northeast from Tabor House Road just north of the town landfill. The town will build and own three duplexes, which will contain the six rental units. The town will also award six building lots on the site to families that qualify on the basis of their income. The lots will be awarded by lottery in January. Those six people will be responsible for planning and building their own homes. A plan currently under consideration would require each lot recipient to pay the town $20,000 to cover its costs.
The project began in September, 2004, when voters approved $45,000 to fund a feasibility study for the Middle Line Road housing project. To date, the town has committed $905,850 to the project. Costs include legal work, site plans, land and rights acquisitions, wells, roads, utilities, and $38,721 to conduct an archaeological survey at the request of the Wampanoag Tribe and state officials.
A total of $610,450, to be spent on the Middle Line Road project, came to the town in the form of state CPA matching funds. Town officials say the $2,000,000 in the warrant article for next week's special town meeting should be enough to cover the cost of the project, which is estimated at $3,516,000.
The town will retain ownership of the land with long-term ground lease contracts with the homeowners, structured so that the homes will remain affordable in the future.
Also Monday, voters approved two articles totaling $30,400 for repairs to the Chilmark Community Center and to resurface and repair the parking lot; and they agreed to spend $3,500 to repair the Old Menemsha School and shed. Voters agreed to spend $18,000 to remove dead standing trees along town roads.
Voters agreed to allow the town electrical inspector to do electrical work in Chilmark. Such work would be inspected by an assistant, or deputy, wiring inspector.
Voters also agreed to make the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority its agent to "create, administer and enforce" covenants intended to keep affordable housing properties affordable, after the original homeowner moves out. Several voters wanted to see the actual language of these covenants before approving the request, but the covenants will be written by the town housing committee and tailored as needed to each affordable housing project approved in town. Town counsel Ron Rappaport explained that the article, which reflected the language of a home rule petition approved by the state legislature and signed by the governor that allows Island towns to define "middle income persons and households" as those earning less than 150 percent of the county median household income, could be tabled or postponed, but not amended or otherwise changed. Voters agreed to the question 46-34.
V.H. post office extends holiday hours
The Vineyard Haven post office will offer extended hours on Saturday, Dec. 19, with the retail counter open from 9:30 am to 3 pm, instead of closing at 1 pm. Also, package pick-up will be available at the Dutch doors in the hallway next to the lobby until 4 pm.
As a reminder, customers may pick up packages at the Dutch doors starting at 7 am Monday through Saturday, Vineyard Haven postmaster Joe Massua said.
All other Island post offices keep normal hours.
Postal officials request that customers pick up packages promptly, as they are short on storage space with the crush of holiday mail.
They also advise mailing packages as soon as possible. Mr. Massua said parcel post packages should be sent by December 16, and priority mail by December 21, for Christmas delivery. As of December 23, Express Mail will be the only choice.
Red Stockings to be filled in record numbers
The Red Stocking Fund expects to provide for 370 Island children and their families this holiday season, up nearly 10 per cent from 2008 and 20 per cent more than in 2007.
"This may be the record, probably is," organizer Kerry Alley of Oak Bluffs said this week. "Given the economy, we expected an increase."
"We need money and we need toys, toys and more toys," longtime co-organizer Lorraine Clark added. An Island tradition since founders Addie Crist and Irene Flanders stitched together six red cloth stockings for needy children 72 years ago, the Red Stocking Fund has provided holiday dinners, winter clothing, and three toys for each child facing an otherwise bleak holiday.
The fund has a budget of $70,000-$75,000 raised through donations from groups and individuals and from events such as this weekend's Chowder Contest during Christmas in Edgartown festivities.
"There's still time. Some people actually come to the church on Monday and Tuesday, when we're wrapping presents to see what last-minute toys we need, then go shopping for them," Mr. Alley said.
Toy donors may call Ms. Clark at 508-693-0725 or Mr. Alley at 508-693-2324 or donations may be dropped off during the day directly at Grace Episcopal Church on Woodlawn Avenue in Vineyard Haven until Monday, Dec. 14.
Donations by check may be also mailed to Red Stocking Fund treasurer Barbara Silvia at P.O. Box 74, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.
Wreaths Across America to honor Island veterans
A special Wreaths Across America ceremony to honor veterans nationwide takes place at noon on Saturday, Dec. 12, at American Legion Post 257 at 34 William St. in Vineyard Haven.
Afterwards, wreaths and flags representing the military branches of service will be displayed near the directory at the Avenue of Flags in the Oak Grove Cemetery.
The ceremony at American Legion Post 257 takes place at the same time as similar ceremonies in more than 400 locations in the U.S. and around the world.
Several Island veterans will participate, including Richard Monaco, representing the U.S. Army, David Cann, U.S. Air Force; Jim Bishop, U.S. Marine Corps; Rodney Elden, Merchant Marine; and Curtis Jones, POW/MIA.
Reverend Rodger Spinney of the First Baptist Church will offer an invocation and Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling will play taps.
The Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, is donating the specially made wreaths.
For 18 years the company has provided more than 5,000 holiday wreaths to place on every headstone at Arlington National Cemetery.
Wreaths Across America (WAA) was formed as a nonprofit organization to extend the Arlington ceremony to national and state veterans' cemeteries, monuments, and community centers across the U.S.
Veterans Services Officer Jo Ann Murphy arranged for the Vineyard's participation in the wreath program starting in 2006.
In addition to ceremonial wreaths, civic groups nationwide have made donations to sponsor wreaths to place on veterans' graves in designated sections of participating cemeteries.
This year, WAA expects to place more than 150,000 wreaths in its mission to "remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and teach our children the value of freedom."
For more information or to sponsor a wreath, call Ms. Murphy at 508-693-6887 or visit the website WreathsAcrossAmerica.org.
Walk-through wreath welcomes shoppers
Tea Lane Nursery of Chilmark has set up shop for the Christmas holidays off State Road in Vineyard Haven at Eden where owner Matt Tobin's elves have created a custom walk-through 12-foot diameter wreath from local holly trees, the biggest on the Vineyard he said.
For more information, visit tealanenursery.com.
TBA announces first holiday raffle winner
The Tisbury Business Association (TBA) held its first holiday raffle on December 3, in association with "Twilight Thursdays," when Vineyard Haven shops are open until 7 pm.
In celebration of shopping locally, this week and next the TBA is raffling off a gift basket filled with treats from participating businesses.
Kelsey Ivory, the winner of the December 3rd raffle, received a gift basket filled with goodies from the Vineyard Grocer, Bunch of Grapes, Children in the Arts of Martha's Vineyard, and Tyler and Tallulah.
Fill out a raffle ticket today, December 10, for a chance to win a gift basket filled with treats from Shirley's Hardware, Kiddo's, Bryn Walker, and MV Heart.
State follows Islanders, choosing Coakley, Brown
In the state primary Tuesday, Island voters in all six towns led the state in choosing Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown. The turnout was generally poor, except in Tisbury where the override question on the new emergency services facility drew a 33 percent turnout.
A story published in the November 25 issue of The Times, "Film: 'Frogs and Toads' at MVFF," incorrectly identified the name of the film festival. The correct name is Family. Film. Feast.
In the December 3 issue of The Times, the article "Arrests made in 2007 safe heist at Cottle's" incorrectly identified Kevin J. Rocheteau as the defendant who caused a disturbance in the courtroom.
It was Patrece Peterson who banged his head against a wall and verbally threatened another defendant, according to court officials.