Keep sidewalks clean or pay
The blast of snow that buried the Vineyard the Saturday before Christmas piled up on sidewalks as well as roads and fields. Days after the storm, sections of town sidewalks along some of Tisbury's busiest streets remained clogged with snow, including the section of sidewalk in front of Bob's Pizza, now closed for the winter.
Cross with retailers whose sidewalks were not shoveled after the December 20 storm, Tisbury selectmen made plans Tuesday to advertise the town's bylaw about snow removal and their intention to enforce it.
Tristan Israel, chairman of the selectmen, said he was disturbed to see some areas not shoveled after the storm, particularly along State Road and in front of Main Street businesses.
"I was told the owners were away, but that shouldn't matter," he said. "They should have made arrangements for that. We do have a town bylaw."
In Tisbury's bylaws, section 12 regarding snow removal requires that the tenant, occupant, owner or agent of any building, or lot of land, bordering on any street where there is a sidewalk, must remove snow within four hours after the snowfall ceases, if it is in the daytime, and before 11 am, if the snowfall ceases during the night. Failure to do so, according to section 22 of the bylaws, may result in a fine of $20.
The selectmen agreed the first priority is enforcement, to be carried out by the Tisbury Police Department and building and zoning inspector Ken Barwick issuing tickets. Interim Police Chief Daniel Hanavan, who attended the meeting, agreed to tell the ticket writers in his department.
Mr. Israel suggested increasing the $20 fine, which he said was not much of a deterrent. Assistant town administrator Aase Jones said amending the town bylaw would require approval by town meeting vote.
In other discussion, Mr. Israel suggested police officers and Mr. Barwick should focus their enforcement efforts on Main Street, within a half-mile area. Selectman Jeffrey Kristal pointed out, however, that a half-mile would not cover the area of the Vineyard Haven Library, which gets a lot of pedestrian traffic.
"We want everyone to shovel, from the harbor out to Greenwood Avenue, up State Road to Look Street," Mr. Israel said. Although it would not be possible to send police officers or Mr. Barwick out to look at the whole town, he added, downtown Vineyard Haven is intended to attract shoppers and should be maintained for the convenience of pedestrians and shoppers.
Selectman Geoghan Coogan asked that enforcement efforts also target areas where children walk to school or wait for school buses.
The selectmen agreed to advertise to remind homeowners and business owners about the snow removal bylaw and their enforcement plans.
In other business and in response to Mr. Coogan's suggestion, the selectmen also agreed to ask the planning board and Department of Public Works to evaluate the current fire department parcel in the next two months as a possible site for a new town hall.
Regarding other public safety issues, Fire Chief John Schilling warned everyone, "There is no safe ice in Tisbury." Despite this week's frigid temperatures, Chief Schilling said most of Tisbury's waters are brackish, and ice will not be thick enough to support people's weight.
"If a pet has gone through the ice, call us," Mr. Schilling said. "Don't go out on the ice on your own. If your pet went through, you'll go through." He said firefighters would rescue pets off ice using a new ice-rescue sled the town purchased with embarkation funds received from the Steamship Authority.
Chief Hanavan reminded the public to use discretion if drinking alcohol on New Year's Eve and to use a taxi or designated driver to get home safely.
In other business, finance director Tim McLean said the state's Department of Revenue approved the town's tax rate Monday. Because of the late approval, Mr. McLean said Tisbury would not be able to meet the state's deadline for mailing the quarterly tax bills by December 31.
As a result, the state offered an extension to allow the tax bills to be due 30 days after the town's anticipated mailing date of January 8, which the selectmen approved.
In other departmental reports, acting shellfish constable Hillary Conklin said 782 bushels of scallops have been harvested this season. She also reported that the application period for a new shellfish constable ends this week and that the search committee would meet next Tuesday to review the applications.
The selectmen also held a public hearing regarding a street license application from Ronald Minkin, owner of Martha's Vineyard Transport. Mr. Minkin wants to expand his Island charter tour business from vans to small buses. His goal is to get street licenses from all six towns, and to offer small group Island tours from May 15 through October 31.
The selectmen closed the hearing and took no action, advising Mr. Minkin to return with more details.
At the meeting's end, the selectmen went into executive session and then reconvened in open session. They voted unanimously to deny a petition by Kenneth, Nina, Hannah, and Daniel Garde to reopen a prior dog hearing and reconsider their decision to banish the family's huskies from town.
The selectmen's next regular meeting is on January 12, at 5:30 pm, at the town hall.