Christmas kindness continues
Allison Bartlett, the recipient of an act of Christmas kindness when an anonymous shopper quietly paid for her Christmas tree at the Thrift Shop last month, said this week that generous Islanders have multiplied that kindness many times over since her story was published in The Times ("A Christmas kindness, a season of joy," MVT, December 17).
She said that local merchants and readers sent gifts for her and her daughter, and strangers recognized her and passed along good wishes.
"I can't tell you how many people came up and hugged me and cried," Ms. Bartlett said. "It's been unbelievable. Somebody asked me if next year was going to better than this one. I said, 'I had the best year of my life.' I would love to say thank you to my new community."
Chilmark approves tour bus, interviews candidates
Chilmark selectmen Tuesday approved a one-year license for a locally operated bus tour company to run Island tours with four buses during the 2010 season.
Selectmen expressed concern about growing numbers of tour buses, but they acquiesced, after discussion, to selectman Frank Fenner's reminder that the board had licensed a Boston-based tour bus company a month ago.
The board, however, removed North Road from the proposed list of routes submitted by Barry Lopes of Oak Bluffs. The service will operate only on South Road, Basin Road, Menemsha Crossroads and State Road.
A request for licensing by a second company, from Ron Minkin of Oak Bluffs, was postponed until January 19 because Mr. Minkin could not attend the board meeting this week.
The board also interviewed two finalists for the vacant town accountant position. Selectmen plan to meet Friday at 1:45 pm to discuss the candidacies. "We hope we'll have a decision then or shortly thereafter," selectman J. B. Riggs Parker said following the meeting.
Both finalists, accountant Emily Day and Edgartown National Bank executive Joan Chavez, agreed to attend ongoing town budget hearings in advance of their employment start date, if necessary. Former town accountant Tom Wilson resigned on November 24. In all, the town received 15 inquiries resulting in nine applicants for the proposed $49,000 a year post, treasurer Melanie Becker told the board.
Selectmen also decided not to pay a one-time $500 state-mandated fee for use of a ballot system, designed for voters with auditory and vision impairments, during the January 19 special election. Both Mr. Parker, the chairman, and Mr. Fenner said the AutoMARK system has never been used in more than four years when it's been available at town elections. Selectmen also said they would look at the program with an eye toward dropping it entirely.
The AutoMARK system combines a terminal and software that allows voters with disabilities to mark an optical scan ballot privately and independently. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has purchased and installed the system in every municipality and charges a fee for the installation of a microchip and enabling software.
Chilmark's AutoMARK fees would be about $2,000 this year, according to executive secretary Tim Carroll. "It has not been used by any voter since its installation four or five years ago," Mr. Carroll told selectmen on Tuesday night. "And if it were used by only one or two people, there is an issue of confidentiality [being breached]. Voters could be identified."
But he warned selectmen that the state regards installation of the system as mandatory, and a vote to not use the system could lead to action against the town by the secretary of state.
"Let them come after me," Mr. Parker said.
"This is another case of a mandated expense without funding," Mr. Fenner said, before selectmen instructed Mr. Carroll to have the town clerk advise the state that Chilmark would not use the system for the January 19 special election. The fee charged by the state applies to the override question which the town has on the ballot. The special election will also choose a successor to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy who died in August.
In other news, the selectmen gave provisional approval for several hours of filming by Chilmark resident Gabrielle Demeestere in Chilmark on Saturday. Ms. Demeestere is a graduate student in film at New York University and is making the 10-minure film as part of her master's degree program.
Chilmark sets Middle Line Road lottery for Jan. 19
Chilmark selectmen have set January 19 for a lottery to award six affordable homesites in the Middle Line Road housing project. There are 14 qualified applicants for the one-acre lots, but six have a definite leg up under a system that provides preference for Chilmarkers.
The Middle Line Road project includes six rental units built and owned by the town, and six single family houses, owned by lottery winners who 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 is located on 21 acres of heavily wooded town-owned land located about a half mile down Middle Line Road, a dirt road that intersects with Tabor House Road near the town landfill.
The leasehold lots of approximately one acre each on the 21-acre site will be available as 99-year land leases and require payment of a one-time $20,000 leasehold fee, payable at the time a building permit is issued. Leaseholders have up to one year from date of the leasehold to obtain a building permit, Andy Goldman, chairman of the Chilmark housing committee, said this week.
Heirs of leaseholders will be able to inherit the leasehold for its remaining term if they meet income guideline criteria, currently 150 per cent of Dukes county median income, which was $57,553 for the average family in 2007.
Final technical language relating to the leasehold agreement is being worked on, Mr. Goldman said. He said his committee and selectmen have agreed on the basic terms of the leasehold agreement and hope to have final language in place by the lottery date or shortly thereafter. The agreement is based on the Dukes County affordable housing model with some modification in terms and to account for specific agreements with related road and homeowner associations, he said.
Mr. Goldman said the leasehold arrangement provides that the land remains in the affordable pool in perpetuity. "We want to protect future affordability. This assures our social purposes. We've seen examples of affordable housing that has leaked out of the pool," he said.
Town government a hundred years hence will have the ability to decide on the best use at that time, including extending the leasehold, he said.
Island businesses invited
The Martha's Vineyard Times has invited Island businesses to a presentation of the newspaper's new online directory features. The event will be held Thursday, Jan. 14, from 4 to 6:30 pm, in the conference room of the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven.
The Times' online business directory at mvtimes.com was launched this summer. Visitor response has been vigorous, according to the newspaper ad sales team.
"The purpose of the January 14 meeting is to help Island business owners understand the power of mvtimes.com and the new searchable directories and how they will help you meet your 2010 business goals," Times publisher Peter Oberfest said this week. The Times and Mindshare Media are partners in developing the online directories feature.
The online directory listings feature photographs of participating businesses and their products; descriptions of the businesses; online mapping, phone, email and live web links; virtual tours, video and menus; live links to booking and reservation pages; links to blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and other social networking channels; and all of it is live and available on any computer or capable mobile device.
Business listings in the online directories have been free through the fall, but they will convert to paid placements on April 1. For information, call a Times ad sales representative, or visit email@example.com. Use this email address to RSVP for the January 14 presentation.
Local officers take on fitness challenge
Members of the Martha's Vineyard Tactical Response Team will compete against other first responders throughout the Northeast in a fitness contest.
The 911 Fitness Challenge encourages military, EMS, law enforcement and firefighting personnel to improve their fitness levels. Each team is measured at the beginning of January and the end of April. The team that improves its fitness the most, measured by body fat, wins a $5,000 prize.
Registration fees for the contest benefit the Shriner's Children's Hospitals.
Members of the team are Jonathan Klaren and Sean Slavin of the Chilmark police department, James Craig of the Edgartown police department, Tim Williamson of the Oak Bluffs police department, and David Murphy of the Dukes County Sheriff's Department.
Setting Oak Bluffs budget priorities, public invited
Facing an estimated $1.5-million budget shortfall next year, the Oak Bluffs finance and advisory committee will ask taxpayers to help set priorities for the town's fiscal 2011 budget. The committee has scheduled a public discussion session for Thursday, Jan. 14, at 4 pm, in the Oak Bluffs Library.
"We want to share the reality of our budget shortfall," committee chairman Mimi Davisson said. "Share some of the budget balancing ideas, and what the impact will be. After that meeting we'll have a better sense of how the public feels and that will guide us as we make the budget."
According to a committee press release, "Areas that contribute to the shortfall will be shared, and budget-balancing possibilities such as implementing hotels and meals taxes, cutting town services, freezing wages, collaborating with other towns and raising taxes through overrides will be discussed."
The town budget process for each fiscal year, which begins on July 1, typically starts in January and culminates at the annual town meeting in April. Some public officials have expressed a desire to involve voters in the budget process earlier, so they will arrive at town meeting more informed and more involved.
"This is the first step in that," Ms. Davisson said.
H1N1 vaccinations scheduled in Island towns
The Martha's Vineyard Public Health Coalition, a consortium of Island health agencies, has scheduled a series of H1N1 vaccinations in Island towns for the general public. Those who wish to be vaccinated are asked to attend a clinic in their town of residency.
Ron MacLaren, the Wampanoag tribe health director who has acted as the spokesman for town health officials, said that there is still a need for people to be vaccinated against H1N1. Mr. MacLaren said that although the publicity has diminished, the risk of infection remains. "The thing to remember is that H1N1 comes in waves," he said.
Mr. MacLaren said the health agents would be assisting at the clinics. The Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA) will provide the vaccinations.
Vaccination screening and consent forms are available at the offices of each town board of health, libraries, town halls and councils on aging. Direct questions to the local boards of health.
The Health Coalition includes all town health agents, the Martha's Vineyard Hospital, VNA, Dukes County Emergency Management and the Wampanoag Health Service.
The vaccination clinic schedule is: Wednesday, Jan. 6, Aquinnah Town Hall, 2 to 6 pm; Jan. 11, Oak Bluffs Public Library, 2 to 6 pm; Jan. 13, Tisbury American Legion Post, 3 to 6 pm; Jan. 15, Edgartown School, 3 to 7 pm; Jan. 18, West Tisbury Public Safety building, 9 am to noon; Jan. 21, Chilmark Community Center, 3 to 7 pm; Wampanoag Tribe administrative building, for tribal members by appointment beginning Jan. 11.
Edgartown selectmen cancel hearing over taxes
On Monday, Edgartown selectmen agreed to schedule a public hearing on January 19, to decide whether to revoke the liquor license of David Ryan's, a popular bar and eatery at 11 North Water Street, over unpaid back taxes.
Yesterday, the bill was paid, Pam Dolby, town administrator reported, and the hearing has been cancelled.
Territory Properties II LLC, the corporation that owns David Ryan's, had not paid property taxes owed for 2009 and 2010. According to records provided by the Edgartown tax collector, the total due was $23,022.
An Edgartown bylaw gives selectmen the authority to revoke any town issued license or permit for failure to pay taxes.
John Reveruzzi of Oak Bluffs controls Territory Properties and is listed as the owner. Contacted by The Times Tuesday, Mr. Reveruzzi said he had not been notified of the public hearing and did not know whether it involved back taxes.
"I have no idea what it's about," Mr. Reveruzzi said.
Heating oil up 11 cents a gallon in last week
The average price of heating oil in Massachusetts rose to $2.88 per gallon Tuesday, up from $2.77 a week ago. Prices have risen steadily since March 2009, when the average cost of a gallon of heating oil stood at $2.13, according to the state Department of Energy Resources.
Partners secures $ for MGH campus expansion, debt refinancing
Massachusetts General Hospital will build a 500,000 square foot health care facility at its Boston campus as part of a $500 million bond issue that will also enable Partners HealthCare to refinance $425 million in debt, the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority announced Tuesday.
According to HEFA, the new building at the MGH campus will house a relocated and expanded radiation oncology department, expanded emergency services, three levels of operating and procedure suites, and 150 neurosciences and medical oncology intensive care unit and acute patient rooms.
Partners HealthCare is an integrated health system founded by Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Martha's Vineyard Hospital is part of the Partners network.
Feds: new evidence may put Nantucket Sound on Historic Register
Nantucket Sound is eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a determination that Cape Wind opponents say should prompt the denial or relocation of the wind turbine project.
The National Park Service announced Monday that its keeper of the register had determined the sound's eligibility due to its significance as a "traditional cultural property and as an historic and archeological property," based on its associations with the ancient and historic period of Native American exploration and settlement of Cape Cod and the Islands, and with events central to the Wampanoag Tribe. "America's vast offshore wind resources offer exciting potential for our clean energy economy and for our nation's efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. "But as we begin to develop these resources, we must ensure that we are doing so in the right way and in the right places." Mr. Salazar added that "final consultations and analysis" would be undertaken and said it was "now time to move the Cape Wind proposal to a final decision point." The project involves 130 turbines over 25 square miles.
The park service decision does not conclude the effort to get Cape Wind permitted. Mr. Salazar said he planned to gather the "principal parties" next week to consider the new findings and "to discuss how we might find a common sense agreement on actions that could be taken to minimize and mitigate Cape Wind's potential impacts on historic and cultural resources." He said he hopes an agreement can be reached by March 1.