Consultant sees improvement in Tisbury police department
The Tisbury Police Department has improved under the direction of interim Police Chief Daniel Hanavan, according to a report by consultant Robert Wasserman at the Tisbury selectmen's meeting Tuesday night.
The selectmen hired Mr. Wasserman, a West Tisbury resident and international security consultant, to review the police department's operations and management after former Chief John Cashin left his job last May, three months short of the end of his three-year contract.
In a preliminary update of his review, Mr. Wasserman said he focused on two areas, including improving the internal processes within the Tisbury department and looking at the costs and effects of a merger with the Oak Bluffs Police Department. He deferred discussion about merger issues, pending the results of the department's union contract arbitration.
In the wake of Mr. Cashin's abrupt and acrimonious departure, Mr. Wasserman said his sense is that the Tisbury department has settled down under Chief Hanavan's direction. A 19-year-veteran of the Tisbury police, Chief Hanavan was appointed interim chief through October 12, 2009, by the selectmen immediately upon Chief Cashin's departure.
Chief Hanavan has made several improvements, many based on recommendations from Mr. Wasserman in an earlier report to the selectmen made in July.
The evidence room has been reorganized, and it will be reviewed yearly. Internal communications in the department have improved, with meetings between Chief Hanavan and three sergeants twice a month and monthly meetings with the patrolmen. Mr. Wasserman also noted that the department has good response times to calls for service and for investigations.
There is now a defined chain of command, with every officer assigned to a sergeant, and improved supervision within the department. Chief Hanavan has also added some new policies, as a first step in bringing the department's policies and procedures up to date.
Mr. Wasserman said improvements are still needed in reporting daily activities, conducting performance evaluations, increasing the visible presence of police officers after movies or events in Vineyard Haven, as well as internal team building.
The department still suffers from internal tensions, Mr. Wasserman noted. Some of the police officers seem to interpret the recent increased oversight and supervision as a sign that "management is out to get them," he said, while others exhibit a "tit for tat mentality" regarding discipline.
There is also a difference of opinion among officers regarding policing style, according to Mr. Wasserman. Some prefer a more aggressive style than the town expects.
Mr. Wasserman told the selectmen he would write a formal report in the next few weeks, outlining what needs to be done along with his specific recommendations.
"Dan has done a terrific job as acting chief," Mr. Wasserman concluded. "His heart is in it. He cares about the officers, and he cares about the town."
In 2006, Chief Hanavan was one of three finalists, including Mr. Cashin, for the police chief job. Although Mr. Wasserman had been consulted on Tisbury Police Department business in the past, he did not know Mr. Cashin and was not involved in the search process at that time.
Mr. Wasserman is the chairman of the Strategic Policy Partnership, a group that assists police and government agencies with performance improvement and policy development.
The selectmen turned to Mr. Wasserman for advice last summer because of his familiarity with the department after conducting an in-depth review and completing a 25-page assessment of it in 2001.
In a preliminary report last July, Mr. Wasserman said he would provide a final report once he finished discussions with department members. His work and travel schedule caused delays, however.
In the meantime, the Tisbury selectmen took steps in January to extend Mr. Hanavan's contract as interim police chief through October 17, 2010, to allow time to consider and implement recommendations from Mr. Wasserman's final report.
The Tisbury Police Department currently has 12 officers. Chief Hanavan's patrolman's slot remains open, as does a lieutenant's position that was created and never filled.
Dredging for quahogs
The selectmen's meeting also included a public hearing to consider amendments to shellfish regulations banning quahog dredging or jetting in Lake Tashmoo and Lagoon Pond.
The Shellfish Advisory Committee (SAC) unanimously approved the proposed amendments at a meeting on January 29, acting shellfish constable Hillary Conklin said. She brought the issue of quahog dredging on Lake Tashmoo to the selectmen's attention at a meeting on January 26. They scheduled a public hearing pending the SAC meeting.
At the hearing, commercial fishermen Jason Robinson and Tom Searle offered a counter proposal to amend the regulations to allow them to dredge for quahogs in the northwest corner of Lake Tashmoo on a trial basis through March. They said they are the only two who skip-dredge and have the special equipment to do it.
The method employs the use of a heavy dredge with rake like teeth that dig into the muck or sand. Jetting employs a hydraulic pump that pumps jets of water into the bottom to dislodge clams.
Mr. Robinson said the water in that area of Lake Tashmoo is about 7 to 12 feet deep, which makes it difficult to harvest quahogs with a bull rake, even from a boat. Consequently, the shellfish die and there is a lot of waste and debris there.
Mr. Searle suggested that dredging might benefit the northwest corner by stirring up the bottom soil and making it more habitable for shellfish.
"Scalloping closes in December, and then I'm hurting," he added. "I need something to keep going in the winter months."
Ms. Conklin said she found varied opinions in discussions with the SAC and the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF). The SAC thought dredging might be good for the ponds, but suggested divers should take underwater photos of the area and make a plan for next year.
DMF personnel, however, said they consider dredging too aggressive for the ponds, Ms. Conklin said. They were also concerned about the effects of sediment from dredging on other marine life and the difficulty in enforcing a three-month limit on the practice.
In a follow-up call yesterday, Ms. Conklin told The Times that she spoke with John Mendes and Mike Hickey in the DMF's New Bedford office. Both have worked with the Tisbury shellfish department for 20 years and are familiar with Vineyard waters.
Although several SAC members weighed in against dredging at the hearing, other audience members spoke in favor of the two fishermen's proposal.
After discussion, the selectmen agreed to allow dredging in the northwest corner of Lake Tashmoo by permit only, on a trial basis for a year, during which time the area will be monitored for any signs of change.
Selectman chairman Tristan Israel asked the SAC to develop guidelines, establish the area's boundaries, and come up with a process for issuing permits, which will then be discussed at a subsequent public hearing.
In the meantime, the selectmen told Ms. Conklin that Mr. Searle and Mr. Robinson could continue dredging in Lake Tashmoo, since there is no regulation against it yet.
Yesterday Ms. Conklin said Tisbury's shellfish regulations already prohibit hydraulic jetting and propeller dredging. Although dredging for quahogs on the ponds was not specifically prohibited, Ms. Conklin said traditionally shellfish constables had allowed quahog dredging only in the harbor.
The northwest corner of Lake Tashmoo is not an area where the town places seed, Ms. Conklin said. Usually seed is placed on either side of the Lake Street boat ramp and in the two main flats out by the channel. Recreational shellfishermen seldom use the northwest corner because it is difficult to reach by land because of private property, Ms. Conklin said.
Marketing Martha's Vineyard, wind turbine woes
In other business, Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce (CoC) executive director Nancy Gardella asked the selectmen for the town's support in pursuing the creation of an Island-wide tourism fund that would be managed by the Chamber.
Given state cuts in tourism funds this year, Ms. Gardella suggested that Island towns should contribute 20 percent of their local occupancy tax receipts to a local fund for marketing to attract tourists. The selectmen agreed to ask the town's finance and advisory committee (FinCom) to look at the idea.
The selectmen also received an update from the renewable energy committee (REC) regarding the town's proposed wind turbine at the Tisbury landfill. Although REC chairman Chris Fried spoke in favor of pursuing the project, committee member Peter Cabana, the town's Cape Light Compact and Martha's Vineyard Commission representative, said he did not think it was advisable for Tisbury to pursue a single land-based turbine for the town.
Instead, Mr. Cabana suggested that Tisbury and the other Island towns should focus on the need for energy on an Island-wide basis. Mr. Israel instructed the committee to come back with further recommendations from its members about the town wind turbine and advice for the selectmen about how to proceed with other options, particularly community wind projects.
The selectmen's next meeting is February 23, 5:30 pm, at Tisbury town hall. On March 2, a public hearing on waterways regulations amendments is scheduled at 5:30 pm, followed by another at 6:15 pm on a harbor use permit application by Falmouth Marine, also at town hall.