Bluffs selectman is new COA director
December 23, 2004
By Nelson Sigelman
The Oak Bluffs selectmen were busy Tuesday night. Selectmen hired
a new director of the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging, waded through
a scallop-fishing gear dispute, and approved the January special
town meeting warrant.
Selectmen also received a harbinger of a proposed affordable housing
project for a parcel of town-owned land next to the Marthas
Vineyard Ice Arena in the form of a one-page letter from the Bridge
With little discussion, selectmen ended the search process for a
new director of the Council on Aging and hired Roger Wey, chairman
of the board of selectman and the only finalist for the job.
The vote was three in favor. Selectman Richard Combra abstained
from the vote. Mr. Wey did not participate.
Mr. Wey was the only candidate to interview for the job, which has
been open since July. Two other finalists withdrew their names from
consideration after they learned the interview process would be
Casey Sharpe, Oak Bluffs town administrator, selected the final
three candidates from a pool of eight candidates who applied for
the position, which pays $38,400 a year.
In addition to serving on the board of selectmen, Mr. Wey, a building
contractor, is an elected member of the Dukes County Commission.
Mr. Wey has indicated he would continue to serve on both boards
and remain as chairman of the board of selectman.
Prior to Tuesday nights vote, Ms. Sharpe summarized legal
opinions provided by town counsel. Provided he files a disclosure
statement approved by the selectmen regarding his financial interest
in the council that is, his salary Mr. Wey may remain
on the board of selectmen but must give up his selectmans
salary and recuse himself from any votes pertaining to the council
Greg Coogan, selectman, said he was sure Mr. Wey is going to do
a great job.
A lengthy discussion ensued after selectmen decided to reconsider
their previous decision that prohibited two commercial divers from
harvesting scallops using air supplied by a compressed air station
in a boat.
The issues at the heart of the dispute are as old as commercial
fishing, gear conflicts, and claims to fishing grounds.
Heidi Raihofer, a commercial diver, told selectmen that a town regulation
which requires boats to stay 100 feet from a dive flag and prohibits
commercial SCUBA diving for scallops should not be applied to her
and her husband because the hose link to her surface-supplied air
means that they must always be within 22 feet of their well-marked
She said that the couples method of harvesting scallops is
less destructive to the bottom and eel grass beds than hauling traditional
metal drags behind a boat and allows harvesting in areas often not
accessible to draggers.
Bill Alwardt, a commercial scalloper, objected strongly to any change
in the town regulations that would allow diving, even by the method
described. Mr. Alwardt said his arguments were based on the risk
of injury to divers, and his liability should an injury occur, as
well as access to fishing areas.
Mr. Alwardt said that he could tow alongside other draggers but
would be forced to steer well clear of productive areas should there
After hearing mixed views from members of the shellfish committee
and David Grunden, shellfish constable, the selectmen came up with
a compromise of sorts to allow the dive couple to work in Sengecontacket
Pond but not the Lagoon for this season and asked Mr. Grunden to
provide an update on the couple in two weeks. The selectmen also
asked the shellfish committee to develop recommendations to address
the issues prior to the season next year.
Free cash windfall
The selectmen also reviewed a 14-article warrant for a special town
meeting on Jan. 18.
An article to place $500,000 of the towns $909,000 in certified
free cash in the stabilization fund brought a request from Mr. Wey
to place all of free cash in the stabilization fund.
Transfers from the stabilization fund require a two-thirds vote.
Mr. Wey argued that making it more difficult to spend the money
would act as a check of free-wheeling spending.
Mr. Coogan said he was inclined to follow the recommendation of
the towns finance and advisory committee, which proposed the
The selectmen also reviewed a zoning article, which would put a
property located at 52 Narragansett Avenue within the B-1 business
zoning district. In response to a neighbors objection that
a zoning article should not appear on a special town meeting warrant
that might not be well attended, the selectman explained that the
article was placed on the warrant by petition and not at the request
of a town board.
In other business, Ms. Sharpe presented selectmen with a one-page
letter from Isaac Russell, director of Bridge Housing Corporation,
a nonprofit affordable housing group. Mr. Russell said the group
would like to submit a scaled down version of Bridge Commons, a
30-unit affordable housing development the group plans to build
in Tisbury off State Road. There was no discussion of the letter,
which Mr. Russell told The Times was sent as a start to a complex
The selectmen heard a report at the start of their meeting from
Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, newly appointed Steamship Authority
member. Mr. Hanover said one of his priorities would be to see that
long-planned improvements to the SSA Oak Bluffs terminal were completed.
In response to a question on the status of the project, Mr. Hanover
said the SSA is committed to the project and would be back in front
of town officials after Jan. 1. He also promised to address the
sometimes chaotic process of securing preferred space reservations
at the SSA airport reservation office. He told the selectmen that
his sister has recently gone at 6:30 am in order to secure a reservation.
That is kind of barbaric, said Mr. Hanover. There
has to be a better way to do it and we will find it.
The selectmen also welcomed a presentation on recycling by members
of the Oak Bluffs School third grade class. The students said they
decided to include water bottles in their ongoing recycling efforts
after finding them littering school grounds.
The presentation ended with a song by the children, providing the
only bit of entertainment in a three-hour meeting.