Tisbury wants more SSA money
At a work session meeting Tuesday evening Tisbury selectmen Tristan Israel once again pointed to a letter received in May, 2004 from Rep. Eric Turkington and Sen. Robert O'Leary, the architects of the 50-cent-per-person passenger fee, to bolster the selectmen's position that the SSA police detail money should continue to flow from the SSA.
The state legislators wrote, "It was not the intent of the embarkment or ferry fee legislation to preclude reimbursement for police details in Vineyard Haven."
In later comments at the time, Senator O'Leary said the SSA may choose to discontinue payments specifically for police services, but he added that it is up to Tisbury officials to make judgments about what mitigation is of chief importance and what would be further down the list.
Kathryn Roessel, the late Vineyard SSA member, was adamant that SSA revenue not be used to subsidize Tisbury police services.
Ms. Roessel, who died last November, said it would be unfair to all Island rate payers to charge them an extra 50 cents to walk through the town of Tisbury or the town of Oak bluffs to take the ferry "and also tell them that their fares should go up to pay for ferry impacts twice."
Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, current SSA island member and board chairman, has adhered to that position.
The SSA bolstered its position with a legal opinion sought by the boatline from Donald K. Stern, a lawyer with the Boston law firm of Bingham McCutchen. He said that the town must be careful to use the fee money it receives for services that directly benefit the SSA and its passengers and ratepayers.
Mr. Stern wrote, "If the total received by the town exceeds that necessary to pay for governmental services which benefit those paying the fee, a court is likely to conclude that it amounts to a tax, which appears contrary to what the legislature intended."
Regarding the letter from the Island legislators, Mr. Stern suggested their views did not matter much. "I am aware that certain legislators have expressed a view that it was the intention of the fee statute to provide additional revenue to towns and not substitute for costs previously paid for by the authority for police details. The law is quite clear, however, that the post-enactment individual views expressed by legislators are not entitled to any weight."