News in Brief
Oak Bluffs resident Susan Cooke won a gas fill-up worth $75. Photos by Ralph Stewart
Times' online survey concludes; winners announced
Susan Cooke of Oak Bluffs and Tim Connelly of Edgartown won The Times' online survey contest that concluded on Dec. 15. Their entries were chosen at random in a drawing for two prizes: a gas fill-up worth $75 and dinner for two at the Coach House in Edgartown.
Ms. Cooke, who said she hadn't won anything before, added, "This is a great gift because it covers my fuel expense for a month."
Mr. Connelly was delighted about dinner for two at the Coach House in Edgartown.
Ms. Cooke and Mr. Connelly were two of more than 140 respondents who participated in the survey, which was posted on The Times' web site, mvtimes.com, in mid-November. Survey participants offered opinions about mvtimes.com and suggestions for improvement. The survey results are available here.
Tim Connelly of Edgartown won dinner for two at the Coach House.
More than half of the respondents said they visit mvtimes.com at least weekly and wished that the web site offered daily updates. Also high on the list of modifications that visitors requested were archives and a digital edition of The Martha's Vineyard Times.
The digital edition would allow readers to view the entire newspaper online. It would present all the news, sports, calendar information, and photographs, in addition to display and classified advertisements in the same order and placement as these features appear in the print edition of newspaper.
A smaller number of survey respondents suggested that a new appearance, community and reader forums, and better navigation would also enhance mvtimes.com.
"While all the suggestions will be given careful consideration, several of the features that online readers and visitors would like to see on the web site will soon be implemented," said Amy Simcik Williams, Times' online editor. "Plans are underway to premier the new site in January."
MVC and town managers to prepare Island emergency plan
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) has been awarded a $30,000 pre-disaster mitigation planning grant to develop a regional emergency plan for Martha's Vineyard and Gosnold.
In early 2005, the Island's town boards of selectmen endorsed the joint grant application by the MVC to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), one of 785 submitted nationwide.
No monetary resources from the towns will be used for the planning effort. Rather, town emergency personnel will provide oversight of the development of the regional emergency plan to fulfill the 25 percent local match required by the grant.
Pre-disaster mitigation planning involves identifying areas susceptible to natural disasters due to wind, water, and fire, assessing the risk to people and resources (both natural and manmade), and recommending measures to minimize the effects of disasters, should they occur.
Towns that have such a plan in place are eligible for other types of hazard and disaster-related project funds, as well. Having regional plans rather than individual plans will give the Dukes County towns a competitive edge when applying for future federal grants.
The role of the MVC will be to integrate the Island towns' emergency plans into a regional pre-disaster mitigation plan, and to add required information, technical assistance and analysis as needed. All work will be reviewed and approved by the towns' emergency personnel. The regional plan will not replace the Island towns' local emergency plans.
The pre-disaster mitigation plan is expected to take one year to complete.
Elizabeth Eddy gives acreage to VOLF
The trustees of the Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF) announced Tuesday that Elizabeth A. Eddy has recently completed the donation to VOLF of two lots, totaling 9.01 acres, at the Eddy Farm in Chilmark. VOLF will manage this property and has retained local expert Robert E. Woodruff to conduct a flora and fauna inventory from which a conservation stewardship plan will be developed.
According to a VOLF press statement, "The gift of this extraordinary land to VOLF protects its agricultural qualities and wildlife habitat and enlarges the amount of preserved open space in the area."
The nine acres are on the north side of South Road and abut the Allen Farm. They are also in close proximity to other protected land at the Eddy Farm and near the nearby Keith Farm, which VOLF assisted the Keith Family to plan and preserve in the mid-1980s.
Antifreeze spill contained at Oak Bluffs transfer station
BFI personnel contained a spill of used antifreeze from a ruptured container illegally dumped in a scrap metal pile at the Oak Bluffs transfer station last Friday.
Oak Bluffs firefighters responded to the incident initially, and contacted Shirley Fauteux, Oak Bluffs board of health agent. She took charge at the scene and determined the spill posed no threat to personal health or safety.
BFI employees said they did not see the container of antifreeze hidden in the scrap metal pile as they were loading it onto an 18-wheeled truck to haul off-Island, according to Lt. Timothy Williamson of the Oak Bluffs police department, which also responded to the incident. The container of antifreeze ruptured and spilled onto the loading dock and ran downhill into the trailer area, as well.
The source of the used antifreeze has not yet been determined, said Ms. Fauteux. "We don't have any idea of what size of container the antifreeze came from. We don't know if it was a drum or an old boiler," she said.
The accident occurred on a rainy day, and the used antifreeze mixed with a large amount of rainwater, creating a sizable pool. BFI personnel contained the spill by building a sand berm around it. Ms. Fauteux said Clean Harbors Environmental Services siphoned off 4,500 gallons of liquid, three-fourths of it rainwater, while the transfer station was closed from Friday afternoon until Saturday night.
Dennis Alley, Oak Bluffs fire chief, said Clean Harbors completed the cleanup on Sunday with the removal of an additional estimated 3,500 gallons.
Although the Department of Environmental Protection does not consider antifreeze a reportable material, Ms. Fauteux said, "The ultimate goal is to get it cleaned up as soon as possible."
Dennis Alley, Oak Bluffs fire chief, praised the BFI personnel for the way they handled the spill. "They were absolutely terrific as far as trying to mitigate the situation and initiate cleanup efforts. They gave 110 percent," said Chief Alley.
The Oak Bluffs police department is investigating the incident, Lt. Williamson said.
Police target drunk drivers
The Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury police departments have joined police from across the state in a stepped-up effort to enforce Massachusetts's drunk driving laws this holiday season.
The effort is part of a campaign sponsored by the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau, dubbed "You Drink and Drive, You Lose," which runs through June 9.
According to an Oak Bluffs police department press release, there were 476 motor vehicle-related fatalities in Massachusetts in 2004. Forty-three percent of those deaths involved the use of alcohol or other drugs. The national alcohol-involvement rate is 39 percent.
Sgt. James Morse, of the Oak Bluffs police department said, "The public can help us during the holiday season by being sober and well-rested behind the wheel, buckling up, obeying speed limits, and reporting suspected drunk drivers by calling 911 or 693-1212."
Police recommended that anyone hosting parties where alcohol will be served should also offer non-alcoholic beverages and food to prevent drinking from becoming the focus of the gathering. They also stressed that allowing minors to drink alcohol is illegal.
"Do not tolerate underage drinking on your property, as you may be held liable under the commonwealth's 'social host' law," the press release stated.
Police also reminded partygoers to plan ahead and designate a sober driver before the event, or plan on taking public transportation.
Once ranked among the worst states in the country at preventing drunk driving, Massachusetts has been steadily stepping up its impaired driving laws. In October, Governor Mitt Romney signed into effect Melanie's Law, which significantly enhances the penalties for drunk driving. The law also allows officers to immediately suspend a driver's license for a year if he or she refuses to take a Breathalyzer test.
For more information on the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau, dubbed the "You Drink and Drive, You Lose" campaign, visit www.mass.gov/ghsb.
Photo by Ezra Blair
Edgartown selectmen hold last meeting with retiring Peter Bettencourt
Edgartown selectmen Michael Donaroma (center) and Art Smadbeck (right) presented Peter Bettencourt, the long-time town administrator who will retire at the end of the year, with a plaque thanking him for his many years of service, at Monday's selectmen's meeting.
It was the last meeting for Mr. Bettencourt as administrator, who has served in the position since 1966. "It has really been quite a ride and I do appreciate all the support from the town boards and the board of selectmen," said Mr. Bettencourt.
In August, the selectmen chose Pam Dolby to fill Mr. Bettencourt's shoes as town administrator. At Monday's meeting, Mr. Bettencourt said he is leaving the town in capable hands. "I'm leaving the job in good hands with Pam, who is extremely enthusiastic about the job, and is doing a great job so far," he said. "I'm sure she is going to do just fine."
While Mr. Bettencourt will retire at the end of the year, he has made it clear that he will be available to help the town during the transition period. "He's not really leaving us," said Art Smadbeck, chairman of the selectmen. "He's going to be around to help Pam, and to help us."
In other business, the selectmen and the planning board voted jointly to appoint Bill Bishop to fill the seat on the planning board left vacant by Sam Sherman, who recently stepped down from the board. Four candidates had applied for the position. Mark Morris, Stephen Pogue, and Timothy Connelly were the other candidates. Mr. Bishop received five votes. Mr. Morris, who received two votes, was the only other candidate nominated for the position.
Tisbury and Oak Bluffs sweepstakes drawings take place this week
Attention all shoppers: Be sure to check your sweepstakes tickets from local merchants. Drawings take place in Oak Bluffs today and Vineyard Haven tomorrow.
The drawing for the "Santa Sweepstakes" in Oak Bluffs will be held tonight at around 7:30 pm at the Atlantic Connection on Circuit Ave. One lucky winner will walk away with a grand total of almost $3,000 in merchandise from local merchants, and a few runner-up prizes will be awarded as well. The winners do not have to be present for the drawing and will be contacted.
The drawing for the "Tisbury Holiday Giveaway" takes place tomorrow at 2 pm outside at the mini-park on the corner of Union and Main Streets next to C.B. Stark Jewelers, not at LeRoux at Home as reported last week.
The lucky winners holding the first, second, third and fourth tickets drawn will receive cash prizes of $1,000, $500, $300 and $200 respectively.
Winners must produce their ticket stubs to claim their prizes but do not have to be present at the drawing. The winning ticket numbers will be advertised in the newspapers and on WMVY radio station, and posted on the TBA web site and in every participating store. Ticket holders can call any store where they received a ticket to find out if they won, as well.
Gallery owners Victor Pisano and Judy Belushi Pisano. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Belushi Pisano Gallery is open
The Belushi Pisano Gallery, Vineyard Haven's newest art gallery, features locally and nationally acclaimed artists working in mediums including painting, mixed media, sculpture, glass, hand-crafted furniture and jewelry. The gallery, at the corner of State Road and Main Street opposite the Martha's Vineyard Co-Op Bank, will serve coffee drinks and homemade baked goods after the first of the year. Victor Pisano and Judith Belushi Pisano of Vineyard Haven own the gallery, which is a subsidiary of the nonprofit Second Chance Foundation, which provides support to the arts, individuals, and organizations through grants, awards, and scholarships. The gallery will be open daily from 10 am to 5 pm throughout the winter. For more information, go to www.belushipisanogallery.com or call 508-696-8988.
Aquinnah tax rate rises by six cents
The state Department of Revenue last week certified the property tax rate for the town of Aquinnah at $3.69 per thousand dollars of valuation, a six cent increase over the previous year.
Jim Newman, chairman of the Aquinnah board of selectmen, said he also expects that the town will receive a certified free cash figure from the state within the next six weeks, well in advance of the annual spring town meeting. If that happens, it would mark a sharp departure from previous years when town leaders lacked accurate financial information upon which to base the annual town meeting warrant.
Mr. Newman said the selectmen had brought in outside help and are working diligently with the assistance of town employees to put Aquinnah's financial house in order.
"I think we are going in the right direction," he said.
Island Housing Trust seeks builders for Island projects
The Island Housing Trust (IHT), a nonprofit organization working to provide affordable housing, has issued a request for proposals seeking professional builders to work on various projects.
IHT has several affordable ownership and rental housing projects in the works that vary in size from one to twelve dwellings that will require planning, design, engineering, and construction services over the next three to twelve months.
For more information, call Philippe Jordi, IHT executive director, at 508-693-1117.