News in Brief
New Bedford explores Falmouth ferry service
The New Bedford Harbor Development Commission (HDC) will explore the possibility of creating a fast ferry link between New Bedford and Falmouth.
The HDC has asked the state Executive Office of Transportation for a grant to fund a feasibility study of the proposed service. The proposal has the support of Falmouth selectmen, who have long sought to lessen Vineyard-bound traffic through their town, and Falmouth business leaders.
Falmouth officials backed New Bedford during the long-running political battle over Steamship Authority (SSA) service between the city and the Vineyard. Ultimately, the SSA decided to license a private carrier, New England Fast Ferry, to service the route.
New England Fast Ferry has also been approached about providing the new service. The company would not need a license from the SSA to operate between two mainland ports.
The fast ferry company would need to reach some accommodation with the boatline if for example, the company wanted to include a stop in Woods Hole on the licensed Vineyard run or use the SSA terminal. All of those possibilities are still in the air and hinge on the economics of the proposal.
Wayne Lamson, Steamship Authority general manager, said the HDC proposal arose from a request from Falmouth. Mr. Lamson said that boatline will cooperate with any consultant selected, once a study is funded.
The service would dovetail with the resurgence of the New Bedford port, said John Simpson, HDC executive director. Mr. Simpson said two new start-up ferry operations are expected to provide service to Block Island, R.I. and to Cuttyhunk. Any Falmouth service is likely to depend on the potential ridership.
The New Bedford Harbor Development Commission (HDC) has jurisdiction over all the waters in New Bedford and manages city property on the waterfront, including a 198-slip recreational marina at Pope's Island. According to the City of New Bedford web site, the HDC also has planning, developing, and financing authority for city properties within the Port and oversees private development on the waterfront and develops locations for marine industrial uses.
Groundhog had it
Photo by Susan Safford
Let the national media predict six more weeks of winter weather, just because an overweight rodent saw its shadow in Pennsylvania. Islanders are finding sure signs of approaching spring.
Ed Pierce called Monday to report that he came across a large patch of snowdrops in full bloom in Edgartown along South Summer Street just past the intersection with High Street around the a parking lot used by the Harborside Inn.
"I thought I'd pass it along," said Ed.
Edgartown library committee downsizes plans
The joint action committee, appointed to revise the proposed Edgartown Free Public Library expansion project, recently endorsed a scaled-back plan that calls for the Captain Warren house to be moved and renovated or possibly demolished and replaced.
The proposal calls for the overall project to shrink from 25,000 square feet to 21,000 square feet, with more of the space below grade, and the addition of 22 parking spaces.
The project calls for the Warren house to be moved to allow for a U-shaped driveway that will lead to the new parking area. Jeff Agnoli, committee chairman, said that the town would hire an engineer to determine if the building can be safely moved to accommodate the new design. If the aging structure cannot be moved, it would be demolished and a new building, using the same design as the original structure, would be constructed.
Both size and parking were sticking points last April, when the Edgartown zoning board of appeals (ZBA) denied the special permit for the library expansion. Following the ZBA decision, the library trustees and the Edgartown selectmen appointed members to the joint action committee to rework the design.
Mr. Agnoli said that the revised plans address the ZBA's concerns and are an improvement from the original proposal, which called for a 17,000-square-foot addition to connect the old Carnegie library building on North Water Street to the neighboring Captain Warren house.
"I think that the final product will be superior," he said.
After voting 6-1 to endorse the new plan, the joint action committee will now hand the project back to the library trustees, which will begin the permitting process. The project will require approval from several town boards, including the planning board and the ZBA.
The project must also go before the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) to determine if it is still eligible for a $4 million state grant. Last fall, the MBLC told Edgartown library officials that if the original project was changed drastically, the project could lose the state funding.
Mr. Agnoli stressed that the programs that the MBLC approved have not been changed. "Hopefully, the state will see that we have kept the integrity of the library programs, but have simply made better use of the space," he said.
for stolen sign
The owners of Sharkey's Cantina on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs have offered a reward to anyone with information that leads to the safe return of their business sign.
Josh Aronie, a Sharkey's owner, would not disclose the amount of the reward. He said that the colorful, handmade sign, which featured a shark holding a margarita, cost about $1,500.
Mr. Aronie said that he noticed that the sign was missing on Friday. He said he thinks it was taken sometime late Thursday night.
"There were two screws holding it to a bracket, so whoever took it had to use a ladder or climb up on the building, onto the overhanging porch and take it off," he said.
Anyone with any information should contact the Oak Bluffs police department at 508-693-0750.
County recordkeeping reviewed
A records analyst from the state visited the county last Thursday to review Dukes County recordkeeping practices.
Terry French, a records analyst with the state archives department, said that his office had received complaints from the public regarding county recordkeeping.
Mr. French said that he conducted a standard survey of county records last Thursday and would issue his findings in a letter to the county manager within the next two weeks.
Noreen Mavro Flanders, Dukes County treasurer, said that she knows that the county is in violation of at least one state standard, which requires that all meeting minutes and other documents be kept in specialized file vaults. The vaults must meet state standards and be able to withstand a fire for up to six hours without damaging the files.
Ms. Flanders said that the county does not have the money or the space to properly store all county documents in such vaults. "I'm between a rock and a hard place," she said. "If I don't have the money, and I can't comply, what am I going to do?"
Ms. Flanders said that she is trying to budget for a $46,000 modular vault in the county's fiscal year 2007 budget, which goes into effect on July 1. However, she said that if the manufacturer will not guarantee a six-hour "burn standard," then the state will not accept it as an adequate solution.
Ms. Flanders said the predicament is not unique to the county. The airport commission, the six Island towns, and other municipal agencies all struggle with properly storing records, she said. "It's everywhere, and the amount of information that they want in a six-hour safe is a lot," she said.
Mr. French confirmed that it is a common problem. "It is an issue, and we realize that, and it is something that we take into consideration," he said.
Mr. French said that he is currently drafting a letter to E. Winn Davis, Dukes County manager, that will detail the findings from his survey. He said he hoped to have the letter written and sent within the next two weeks.
School committee considers adult education program and summer projects
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) district school committee discussed the possibility of offering adult enrichment and GED classes at the high school at a meeting Monday night.
James Weiss, superintendent of Martha's Vineyard Public Schools, said that there seems to be a growing need for a general equivalency degree (GED) program. The program now is offered through the Dukes County Sheriff's department, although the high school remains an official testing site.
Mr. Weiss said that the current GED and adult education programs are not meeting the needs of many members of the community. He suggested that in addition to GED classes, the high school could offer a self-supporting program of adult enrichment classes, such as scrapbooking, computer operation, and foreign languages, for example.
Margaret Harris, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, recommended surveying the public to assess their needs.
Turning everyone's thoughts to summer, Peg Regan, MVRHS principal, told the committee about some summer improvement projects, including the rebuilding the athletic field press box to make it handicapped-accessible, repairing the HVAC air quality units, and installing surveillance cameras.
In other news, Ms. Regan announced that the high school's 2006-2007 program of studies is available. She also provided a list of graduating seniors who qualify for the John & Abigail Adams Scholarship. The scholarship program offers a tuition waiver for eight traditional semesters of undergraduate education at Massachusetts state colleges and universities.
Ms. Regan said the student council has been discussing the topic of class rank, which they agreed they want to keep. After discussing the pros and cons of class rank, the school committee members agreed it would be a good topic for discussion in the community. Ms. Regan suggested that the school council could sponsor a forum and will present the idea at their next meeting.
She also told the committee about a generous offer from Tom Hout of Edgartown to donate a six-foot Stieff grand piano, circa 1902 and valued at $10,000, to the Performing Arts Center.
In a News Brief published in last week's Times titled "Medivan Boston trips will cost $20," we incorrectly called the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority advisory board a board of directors. We also left out the "i" in Lois Craine's last name.