Rhetorically, Tisbury insists it was right to think it could have its cake and eat it too, that is, suck up about $276,000 a year in embarkation fees from Steamship Authority travelers to mitigate the effects of SSA operations on its waterfront, while demanding that the boatline continue to pay about $40,000 annually for police services in the vicinity of the Vineyard Haven terminal to, well, mitigate the effects of SSA operations.
In fact, Tisbury has ended the long battle it began when the SSA refused to continue the annual payments, in light of the fee the state legislature established.
Tisbury's selectmen, under a spending plan devised by town executive John Bugbee, will take the $40,000 out of the $276,000, and use it to provided needed police services in the streets surrounding the busy terminal this season.
"It was time to move on," Mr. Bugbee told Times news editor Nelson Sigelman this week. "We still believe in the position we took, and I think we did the right thing. However, it didn't make sense to hold the public hostage while we debated the issue with the Steamship Authority. We will continue to work with the Steamship Authority to come up with a mutual agreement about traffic management, and in the meantime we are going to have an increased police presence around the Steamship Authority to first and foremost uphold public safety, but also keep the flow of pedestrians and traffic alike moving as swiftly as possible."
Tisbury's decision is, of course, the right one, and the selectmen deserve credit for making it. The problems of traffic flow and pedestrian safety at the terminal, which goes beyond busy to madcap in July and August, will require thoughtful, co-operative, and imaginative continuing efforts by town leaders and their opposite numbers at the SSA. We are confident that both the ferry line and the town officials will follow through on their commitment to work together to improve conditions in the terminal-Water Street-Five Corners-Beach Road area war zone. Islanders and their visitors will all benefit from this cessation of hostilities.
The Martha's Vineyard Hospital will pay its bills and have some money left over at the end of this fiscal year. Windemere, the Vineyard's only nursing and rehab center, always tottery financially, appears likely to lose money. Windemere was required by the state to take two beds offline for renovations, crimping revenues - and thus the losses, which will be difficult to make up before the end of the nursing home's fiscal year, which ends at the end of December.
The hospital's anticipated surplus and Windemere's possible losses are all calculated on the basis of operating revenue and expenses. When annual giving - separate from fundraising for the new hospital - is taken into account and the two entities' financial performances are combined, all the bills will get paid, with some left over. But, financial fragility is a fact of life in the health-care world.
"That's the kind of business we are in," Tim Walsh told The Times. Mr. Walsh is the hospital chief executive whose portfolio extends to the hospital-owned nursing home. "It is very tight."
Very tight indeed, and not likely to get easier with time and a large, new hospital, whose success depends upon an expectation that it will be debt-free when it opens, and that utilization will grow significantly to support increased operating costs. And Windemere, an indispensable but financially perilous partner, only adds to the challenge.
As Islanders evaluate the hospital's building plans, they need to hear more about how the hospital plans to meet the ongoing and escalating financial demands it faces both in the medical facility and at Windemere.