News in Brief
The High School View wins ten press awards
The High School View student newspaper won a total of 10 scholastic journalism awards at the 58th annual New England Scholastic Press Association (NESPA) conference held at Boston University on May 1. The total set a new record for the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).
The awards included NESPA's "Highest Achievement Award" for excellence in scholastic editing and publishing in class II, and second-place honors in the prestigious All-New England category.
Duncan Pickard of Oak Bluffs, High School View co-editor, won three awards, setting a new individual record.
In addition, Duncan, along with co-editor in chief, senior Simone McCarthy and Dan Sharkovitz, faculty advisor, were invited to teach a seminar at the conference titled, "Handling Controversial Topics." More than 70 students attended the standing-room-only session.
The High School View is prepared entirely by students at MVRHS and published weekly throughout he school year as a page in The Martha's Vineyard Times, with the support of individual sponsors.
Forty student journalists participated this year in producing the "View," according to English teacher Dan Sharkovitz, the paper's faculty advisor.
Peg Regan, regional high school principal, congratulated the students on their success. She said The View has a well-earned reputation for excellence and benefits greatly by having a close working relationship with a professional newspaper.
"It is not something that is just passed out in homeroom," said Ms. Regan, "It is a paper that appears in the community every week in the MV Times, and because of that, their standards have to be very high."
NESPA is an association based in Boston University's College of Communication. Its goal is to promote all forms of student journalism, such as student newspapers, broadcast programs, yearbooks, and magazines. The program offers journalism awards for excellence in scholastic writing, editing, and publishing, and is open to all New England secondary schools.
Individual award winners were Alida Limber-Dean, artwork; Niko Ewing, photography (Vineyarders sink Whalers, 27-12); Zoe Shanor, feature story (Local teacher crowned king in fight against disease); Lee Greathouse, artwork (A New Year's resolution for justice); Jen Amazeen, feature story (Pictures and real lives); and Duncan Pickard, sports story, (The Vineyard Dream Team), feature story (Education cuts continue losing trend for Vineyard) and bylined column (Articles represent perception, not truth).
Student who brought bullets to school faces charges
Oak Bluffs police filed charges against a 17-year-old Martha's Vineyard Regional High School student for unlawful possession of a rifle and unlawful possession of ammunition following an investigation into the discovery of two 22-caliber bullets in classrooms last week.
Margaret Regan, Martha's Vineyard Regional High School principal, said the first bullet was discovered in a study hall Tuesday. A second bullet was discovered in a music room on Friday. Police were notified immediately on both days, she said.
Following a brief investigation, police searched the locker of sophomore Drew Nelson, who admitted he was responsible for leaving the ammunition, said Oak Bluffs police Lt. Tim Williamson.
Police went to the boy's house and took possession of a 22-caliber rifle. The boy and his parents were very cooperative, said Lieutenant Williamson.
"I don't think he had any intention of hurting anybody," said Lieutenant Williamson. "From our investigation, it seemed like he is a good kid who made some stupid mistakes."
On Friday afternoon, Ms. Regan convened a meeting assembly with teachers after school to tell them what had occurred. She said that in keeping with the school's disciplinary policy the school suspended the student and will go on to hold an expulsion hearing.
ATV rider damages
Norton Point nesting area
Dave Belcher, Trustees of The Reservations superintendent, said an unidentified rider on an all-terrain vehicle drove through a shorebird nesting area on Norton Point Beach, tearing up the beach area and disturbing nesting birds. He said the destructive behavior would only hinder efforts both to protect birds and to keep the property open for recreational use. Anyone with information about the identity of the rider is asked to call Mr. Belcher at 508-627-7689.
Renato Gomes Da Rocha. Photo courtesy of Edgartown police
Edgartown police continue search for missing man
Edgartown police this week continued to appeal for the public's help in locating Renato Gomes Da Rocha of Edgartown, a construction worker and native of Brazil last seen at 7 pm Tuesday, April 25 at his residence at 70 Curtis Lane in Edgartown.
Edgartown Police detective Tony Bettencourt said Mr. Da Rocha had not contacted family members in Brazil. He was working for KCO Construction Company of Quincy on a building project on Chappaquiddick and was supposed to be picked up the morning of April 26 but did not appear.
His disappearance and the police search spawned rumors, circulated among the Island's Brazilian community, of a possible murder investigation and the discovery of a body.
Mr. Bettencourt said he had heard the rumors but that they are unsubstantiated, and police are still treating it as a missing person investigation and think that Mr. DaRocha has not left the Island.
Euzelia Silva, co-owner of the Brazilian Bakery Tropical in Edgartown, said Mr. De Rocha lived with her for five months last year. Ms. Silva said he was a quiet man with no family on the Island, and he worked hard at his construction job.
A clerk at the Mobile Depot Market said Mr. De Rocha stopped every morning for coffee, before going to his construction job in Chappaquiddick. She estimated he had been on the Island for five years.
Anyone with information is asked to call Edgartown police at 508-627-4343 or state police at 508-693-0545.
West Tisbury assessors explain
When William Graham appealed his $51-million West Tisbury property assessment to the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board (ATB), the practices of the board of assessors came under fire from Mr. Graham and from other critics as well. A common complaint was that the assessors operate in obscurity, refusing to explain how assessments are determined or hiding behind the complexity of the mass appraisal system in use in Massachusetts.
Last Thursday, assessors Michael Colaneri and Cynthia Mitchell and principal assessor Jo-Ann Resendes held the first of a series of public forums to respond to these criticisms and explain how West Tisbury assessments are arrived at and to list some of the options available to taxpayers.
About 30 citizens heard Mr. Colaneri read the oath assessors are required to take and walk them through some of the explanatory materials which are available in the assessors' office - including "Mass Appraisal Basics" and "Information for Dukes County Taxpayers." Ms. Mitchell discussed some issues raised by the Graham case: data quality, objective standards, and accessibility and openness.
In the section that produced the most questions, Ms. Resendes walked the audience through a sample property record card, explaining how each of the 16 sections contributes to the assessment. In the "land line valuation section," the audience was dissatisfied with the explanations and looked for more specific information on two multipliers which make some acres more or less valuable than others, the "conditions factor" (water views, for example) and the "neighborhood factor" (based on sales of comparable properties). Future forums will concentrate on these factors, the panel said.
When audience members asked about the taxes on open space, Mr. Colaneri and Ms. Resendes explained that several options are available to taxpayers who wish to create permanent open space, conservation land, or agricultural restrictions.
In response to a question from the audience, Mr. Colaneri reminded the audience that the assessors do not determine the tax levy. Voters at town meeting decide what the town will spend. It is the assessors' job to distribute the burden fairly. Theoretically, even if everyone's assessments doubled uniformly, if the town spent the same amount of money, the tax rate would be cut in half and tax bills would not change.
Humane Society launches campaign against Oak Bluffs shark tournament
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a national animal rights organization, this week launched a public campaign to pressure the Oak Bluffs selectmen to cancel the 20th Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament.
In a full-page ad featuring a trussed shark that appears on the back page of the news section in this week's issue of The Times, HSUS argues that the shark tournament undermines the Island's values and encourages the overfishing of a species facing ecological disaster. The ad urges readers to contact the selectmen and tell them to end the tournament.
HSUS has considerable clout. The organization has more than eight million members and a budget of approximately $95 million, according to one profile.
The regional tournament turned into a big-time fishing event when it became the subject of a four-part ESPN television special in 2004. Last summer, the 19th annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament attracted a record number of 245 participating boats.
The catch of a 1,191-pound tiger shark attracted national media attention and the attention of the Humane Society, which called on ESPN not to broadcast the show and mounted an effort to oppose the tournament. The Oak Bluffs selectmen's unwillingness to cancel the tournament spurred the high-profile campaign, said John Grandy, HSUS senior vice president and spokesperson.
In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Mr. Grandy said the tournament is likely to do irreparable damage to the reputation and image of the Vineyard and is "categorically destructive and cruel and should be cancelled."
He said HSUS would be launching a web site taking aim at the Vineyard tournament and other shark contests around the country. Mr. Grandy was critical of Oak Bluffs selectmen who, he said, never responded to the society's concerns or letters.
"We were frankly astounded by the inattention that this matter was given by the board of selectmen which they demonstrated to us by not even responding to our letter or our concern," he said.
Oak Bluffs selectmen met last month with representatives of ESPN and tournament organizer Steve James to discuss the tournament. They asked that more focus be placed on conservation and the work of Greg Skomal, a state Division of Marine Fisheries marine biologist and shark expert.
Following the discussion, the selectmen appeared satisfied with the science connected to the tournament and the fact that only a small percentage of fish are brought to the weigh station.
Yesterday Mike Dutton, an Oak Bluffs selectman, said the selectmen had met several times during the off-season to discuss the shark tournament and the concerns of groups such as the Humane Society. He said selectmen considered all aspects of the contest, including its 20-year history, the opportunities it provides for scientific research and recreation, as well as the boost it gives the economy. He said it is the job of selectmen to weigh all sides, and in this case they decided to support the continuation of the tournament this year.
Hospital agrees with MVC prescription
In what was billed as an informal start to the permitting process, the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) held a "pre-application meeting" with Martha's Vineyard Hospital officials Monday evening to discuss their rebuilding project.
The meeting with members of the MVC's land use planning committee (LUPC) was for the purpose of discussing the scope of information commissioners would expect the hospital to provide once the project begins its formal review process.
With little comment, Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, and Tim Sweet, board vice president and building committee chairman agreed with commission suggestions regarding the information to be provided in a traffic impact and access study. The hospital also agreed to pay for a risk assessment study by an outside consultant selected by the MVC to evaluate the current site's vulnerability to natural forces such as flooding in the event of a storm.
The hospital is currently engaged in a fundraising campaign to raise $42 million to build on the current Beach Road site in Eastville. Hospital officials insist it is the only viable financial alternative, given the estimated cost of more than $70 million to build on a new site.
Although the project has yet to be referred to the MVC, the hospital has already been the focus of considerable discussion by members of the Island's regional land use permitting body. Last fall, the MVC created a subcommittee to look for alternative building sites when some MVC members expressed skepticism about the hospital's insistence that it could not find a good alternative nor could it afford to build on one if it could find one.
Jim Athearn of Edgartown raised the thorny issue of the hospital's numbers. He said the comparison between the costs of rebuilding or going to a new site always seemed to him less than credible. He asked that the hospital do a better job of convincing the commissioners of the need to build on the Eastville site.
Mr. Sweet reassured the commissioners that the hospital would provide a package of information intended to demonstrate that the numbers underpinning the decision to rebuild are accurate.
Island returns to the GOP fold
Martha's Vineyard sent three delegates to the state Republican convention, held the weekend of April 29 in Lowell. It was the first time in almost 20 years the Island was represented, according to Angela Cywinski, chairman of the Tisbury Republican delegation.
Jim Powell and Bernice Kirby of West Tisbury and Sandra Kenney of Tisbury joined their fellow party delegates in nominating Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey to be the party's candidate for governor in the November election.
Meeting will probe fuel contamination in Five Corners
A public hearing to discuss alleged gasoline contamination at 19 and 25 Beach Road, site of the Xtra-Mart Citgo gasoline station, is scheduled for Thursday, May 25, at the Tisbury Town Hall. Jaime Goncalves from the Department of Environmental Protection will make a site visit prior to the hearing and meet with the site's operator and surrounding property owners to discuss the issue.
Ralph Penney, president of Penney Engineering, an environmental group concerned about the possible oil and gasoline contamination of ground water in the vicinity of the station, has called the meeting. Mr. Penney said multiple properties in the Five Corners area of Vineyard Haven have been contaminated.
Since it opened in 1962, the station has had many reported instances of contaminated soil, Mr. Penney said. A petition, signed by 19 residents, was submitted in March to the Kenyon Oil Company, former operator of the station, asking for the site to be designated as a Public Involvement Plan site. Drake Petroleum now operates the station and will be present at the meeting with Mr. Goncalves.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
New interpreter service at
The Island Medical Interpreters Service held an official launch party Tuesday at the Mansion House, where participants and coordinators gathered to celebrate the new organization. Cynthia Mitchell (left), executive director of Island Health Inc., and Miryam Gerson (right), coordinator of the recently created program, hosted the gathering of approximately 40 people. The program, which is part of the umbrella company Island Health Inc., provides medical interpreting services to patrons at Martha's Vineyard Hospital. The service has been operating for one month, Ms. Mitchell said.
Nine contributors received certificates acknowledging their recent graduation from an interpreters' training program. The service will soon expand to Martha's Vineyard Community Services.
West Tisbury child molester receives jail time
Stephen Bryant, formerly of West Tisbury, pled guilty to four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14 last week. A rape count was dismissed pursuant to his plea bargain.
The assaults on the victim, who is now 18, took place more than 10 years ago. The Hon. Diane Kottmyer, Associate Justice of the Superior Trial Court, sentenced Mr. Bryant, age 58, to two and a half years in the Edgartown County Jail and House of Correction on the first count, followed by two and a half years suspended for the other counts, with 10 years of supervised probation.
"I feel that justice was served with this plea bargain," said Laura Marshard, assistant district attorney from Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe's office. "We have a defendant who is being held accountable, is being incarcerated, has to register as a sex offender and receive sex offender treatment, and is not permitted to have unsupervised contact with girls under age 16. Law enforcement and the district attorney's office have accomplished quite a few objectives with a sentence such as this."
Ms. Marshard said she worked very closely in resolution of the case with the victim and her family.
gets 10 years
Douglas Keeler of Vineyard Haven was found guilty of assault to rape and assault and battery in a hearing in April. Last week, the Hon. Diane Kottmyer, Associate Justice of the Superior Trial Court, sentenced Mr. Keeler to eight to 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation.
"This is his third decade of perpetrating sexual assaults on women," said Laura Marshard, assistant district attorney, Cape and Island District Attorney's office. "At this point, as far as the district attorney's office is concerned, there are not a whole lot of options except incarceration."
The charges against Mr. Keeler stem from an incident last summer when he attacked a female cab driver who drove him to his home in Tisbury from the Ritz Café in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Keeler had prior sexual assault convictions from incidents that took place on Martha's Vineyard in the mid-1980s and in New York in the 1990s.
Ms. Marshard said Mr. Keeler will be sent to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Walpole initially. In addition to his prison term, his sentencing includes an order of no contact with the victim, a ban on initiating contact with minor females, sex offender treatment, and drug and alcohol counseling. "During his 10 years of probation, Mr. Keeler will have to undergo random screens for alcohol and drugs, because alcohol appeared to play a role in each of his prior incidents," Ms. Marshard said.
Focus groups examine feasibility of Island retirement community
In a follow-up to an Island-wide mailing designed to gauge interest in establishing a retirement facility on the Vineyard, Polly Brown will hold a series of focus groups to discuss what kind of retirement community Islanders want and what services it should offer.
Ms. Brown, an active community volunteer, wants to provide an Island alternative for older residents who now leave their long-established homes and friends for the comforts of an off-Island retirement community.
Ms. Brown, a Vineyard Haven resident, said that the responses to the survey and the discussion groups will help determine whether a nonprofit community-based retirement facility is feasible on the Island, and what form it should take.
The focus groups will be held: Wednesday, May 17, 11 am at the Chilmark Library; 2 pm at the Tisbury Senior Center; 5 pm at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown; Thursday, May 18 at 10 am in the Oak Bluffs Library; and 1:30 pm at the Howes House in West Tisbury.
People who would like to attend are asked to call 1-888-500-1990 to reserve a seat.
Hutker Architects names Kevin Dauphinais firm associate
Hutker Architects announced that Kevin Dauphinais was named an associate of the firm. According to a press release, Mr. Dauphinais was recognized for his strengths and talents that have added to the firm's success. He joins fellow associates Gerrit Frase and David Johnson.
Hutker Architects, Inc. is a high-end architectural and interior design firm with offices on Martha's Vineyard and Falmouth. For more about information, go to www.hutkerarchitects.com
Jane Davis is Wildtree Herbs rep
Jane Davis of Oak Bluffs recently joined Wildtree Herbs, Inc. as an independent representative. The company specializes in selling gourmet culinary blends, infused oils, dressings and sauces through home parties.
According to a press release, Wildtree's extensive product line is free of preservatives, MSG, fillers, and anti-caking agents. Many are gluten-free, wheat-free, and all are quick and easy-to-use mealtime solutions. For more information, go to www.wildtreeherbs.com or contact Jane Davis at 508-939-9359
A story last week about two Dukes County corrections officers, T.J. Roginski and Michael Trance, referred to their involvement in orchestrating two inmate beatings. In fact, as assistant district attorney Lisa Edmonds explained this week, although two beatings were indeed carried out, Mr. Roginski and Mr. Trance were each indicted on only one charge of conspiracy to commit assault and battery on only one victim, Paul Garcia, an inmate at the time.