Tisbury police, selectmen weigh shared chief plan
Exploring a shared police chief arrangement with Oak Bluffs, amending waterway regulations, and improving traffic flow in Vineyard Haven topped a lengthy agenda that took the Tisbury selectmen almost three hours to plow through on Tuesday night.
Two Tisbury police officers voiced strong opposition in response to selectman chairman Tristan Israel's invitation to comment on recent discussions between the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs selectmen about sharing a police chief.
"Speaking tonight as an individual and as a taxpayer, I don't agree with sharing a chief," said Detective Mark Santon. "What do you think you will save dollar-wise?"
Selectman Tom Pachico responded, "We can't give you a dollar figure, because we haven't conducted negotiations yet. I'm sure there is a duplication of services, such as court duties, grant-writing - we hope to get answers from you."
Officer Santon asked, "Is the dollar sign the sole motivation?" Mr. Israel assured him it was not. "We need a new police chief. We are looking at several options, and looking at an arrangement with another town that may start us down the road towards regionalization."
Officer Santon said eliminating the police chief's position in Tisbury translates to one less officer on the line on the day shift. Sergeant Rodney Silvia also views it as not only a loss of personnel but a loss of opportunity as well. "I feel that officers in Tisbury should have the chance to advance to that position," he said.
Sergeant Silvia, a Tisbury officer and resident of Oak Bluffs, said he does not want to share his town's police chief because "as a taxpayer of Oak Bluffs, I feel I'll get less service for my tax dollar."
Selectman Tom Pachico explained that in the most likely scenario, the shared police chief would not be working two part-time jobs, physically traveling and splitting his hours between Oak Bluffs and Tisbury. Instead, the police chief would oversee the two towns as one large territory, which would be equivalent in area to West Tisbury or Edgartown, Mr. Pachico pointed out.
Although Officer Santon and Sergeant Silvia both supported the idea of regionalization, Mr. Pachico pointed out that such an arrangement would likely utilize only one police chief, as well. Regionalization also would involve creating a police district, a much more difficult process, Mr. Pachico said.
"In fairness to everybody, I have heard from people all over the Island, what do we need six police chiefs for?" Mr. Pachico said. "We were looking at the temporary appointment of an acting lieutenant in Tisbury for the summer. We have an obligation to the taxpayers to try to save money. It's sticking your foot in the water to see where it goes. If it doesn't work, you throw it out."
Since the joint selectmen's meeting a few weeks ago, Tisbury selectman Denys Wortman met with police officers in both departments to solicit their opinions. The Oak Bluffs officers expressed many of the same feelings as Tisbury's, Mr. Wortman reported. "They are willing to look at long-term regionalization but not to jump in at the busiest time of year to share a chief," he said.
Both Mr. Pachico and Mr. Israel commended the Tisbury officers' work and assured them that the shared police chief concept did not stem from a lack of confidence in their department. "Feel free to tell us what you think. We think you guys are capable of handling what you do now, with less oversight than you have now," Mr. Pachico told them.
The Tisbury and Oak Bluffs selectmen will meet again for police chief discussions next week on Tuesday at 5:30 pm in the Oak Bluffs Library. The Tisbury selectmen and police officers plan to meet again in the next three to four weeks.
In other business, the selectmen held a public hearing regarding amendments to the waterways regulations, the subject of several hearings that began last fall. The proposed amendments addressed increases in Owen Park pier fees, seasonal town mooring leases, and daily transient mooring fees.
Several members of the boating community and Vineyard Haven businesses protested the proposed increase in the daily transient mooring fee from $30 to $40. "We're pricing ourselves out of the market," said Jeff Kristal, owner of Crocker House Inn and an active supporter of Vineyard Haven businesses. "If Oak Bluffs and Edgartown are at $35, why out-price them?" he asked.
The selectmen agreed to a $35 fee, which will go into effect immediately. The other mooring fee increases will go into effect after Labor Day. The selectmen also approved an application by Kim Baptiste, owner of Tashmoo Boatyard, for three additional commercial moorings.
Turning to unfinished business from the last meeting, the selectmen revisited recommendations made by the Traffic Review Committee (TRC) for improving traffic flow in Vineyard Haven. The three suggestions included changing Union Street to one-way towards Main Street, creating additional left turn lanes on Beach Street near Five Corners during peak traffic times, and improving the Park and Ride shuttle service.
After listening to arguments against changing traffic flow on Union Street and lane shifts on Beach Street, the selectmen agreed not to adopt the TRC's recommendations, other than the one for making improvements in the Park and Ride shuttle service and parking lot amenities.
The selectmen also made several committee appointments Tuesday night. Peter Hefler was unanimously approved by the selectmen and seven members of the Finance and Advisory Committee to fill a FinCom vacancy. The selectmen also approved the appointment of Chris Fried, a solar energy advocate, as Town Energy Advisor, a new volunteer position he proposed for Tisbury.
Also on the agenda was a report by Andy Langlois, New England Fast Ferry vice president and Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Langlois reported that in the ferry service's second year, volume was up from 75,000 to 115,000 passengers and that as of April, advance reservations were running about 40 percent higher than last year.