News in Brief
Oak Bluffs church landmark gone missing
A large shell that for years has decorated the lawn in front of the Our Lady Star of the Sea church on Massasoit Avenue in Oak Bluffs has gone missing. Father Nagle, pastor of the church, said that the shell was last seen on Tuesday of last week and disappeared sometime before Friday morning, when it was discovered missing. Father Nagle estimated that the shell weighs several hundred pounds and is about three feet across.
"It's big and heavy. One person couldn't pick it up," he said. Father Nagle said that the church had been planning on turning the shell into a baptism font. The Oak Bluffs police were unavailable for comment.
Wampanoag Tribe receives Federal grant to study scallops
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) announced that the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) would receive a $150,000 Tribal Wildlife Grant (TWG) to develop a comprehensive bay scallop enhancement program for Menemsha Pond.
The money would be used to purchase a Larval Identification and Hydrographic Data Telemetry instrument for the purpose of identifying and monitoring bay scallop larvae, expanded temperature monitoring and the continuing removal of predators such as crabs, according to the grant summary.
Brett Stearns, Wampanoag natural resources director, said the equipment would help to answer many questions about what happens to scallop spat, the microscopic stage in a scallop's development.
The benefits would not be limited to the Tribe. "We will be sharing technology and information with everybody both short term and long term," said Mr. Stearns, "to provide a benefit for all of the communities on the Island and lower Cape."
The grant is the second awarded the Tribe for the purpose of improving the scallop fishery. In September 2004, Fish and Wildlife awarded the Tribe a $247,500 grant for a three-year project designed to restore Menemsha Pond's once thriving bay scallop fishery.
The 2004 grant summary said the bay scallop restoration project involved a multi-pronged approach that included stocking various size scallops, transplanting eel grass to provide scallop habitat, green crab predator control and water monitoring. The latest grant, which the Tribe said it would match by an equal amount, would be used to build on the earlier work.
According to a report submitted with the grant application, among other measures the Tribe released approximately 92,000 hatchery-reared bay scallop seed during the late summer and early fall 2005; monitored water quality; and over a period of 13 weeks last summer trapped and removed approximately 21,000 crabs.
The Wampanoag Tribe was one of only three New England tribes to win a share of $8 million in wildlife grants that will help fund projects nationwide according to a press release.
The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in Maine received a TWG grant of more than $70,000 for wildlife habitat enhancement.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut, owners of the largest resort casino in the world and the wealthiest tribe in the nation, received more than $80,000 through the Tribal Landowner Incentive Program to examine snapping turtle ecology and the use of road culverts by small reptiles, amphibians and mammals in Connecticut.
Oak Bluffs Association celebrates solstice
The Oak Bluffs Association will mark the summer solstice, the astronomical start of summer, on Wednesday with a "Summer Solstice Celebration Block Party."
The late-day celebration will include musical performances by PhillyD and Jeremy Milligan, members of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School theater group who will sing show tunes, performance poets, face painters, and jugglers.
Local inns and art galleries will open their doors to visitors from 4 to 6 pm and shops and restaurants will remain open late to celebrate the Solstice.
Parking will not be allowed on Circuit Ave from 5 pm to 11 pm.
water ban for Oak Bluffs
Despite the recent abundance of rain, the Oak Bluffs water commissioners have issued a mandatory outdoor water ban for the town of Oak Bluffs, effective June 23, and lasting throughout the summer and possibly into the fall. According to Lois D. Norton, water systems administrator, the ban is unrelated to recent or projected rainfall and the amount of water in the atmosphere. Ms. Norton said that Oak Bluffs holds a Water Management Permit with Massachusetts that allows the town to withdraw a certain amount of water per year, a limit that has now been exceeded. The ban was voted unanimously by the commissioners at their meeting on June 8. It is an odd/even ban, meaning that all water customers in Oak Bluffs who have odd numbered street addresses may use outdoor water during odd number calendar days. All water customers who have even numbered street addresses may use outdoor water during even numbered calendar days.
Aquinnah reworks town meeting budget
Taking up where they left off on May 9, a bare quorum of Aquinnah voters Thursday night approved a $2,637,442 operating budget for the 2007 fiscal year and 13 of the 14 articles appearing on the annual town meeting warrant.
Voters approved several Proposition 2.5 overrides already approved at the polls on May 10, including $105,000 for the Community Preservation Committee, funds for the Board of Selectmen and Highway Department, and $5,051 from the stabilization fund to install an up-to-date carbon monoxide and smoke detector system in the fire station.
Although it was approved at the polls, voters said no to a Prop. 2.5 police department request to take $25,000 from the stabilization fund to purchase a new police cruiser.
Prior to Thursday night's meeting, selectmen and members of the finance committee were forced to trim $2,792 from other areas in order to balance the operating budget.
Mindful of the confusion and turmoil that attended last month's meeting, selectman chairman Michael Hebert asked voters to treat each other with respect. "I would appreciate if the proper respect and decorum could take place at this meeting," said Mr. Hebert at the start of the meeting. "Please don't speak unless called on and wait your turn to be chosen by the moderator."
For the most part the voters took his advice to heart.
With 41 voters present Thursday night, one more than the 40 needed to meet the quorum, moderator Walter Delaney read through the line item budget from the beginning, with only scattered interruptions from concerned voters.
"I feel relieved," selectman Jim Newman said following the relatively calm and organized assembly. "Now it's back to business as usual."
Shellfish beds should be open today
Pending the results of the latest round of water testing, which was conducted yesterday, the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries was expected to re-open Island shellfish beds today. Shellfishing around the Island and the Cape was closed last week due to heavy rain runoff
New regs proposed for those who hire immigrants
Island employers who hire immigrants could face additional scrutiny under a proposal announced Friday by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The proposed regulations are part of an effort to crack down on businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants, according to a DHS press release.
Currently, when an employee's name and Social Security number do not match, the employer receives a no-match letter from the Social Security Administration, however there is no punishment for ignoring it. An employer can also receive a no-match letter from the Department of Homeland Security notifying the employer that the immigration status or employment-authorization documentation presented or referenced by the employee is not consistent with DHS records.
The new proposal gives employers 14 days after receiving a no-match letter to solve the inconsistency in cooperation with both the employee and the government. If there is no resolution to the discrepancy within 60 days, the employer must fire the employee or face the risk of government action, according to the DHS web site, www.dhs.gov.
Employers would receive a "safe harbor" if they comply with the proposed regulations, avoiding potential government prosecution if it is later concluded that they had employed illegal immigrants.
Vineyard businesses that hire foreign workers are among the many businesses nation-wide that could be affected by this proposal should it be adopted.
"These new regulations will give U.S. businesses the necessary tools to increase the likelihood that they are employing workers consistent with our laws," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in a written statement. "They also help us to identify and prosecute employers who are blatantly abusing our immigration system."
The proposal is now subject to a 60-day public comment period.
Possible 2002 tax refund
Massachusetts taxpayers who sold capital assets, such as stocks or real estate, between May 1, 2002 and December 31, 2002, may be eligible for a refund on taxes previously paid. Last November, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled to establish January 1, 2003 as the effective date of the increase in long-term capital gains tax. The new rate is 5.3%, up from a sliding rate ranging from 0% to 5%, depending upon the length of time the asset was held. The new rate means that the thousands of Massachusetts taxpayers who paid a tax of 5.3% on sales of capital assets in the last eight months of 2002 may be eligible for a refund. Any who wish to fill out an application for the refund should dust off their 2002 financial records and refer to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue web site at www.massdor.com. Taxpayers are advised to act quickly, as the deadline is June 30, 2006.
Driver safety course
The Tisbury Council on Aging will hold a driver's safety refresher course developed by AARP for drivers 50 years of age and older. Participants will receive a refresher on rules of the road, have an opportunity to tune up their driving skills, learn about age-related physical changes, and how to adjust driving habits to allow for these changes and reduce the possibility of traffic violations, crashes, and chance of injuries.
The course will be held Tuesday and Wednesday from 12:30 to 4:30 pm at the Tisbury Senior Center on Pine Tree Road, Vineyard Haven. The cost is $10 and pre-registration is required. Call 508-696-4205 for more information.
A story about a Chilmark proposal to update the town's definition of a commercial fisherman ("Chilmark redefines the commercial fisherman") published on June 8, incorrectly reported that the definition adopted at the 1996 Chilmark annual town meeting required that a person must earn a minimum of 20 percent of his income from commercial fishing to qualify as a commercial fisherman. The article as amended and adopted at that 1996 town meeting raised the requirement to 40 percent.
In a list of College Graduates published on June 1, we made an error. The list should have included the following: Matthew Soikkeli, son of Heikki Soikkeli and Ellen O'Brien, graduated from Washington University in Saint Louis, the Olin School of Business, with a bachelor of science degree in business administration on May 19.