Oak Bluffs officials split on shark tourney
The controversial Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament resurfaced at a meeting of the Oak Bluffs selectmen Tuesday night over a proposal to gauge voter support for the tournament by placing a nonbinding referendum question on an August 8 special election ballot.
In a 2-2 vote that reflected traditional voting alliances, selectmen Roger Wey and Kerry Scott split with selectman Gregory Coogan and chairman Duncan Ross on a motion by Mr. Wey to put a nonbinding referendum on the special election ballot.
The board has been operating with only four members following the resignation of selectman Michael Dutton on May 22. The August 8 special election was called to fill Mr. Dutton's vacant seat.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a national animal rights organization, has been waging major public relations to pressure the Oak Bluffs selectmen to cancel the tournament held annually in July.
Mr. Wey said a referendum question could help guide future decision making. "It could give us a direction for next year," Mr. Wey said of the ballot question, which would be presented following this summer's already scheduled tournament. "It takes the guessing out of our hands."
Ms. Scott agreed with Mr. Wey, saying August would be a perfect time to revisit the issue, with the July tournament fresh in voter's minds.
Mr. Coogan and Mr. Ross disagreed with the timing. Both men said the annual town meeting was a more appropriate time to present the issue.
"I don't have any problems with putting it on the ballot, I just disagree with the timing," selectman Gregory Coogan said Tuesday. Both Mr. Coogan and chairman Duncan Ross agreed the question should be placed on the ballot in April's annual town meeting. "We have spent way too much time on this issue this year," Mr. Coogan said yesterday. "I think doing it this summer is unnecessary. There are a lot of distractions in the summer, and you never know how many people will actually show up."
Mr. Coogan said the board traditionally saves all serious issues for discussion at the annual town meeting.
"The special election will have more voters than the annual," Mr. Wey said. "It just seems like a natural time to have it."
With no vote to break the deadlock Mr. Wey's motion was defeated.
Planning for disasters, County programs
Emergency Management director Peter Martell presented the board with the town's updated hurricane disaster plan. Mr. Martell said his team sent disaster preparation booklets home with schoolchildren, and will supply the elementary school, designated as an emergency shelter, with 100 cots, pillows and blankets donated by the Red Cross.
"Every storm that comes and goes we learn something," Mr. Martell said Tuesday night. "Hurricane Katrina was an example of how not to do things."
Mr. Martell said his team has changed some of their policies since last summer, and added to the emergency management handbook.
Ms. Scott, owner of Good Dog Goods in Oak Bluffs, questioned Mr. Martell on the team's plan for helping pets in a hurricane or natural disaster situation.
Mr. Martell said the emergency shelter would accept any pet in a cage, but un-caged animals would not be allowed due to possible dangers.
"We need to find out what the federal government will require," Ms. Scott said. "I would feel more comfortable if we formalized this."
Ms. Scott said she would be willing to donate extra crates to the shelter.
Winn Davis, Dukes County manager, addressed the board, updating the selectmen on numerous projects underway by the county.
Project Lifesaver, a new program run by the county, distributes bracelets equipped with GPS monitors to people with Alzheimer's disease. The monitors are connected to responders at the police station, and their average finding time of a missing participant is approximately 20 minutes.
He also spoke of discount programs for prescription medications, available to eligible Island residents.
"These are the types of services people don't normally know about, so I hope to inform you about them today," Mr. Davis said Tuesday.
The board discussed the new 311-telephone system with Mr. Davis and Police Chief Erik Blake. Dukes County is the second county in the state to have the Island wide telephone system, which is to be used for non-emergency queries. Chief Blake said citizens should dial 311 on their telephone for noise complaints and similar non-emergency issues.
In other business
Mr. Ross announced that Keith Laslovich, the town's animal control officer, resigned earlier that day.
The board also reappointed various members to the Historical Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Conservation Commission, among others Tuesday night. More reappointments will be discussed at the next meeting, including Casey Sharpe and Melanie Bilodeau to the Board of Assessors.
Alice Butler, the board's administrator, read a letter from Ms. Scott expressing her regret that Linda Marinelli, recently appointed to the search committee for town administrator, has resigned.
Also addressing the board, Mr. Ross outlined his goals as chairman for 2007.
"I would like to find a town administrator that is half as good as Casey was," he said. Mr. Ross said he would also like to see an annual budget without any Proposition 2.5 overrides, and intends to formalize a town picnic.