West Tisbury cemetery superintendent quizzed
Selectmen approve new cab fares, emergency director
At their meeting last week, the West Tisbury selectmen approved an increase in the maximum-rate taxi fare schedule, grilled their cemetery superintendent, and appointed a new emergency management director.
For the second year in a row, there will be a rise in fares charged by cab companies licensed in West Tisbury (Bluefish Taxi and Mario's Taxi). The previous week, Gary Davidson of Bluefish Taxi had told the selectmen that he needs to bring his fares in line with those charged by Edgartown taxi companies. The reason, he said, is that the airport management requires taxis to use a queue system that encourages passengers to take the first cab in line. If the rates are substantially different, the queue system breaks down. The Edgartown selectmen have this year approved a rate schedule higher in some instances than the rates approved last year for West Tisbury companies. Mr. Davidson said that this not only displeases airport authorities but also seems unfair to him.
In that earlier meeting, the West Tisbury selectmen balked at a provision in the Edgartown schedule allowing the driver to add a $3 fuel surcharge "at the driver's discretion." Selectmen John Early and Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter told Mr. Davidson that they had no objection to higher rates, gasoline prices being what they are, but they wanted the posted fare to tell the passenger what the ride will cost. The $3 surcharge, Mr. Davidson admitted, could unfairly be added to a short ride as well as a long one. At last week's meeting, Mr. Davidson returned with the suggestion that a 10 percent fuel surcharge be added, rather than a flat $3 surcharge. The surcharge would apply only to the basic fare, not to extras such as fees for dirt roads, dogs, or bicycles.
Again the West Tisbury selectmen demurred, asking that the surcharge be included in the rate, not added at the end of the ride. Mr. Davidson agreed, and the new rates reflect that change. There may be some differences in fares charged by taxis from West Tisbury and Edgartown, but they are small.
While West Tisbury rates for rides within the town are unchanged from last year, a ride from the airport to Aquinnah will cost $10 more; to Chilmark center, $14 more; to Menemsha, $15 more. Though a few other fares are unchanged, most are up $2 to $7. The rates will be reviewed on Nov. 13 and may be changed again then, depending on what happens to the price of gasoline.
The cemetery superintendent
The West Tisbury selectmen have been at odds with John Alley in his role as cemetery superintendent. They have a long list of issues to discuss with him, but have had difficulty in scheduling those discussions. They met with him a month ago, but that meeting was shortened to a half hour by Mr. Alley's need to leave to attend another meeting. They had planned to continue the meeting with him the following week, but a month went by until Mr. Alley was again available. Again last week, Mr. Alley had to leave after a half hour, but the selectmen and Mr. Alley have now scheduled an hour's time on August 4, beginning early (at 4 pm), to continue their examination.
At the meeting a month ago and again last week, the issue was cemetery records. The selectmen wrote Mr. Alley a letter in October of 2003, asking him to update the maps and reconcile discrepancies in the written records of grave sites and the layouts of the town's three cemeteries. A substantial portion of the information is in Mr. Alley's head, and the selectmen would like it written down somewhere. In the meetings with Mr. Alley, all three selectmen expressed frustration with the pace at which this work is being done.
Last week Mr. Alley said that the work is "nearly done," but balked at naming a specific time to meet with selectman Glenn Hearn to transfer the data to written records and maps, citing house guests and other personal business. At the end of last week's meeting, he agreed to commit by the end of the month to a firm schedule to meet one day per week with Mr. Hearn.
In addition to record-keeping, the selectmen said, they have several other complaints to discuss, including the upkeep of the cemeteries, removal of flags from veteran's graves, painting and replacing fencing, and removal of unwanted overgrowth around grave stones.
Although annual appointments are usually made in May, the selectmen have not yet reappointed Mr. Alley as cemetery superintendent. Mr. Alley noted this fact last week and added, "I haven't been reappointed so maybe I'm not going to be reappointed, and that's okay - that's up to you guys. So I didn't want to spend any more time out there than necessary."
Mr. Alley, who is paid at an hourly rate of $15.08 for his labors, billed West Tisbury $2,111.20 in FY06. In FY05 Mr. Alley billed the town $3,589.
In addition to the cemetery superintendent, the selectmen have two or three other appointments yet to be made. They took care of one of them last week when they appointed Chris Cini as emergency management director, replacing Judith Sibert, who has moved to the Washington, D.C. area. Emergency management director, once a volunteer job concerned mostly with responding to hurricanes and winter storms, has become a much larger responsibility because of threats to homeland security, increasingly dangerous weather, and the possibility of pandemics such as that posed by bird flu H5N1. Ms. Sibert, among other services to the town, spent hundreds of hours rewriting the town's emergency management plan. In 2005, recognizing the growth of the job and Ms. Sibert's extraordinary contributions, the town voters approved a $5,000 stipend for the emergency management director and $1,000 for an assistant. Mr. Cini, an EMT and the only applicant for the post, was Ms. Sibert's assistant. In his appointment meeting with the selectmen, he described filling in for Ms. Sibert recently in pandemic and hurricane readiness exercises.