Fire chief retires after half-century with department
Punctuated by the annoying roar of a malfunctioning heater and the squawking complaints of Gerry DeBettencourt, the Oak Bluffs selectmen met for the first time this year on Tuesday. The board received an update on the Steamship Authority (SSA) by Marc Hanover, approved short-term entertainment licenses for five businesses, and discussed the retirement of long-time fire chief Dennis Alley.
Chief Alley's contract expires July 1 after 52 years with the department. He has been the chief for the past 12 years, and deputy chief for the previous 23. His retirement comes after infighting last year between the fire and ambulance services, both led by Chief Alley. The two services were eventually split and placed under separate leadership. According to news reports at the time, increased size in the two departments and an increased workload caused problems among the leadership. Chief Alley said yesterday that he would not comment at this time on his decision to retire.
Dennis Alley. Photo by Ezra Blair
Commenting throughout the meeting, on everything from the new ferry Island Home's arrival to not being able to hear the selectmen, Ms. DeBettencourt chimed in by asking why the assistant chief would not automatically be promoted to chief. Selectmen said they would go through the regulated selection process.
Mr. Hanover, the Vineyard SSA member, discussed a plan to refurbish the SSA wharf in Oak Bluffs, and addressed an issue brought up at last month's meeting at which selectman Ron DiOrio encouraged the board to endorse pending legislation on Beacon Hill that would allow towns across the state to tax property occupied by state authorities, including the SSA. Mr. Hanover advised against the endorsement, noting that when the embarkation fee deal was enacted, it was agreed that that property would remain tax-exempt.
"It could be seen as double-dipping," Mr. Hanover said, and the town could be jeopardizing the embarkation fee. Last year, the town received approximately $200,000 from the legislature-imposed passenger fee.
Mr. DiOrio did not speak with either Mr. Hanover or the town's SSA Port Council representative Robert Huss prior to raising the issue last month. The port council representative acts as a liaison between the SSA and the town.
In a telephone conversation yesterday, Mr. DiOrio said he did not speak to either SSA representative because he did not consider it necessary. He said he decided to raise the legislation for discussion because the board needed to make a decision and potentially have a discussion with senator Robert O'Leary and Representative Eric Turkington. "Someone else said we should discuss it with Marc Hanover and Mr. Huss," he said. "And that's what we did yesterday."
Selectman Greg Coogan said it is a "dangerous fire to play with legislation," and chairman Duncan Ross essentially put to rest the discussion by moving to the next agenda item.
A constant topic of conversation this summer, noise in downtown Oak Bluffs was a focus again this week. During a working session next month, the board will discuss ways to regulate outdoor and amplified music.
The selectmen issued entertainment licenses - effective until May 15 - to Offshore Ale, the Holy Ghost Association, VFW, Season's, and the Ritz Café. Entertainment licenses are normally issued for one calendar year, but Mr. Ross said the selectmen may change the requirements for various entertainment licenses before the summer season and would revisit the licenses in May. The businesses will not be required to pay a second licensing fee at that time.
In other business, the selectmen reappointed Bob Huss as the Oak Bluffs SSA Port Council representative.