Trees, oysters, and unhealthy building on West Tisbury selectmen's agenda
Dead trees, live oysters, and a healthier town building were topics at last week's West Tisbury selectmen's meeting.
Tree warden Jeremiah Brown provided a comprehensive report on dead pine trees along Old County and State roads; Tom Osmers brought in oysters for a report from the shellfish committee on the oyster season; and Board of Health agent John Powers reported on actions to improve mold and moisture problems in the old library building.
On the tree situation, Mr. Brown said simply: "They're dead. They're in pretty bad shape, close to the road and dangerous. They're going to come down ... at least the worst ones right away."
It doesn't take an arborist to diagnose this problem. These pines along Old County Road are dead. Photo by Susan Safford
In the previous week, he said he had counted 78 dead pines from 10 to 15 feet of the road and presumably on town property. He said he stopped counting after 1,000 trees that were 20 to 30 feet from the road and likely on state forest property. He said it was hard to decipher where the town trees ended and the state forest trees began.
Mr. Brown also counted 219 dead trees along State Road from the fork at Indian Hill to North Road. In all, he said, the town should deal immediately with 297 dead pines in those two sections.
Executive secretary Jennifer Rand suggested Mr. Brown push the state highway authorities to remove the trees along State Road and on the state forest property. Mr. Brown said NStar should probably be involved since most of the dead trees are hanging directly over power lines.
Selectmen chairman John Early said the town would need to identify funding for the projects. Mr. Brown agreed to do some more research on the issue with Ms. Rand and to discuss it with state forest supervisor John Varkonda.
Mr. Osmers took a bucket of oysters up to the selectmen's table to demonstrate the status of disease that has affected the shellfish. "We're seeing some signs of improvement of the situation," he said. He also asked for an extension of the oyster season for another month, until Feb. 7. Three fishermen are participating and catching their limit of two bushels per day, three days a week, he said.
Mr. Osmers noted that the oysters they keep are smaller as the fishermen have been asked to return the larger oysters for spawning. The family oyster season also will remain open to Feb. 7. The selectmen granted the season extension.
Mr. Osmers also said West Tisbury is participating with Chilmark in an aquaculture feasibility study to see if it is possible to raise mussels in West Tisbury waters.
Mr. Powers said several steps had been taken at the old town library, now used as a town hall annex to house the health and highway departments, to remove suspected causes of employees' respiratory health problems during the fall. The building is leased to the town by the M.V. Preservation Trust, which took care of the problems.
Mr. Powers said the moldy fiberglass insulation was removed from the crawl space under the building, gutters and downspouts were installed to direct water away from the building and a vacuum filter had arrived for a thorough cleaning.
"The strong earthly smell has gone away," Mr. Powers told the selectmen, but added, "We're all in agreement that it's too early to tell if the changes are going to be permanent." He will report back to the selectmen on Jan. 24 for an update on the situation.
In other business, the selectmen expressed their displeasure with a response to questions about bills totaling approximately $1,900 for the county engineer's services. Selectman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter said county administrator Winn Davis's recent letter did not explain why the town was billed a $35 an hour fee in addition to the annual county assessment, which includes engineering services.
In the letter, Mr. Davis asked that the town pay the bills dating back to last April. He told the selectmen at a meeting in the fall that the extra fee was being charged to help the county balance its budget.
"I still believe it increases our assessment," Mr. Manter said. "I don't think we should pay it." He said that the town does not have the money in its budget and would need to appropriate funding for the bill. He added that his comments were not a reflection on the work of county engineer Steven Berlucchi.
Mr. Early agreed with Mr. Manter that the board wanted an explanation of the funding mechanism. He said a legal opinion may be needed on the matter at some point.
Mr. Manter disagreed that would be necessary. "I think it's pretty clear."
The selectmen also continued a discussion on the lack of liability insurance for MVTV contractors who tape town meetings. Ms. Rand said the situation is preventing the filming of some town meetings.
MVTV does not provide liability insurance for the videographers, and town officials don't believe it is the town's responsibility to provide it.
"It's my opinion MVTV isn't doing business properly," town treasurer Kathy Logue said. "The liability on both counts is considerable," she said, for both the person filming and the town if, for example, someone gets hurt by tripping over the camera cord.
The issue was put on hold until Ms. Rand can check with an insurance company on the liability issues.