News in Brief
Island Home arrives
The Island Home arrived at the Steamship Authority's Fairhaven facility at 5 pm Monday, one week after departing VT Halter's Mississippi shipyard, where she was built and launched.
SSA director of engineering, Carl Walker, said the trip was routine until the crew anchored off Long Island. While retrieving the anchor the crew snagged an abandoned cable that had to be cut off. "Beyond that, it was uneventful," said Mr. Walker.
The VT Halter crew that transported the double-ended ferry will work on a punch list of items this week. The transfer of ownership is expected to take place sometime next week, Mr. Walker said. He added that the SSA crew that accompanied the ferry on its week-long trip was pleased with her performance.
"She rode very well," he said.
Island Affordable Housing Fund hires new director
Edgartown resident Patrick Manning is the new executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund. He replaces Emily Levett. Mr. Manning, a licensed real estate broker, served six terms in the New York State Assembly and has a master's degree in public administration from Marist College. He began work on Jan. 29. The Island Affordable Housing Fund raises and allocates funds for affordable housing projects across the Island.
New Vineyard Haven café temporarily closed
Vineyard Haven's newest coffee shop, named Che's Lounge after the Cuban revolutionary, closed last Friday because it lacked the necessary permit from the zoning board of appeals (ZBA). The café had been open just shy of two weeks.
Che's Lounge is tucked away in a small alley off Main Street next to Jaba's Gallery and across from Bowl and Board in Vineyard Haven. That area is classified as a business district one, where a special permit is required from the ZBA to operate a food establishment, Tisbury building inspector Ken Barwick said this week.
The next ZBA hearing is March 8, and café co-owners Danielle Dominick and Protase Woodford are on the docket. If approved, they plan to reopen immediately.
Ms. Dominick, who also owns the Scottish Bakehouse on State Road, she said she was unaware a zoning permit was needed.
Che's Lounge was created as a community space for Islanders, Ms. Dominick said. "I want it to be a place for people to go after the movies and have a conversation and a cup of coffee." The café offers plush couches, fresh baked goods, and free Wi-Fi service.
John Early will not seek 11th term as selectman
John G. Early, chairman of the West Tisbury selectmen, will not run for re-election this spring. He has served 10 terms as selectmen.
"Thirty years sounded like a nice, round number," he said Tuesday when asked about his decision. He added that he will not be going anywhere, but plans to remain active in the other volunteer boards he serves on: the Affordable Housing Fund, Island Elderly Housing, Vineyard House, and Edgartown National Bank. He also runs his own contracting and building business, which he has had in his own name since 1975.
Mr. Early was a summer resident from childhood and became a year-round resident in 1972 after he returned to the United States from a four-year stint in the Peace Corps in India.
On his service as a selectmen, he said, "It's a wonderful job, a great town."
Island selectmen meet, discuss school formula quandary
Representatives from all six boards of selectmen gathered at the Dukes County offices yesterday to discuss the impacts of the state Department of Education's mandated aggregate wealth formula for allocating Martha's Vineyard Regional High School district costs. Tisbury, Chilmark, Aquinnah and Edgartown selectmen spoke in support of keeping the current formula, or at least delaying implementation for one year, while Oak Bluffs reluctantly pushed for the wealth-based formula.
The current regional formula agreed to and used by the six Island towns is based on enrollment. The wealth-based formula, to take effect this year, uses an "aggregate wealth model" for determining required local contribution amounts, with property values and personal income levels given equal weight. Preliminary numbers show that Oak Bluffs, Aquinnah and Edgartown stand to gain from the new formula, while Tisbury, Chilmark and West Tisbury stand to lose money.
The discussion started with a suggestion by Chilmark selectman Riggs Parker to delay implementation of the new formula by one year, in order to learn more about it, and avoid pitting towns against one another.
"As an Island I don't think we should be put in the position of dividing ourselves," he said. Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck agreed, saying the current formula is "tried, true and fair" and has been working for years.
Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel suggested shifting some of the funds between towns. "Maybe we can give a little and take a little so everyone can come away with something."
Aquinnah selectman Camille Rose said she would be willing to delay implementation of the formula in an effort to generate equity among the towns.
Oak Bluffs selectman Ron DiOrio stood as the lone advocate for immediate implementation of the wealth-based formula. Under the new formula, Oak Bluffs stands to gain an estimated $269,758 in fiscal year 2008. He said if another plan were not introduced by the April town meeting, he would urge voters to support the new formula.
Fellow Oak Bluffs selectman Kerry Scott admitted she wasn't familiar with all the details, and might reconsider her support of the wealth-based formula.
West Tisbury selectman John Early was present but did not comment. The selectmen agreed to meet again in two weeks for further discussion.
Tisbury voters debate beer and wine sales
Opinions appeared evenly divided at a public forum convened by the Tisbury selectmen on Tuesday to discuss a proposal to allow beer and wine licensing for restaurants.
The two-hour hearing offered participants the opportunity to ask questions about the legislative process and to express their opinions about the town's proposal to allow limited beer and wine sales in some Vineyard Haven inns and restaurants.
The audience of about 50 included a mix of Tisbury residents, business owners, and town employees, along with a few residents from other Island towns. Town counsel David Doneski, from the law firm of Kopelman and Paige, explained the legislative process by which Tisbury would be authorized by the state to issue beer and wine licenses. During a question and answer session, the most common question concerned whether the "bring your own bottle" (BYOB) practice would be allowed in Tisbury once licensing is authorized. Mr. Doneski explained that would be up to the rules and regulations set locally.
During the public comment session, board of health member James Pringle said that Tisbury is already "wet," since people already are allowed to bring their own alcoholic beverages to restaurants. Mr. Pringle said beer and wine sales might reduce alcohol consumption in restaurants because, "people will buy one $24 bottle of wine instead of bringing in three $8 bottles."
Several restaurant and inn owners said they need beer and wine sales to remain competitive. Susie Goldstein, co-owner of the Mansion House and Zephrus Restaurant, said it is becoming harder for businesses to find the income to support staying open year-round.
In addition, since Tisbury businesses pay higher town real estate taxes, owners said they need an opportunity to increase their revenues. A better profit margin would have a "trickle down" effect to benefit other Tisbury businesses as well, they added.
"We have a wet town but are not reaping the benefits," said Stephen Perlman, owner of the Hanover House. As both a Tisbury homeowner and a business owner, Mr. Perlman argued that if Tisbury businesses do not get the help beer and wine sales promise, and if they do not survive, homeowners will have to pay more taxes.
Some Vineyard Haven residents and business owners said they feared that alcohol sales would change the character of the town.
"My long-term concern is it's a first step to more down the line towards opening bars," said Carol Salguero, office manager at Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway.
But, Mr. Doneski explained, any additional changes would require the same legislative process to be repeated.
Mr. Israel said voters will have more opportunities to comment before voting on an article proposing beer and wine licensing at the town's April town meeting.
Summer job fair
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) will host a summer job fair next month, at which students may distribute their resumes to a variety of Island employers and learn job interview skills. The job fair will take place on March 28. MVRHS career and work-study coordinator Sherri Church is organizing the fair.
Current and past MVRHS students are invited to attend. Staff members will help students complete a standard application beforehand, so they will be prepared on the day of the fair. Last year, 35 businesses participated, Ms. Church said, and she hopes more will attend this year.
Employers must reserve table space by March 1. Call Ms. Church at 693-1033, extension 223.
State real estate licensing board will hold on-Island test
The Massachusetts real estate board has scheduled a licensing exam for Monday, Feb. 26, on Martha's Vineyard. It is the first time the state licensing authority for real estate brokers and salespersons has provided an on-Island test site.
Robert Sawyer of Tisbury, a principal in Dukes Academy, a real estate school that prepares people to take the exam, said he has been pressing state officials for years to make the test more convenient for Islanders. The test, which is administered by a private testing firm, is normally held several times a year.
Mr. Sawyer said that if everything goes smoothly, he is optimistic the test, which is conducted electronically, would be given here on a regular basis. The exiting prospect is that the state could also provide on-Island testing for other licensed professions, he said.
The test will be held in the High school computer lab. Three sessions are scheduled, and there is a limit of nine people per session. Depending on interest, additional sessions may be added on Feb. 27.
Mr. Sawyer said that anyone qualified to take the real estate licensing exams is eligible. He said that Dukes Academy is assisting with scheduling as a public service, but does not benefit in any way.
Interested persons should contact Dukes Academy to make a reservation at 508-696-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community radio launches web cast
Martha's Vineyard Community Radio, a local nonprofit startup radio station, announced it is now "web casting" 24 hours a day from its website at www.wvvy.org in advance of its FM broadcast launch some time later this year.
More than one year ago, the station organizers received a permit from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build a low power FM (LPFM) radio station.
According to a press release, the Internet streaming station plays "a freeform mix of rare blues, opera arias, brand-new releases, hokie country songs, disco, emo, folk, funk, and everything between."
According to organizers, the station needs to raise approximately $25,000 for transmitting equipment before it can start broadcasting over the FM airwaves. The station plans a monthly series of benefit concerts at the P.A. Club, beginning with Ballyhoo on Feb. 17.
For more information call Maria Danielson at 508-560-1186.
Applications for college financial aid due March 1
Students planning to attend college next fall who are seeking financial aid should be starting applications now in order to file before a March 1 deadline, according to a recent press release from State Senator Robert O'Leary and State Representative Eric Turkington.
Last year, Massachusetts students received more than $1 billion in grants and low-interest loans from federal and state governments, as well as millions of dollars in scholarships from colleges and universities.
However, many students and their families are either unaware that the financial aid resources exist, or may need help finding and applying for the aid. Fortunately, Senator O'Leary and Representative Turkington point out, free help is available to assist applicants.
To begin the process of applying for both federal and state aid, students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), preferably online. The document is available at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Many private colleges and universities also require a second form, the CSS Profile, which also is available online at https://profileonline.collegeboard.com.
Students and their families can call a toll-free hotline at 1-877-332-4348 for assistance with these applications and answers to general questions about financial aid. Hotline hours are 9 am-9 pm Monday through Thursday, 9 am- 5 pm Friday and Saturday, and 1-5 pm Sunday.
The hotline, operated by The Education Resources Institute (TERI), also offers information about public and private colleges, job training programs, careers, admissions tests, and other topics related to college planning.
Free, one-on-one guidance is available at TERI College Access Centers in Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, and Chelsea, and through Educational Opportunity Centers in Brockton, Lynn, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester.
For further information or help in using these resources, students should consult their school guidance department.
Lessons on geothermal energy
For the first time, a geothermal energy system will be included as part of a development of regional impact (DRI) application during a public hearing before the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) tonight at 7 pm. A geothermal system, which uses stored solar energy harvested from underground, has been proposed for the Oyster Bar restaurant renovation project in Oak Bluffs.
Sullivan O'Connor Architects, the project designers, asked Brian Nelson, a mechanical engineer and owner of Nelson Mechanical Design, to explain how the geothermal system he will engineer and install in the restaurant will work. Geothermal energy, which Mr. Nelson estimates will cut fuel use and operating costs by 60 percent, will be used to heat and cool the building, as well as provide hot water for kitchen use.
The geothermal system has the potential to reduce neighborhood noise as well, since refrigeration and cooling units will be moved to the basement of the new restaurant.
In addition to the MVC presentation, next Monday Mr. Nelson invites the public to come to an open house at 35 Skiff Avenue to view a demonstration of the geothermal system he has installed in his own home, a first in Vineyard Haven. Mr. Nelson plans to make data available online from his home system to track energy usage and savings. For more information, call 508-696-3120.
Mansion House wins community service award
The Mansion House Inn, Health Club, and Spa in Vineyard Haven received the Massachusetts Lodging Association's 2006 Community Service Award at the 11th Annual Stars of the Industry event on January 31 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston.
The MLA is a trade association representing and promoting the lodging industry in Massachusetts. The Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce nominated the Mansion House for the award.
The Community Service award recognized the Mansion House for serving the Island's year-round population and visitors through its commitment to strengthening the Island community, according to a press release.
The Mansion House Inn dates to 1794 and is owned by Susan and Sherman Goldstein of West Tisbury.
Sharky's VIP cards are available
After weeks of delay due to programming issues, Sharky's Cantina on Circuit Ave in Oak Bluffs is ready to begin distributing the restaurant's free VIP cards to the more than 500 people who have already filled out a card application, according to a press release.
"For every dollar you spend with us, you receive one point," said co-owner JB Blau, "and these points will be redeemed for tons of free food, logo items, and gift cards."
Card applications are available in the restaurant and will only be accepted until May 15th. For more information call 508-693-7501.
A story in last week's Times ("Tisbury seeks comments on beer, wine proposal") incorrectly named the owner of Le Grenier Restaurant. He is Jean Dupon.