News in Brief
File Photo by Julian K. Robinson
Norton Point Beach route to Chappy is closed
The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) announced Wednesday that the Norton Point Beach road is closed to vehicles, due to severe beach erosion.
Dave Belcher, TTOR Chappaquiddick superintendent, said that two sections of the existing roadway have eroded away completely. The only alternative is to establish a new trail, and that will take time, he said.
TTOR manages the county-owned beach under a contract with Dukes County. The new plan will need to be approved by the Edgartown conservation commission and reviewed by state environmental officials. "It's going to take a while," said Mr. Belcher.
The two-mile long barrier beach runs between Katama Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The beach provides the only land route to Chappaquiddick, the only alternative to the small three-vehicle ferry that crosses Edgartown Harbor.
For more information, call the TTOR office at 508-693-7662.
School formula decision due soon
At a meeting of the all-Island selectmen at noon yesterday at the Dukes County offices, superintendent of public schools James Weiss said the regional high school district school committee will vote on March 5 on which assessment formula they will recommend to Island towns in time for town meetings.
Under regulations approved by the state Board of Education on Jan. 23, regional school committees must vote on which formula to recommend to their member towns.
Mr. Weiss requested that the representatives from the Island's six boards of selectmen let him know whether their town supports the existing regional formula based on per-pupil cost or the state's new wealth-based model. The Edgartown selectmen already have indicated to Mr. Weiss they would like to offer voters the existing regional agreement.
"We hope voters will approve it, because it would give all of us on the Island a chance to work over the next 12 months to come to a consensus to address all the issues," said Edgartown selectman Art Smadbeck. The "aggregate wealth model" takes property values and personal income levels into account. Preliminary numbers under the state formula showed that assessments would decrease for Oak Bluffs, Aquinnah and Edgartown and increase for Chilmark, West Tisbury, and especially Tisbury.
In order to stick to the current regional agreement, all six towns must agree, Mr. Weiss reminded them. If voters in four out of the six towns agreed to the state's statutory formula, that one will go into effect. Should the towns split three and three, Mr. Weiss said, the state would step in and allocate one-twelfth of the high school's budget from the previous year to operate on in July, which would continue month to month through December.
If the regional district has not come to a consensus by that time, the state would step in, impose a budget and funding mechanism, and hand a bill to the towns, Mr. Weiss said.
In other news regarding the ongoing school formula debate, Island boards of selectmen received letters last week from State Senator Robert O'Leary and State Rep. Eric Turkington. (A copy of the letter appears on Page 25 of today's Times.) While the two legislators sympathized with the plight of the Island towns in trying to grapple with inequities in the new formula, they recommended that the Vineyard towns turn to other regional school districts in the state for advice on how to reach a consensus on a formula.
At a meeting Tuesday night, the Up-Island Regional School Committee discussed the school formula issue and agreed to postpone a decision on it until March 12 in order to evaluate numbers from DOE and confer with the up-Island selectmen.
consider bids for transfer station operations
The bid process for the Oak Bluffs/Tisbury transfer station operations opened last Thursday. The contract for Allied Waste, currently operating the facility, expires in June.
The three bids submitted included Allied Waste ($1,936,631); Bruno's Roll-Off ($1,904,325); and the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal District (MVRDD) ($2,000,625), a regional entity that handles refuse services for the towns of Edgartown, Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Aquinnah.
Oak Bluffs and Tisbury built a transfer station in Oak Bluffs that they operate in partnership after the two towns pulled out of the MVRDD and formed their own around 1993. The company that is awarded the contract for the transfer station's operations will be responsible for transporting waste and recyclable products and for the ultimate disposal of municipal solid waste, as well as brokering the sale of recyclables.
"The prices on bids we received are less than what we've been paying across the board for residential services," said Fred LaPiana, director of Tisbury's Department of Public Works.
Although Tisbury and Oak Bluffs operate a municipal service that utilizes the transfer station, each town is responsible for curbside service for their own residents, Mr. LaPiana explained. Tisbury provides curbside pickup for refuse and recyclables for a $4 per barrel pickup fee. Oak Bluffs provides curbside service for a $3.75 pickup fee and does not collect recyclables but operates a town recycling station.
The submission of a bid from one regional refuse district to run the transfer station operations of another district is somewhat unusual, MVRDD manager John Hatch said. The idea of creating an Island-wide refuse district has come up in discussions about the Martha's Vineyard Commission's Island Plan, which Mr. Hatch said prompted the MVRDD to submit an offer on the Oak Bluffs/Tisbury transfer station operations as a start towards the two districts working together. Such a partnership would be especially beneficial in the sale of recyclables, for example, where more volume brings better prices, Mr. Hatch said.
In the past, the Oak Bluffs/Tisbury transfer station operations contract was for five years with the option to extend for three years. Mr. LaPiana said the contract awarded this year will be for three years, with the option to extend for three years. He said a decision on awarding the contract will probably be issued in 30 days. Both the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury boards of selectmen and Tisbury's public works commissioners are involved in the decision, as the contract involves an inter-municipal agreement between the two towns.
Services at Vineyard Haven's drop-off refuse area are under separate contract. Bids will open in March for that contract, currently held by Allied Waste and due to expire at the end of this year, Mr. LaPiana said.
Peanut butter linked to salmonella outbreak
Island grocery stores withdrew jars of Peter Pan peanut butter from their shelves last week in response to warnings about possible salmonella contamination from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA recommended discarding or returning all jars of all varieties of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter purchased since May 2006 with a product code beginning with 2111 on the lid, made by ConAgra Foods.
Island peanut butter consumers should check jars on their shelves at home, since some of the possibly tainted jars of Peter Pan were found in local stores. Great Value peanut butter is sold at Wal-Mart. The recall does not apply to Great Value peanut butter made by manufacturers other than ConAgra.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention linked 290 cases of salmonella poisoning in 39 states to Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter made at the ConAgra Foods plant in Sylvester, Ga. In Massachusetts, five cases associated with peanut butter consumption have been reported across the state from mid-November through mid-January. No deaths have been attributed to the salmonella outbreak.
The bacterium found in the peanut butter is a strain known as Salmonella Tennessee. According to the FDA, symptoms of the food-borne illness it causes include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Anyone who has recently eaten peanut butter from jars with the product code 2111 and experienced any of these symptoms should contact their doctor or health care provider immediately.
Most people infected with salmonella develop symptoms 12 to 72 hours after infection, and the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Although the majority of people recover without treatment, in those who suffer from underlying health problems or weakened immune systems, salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections. The elderly and infants also are more likely to suffer severe illness that may require hospitalization.
It took health inspectors about six months to trace the source of the contaminated peanut butter to ConAgra's Georgia plant. How the salmonella got into the peanut butter is still under investigation by the CDC. Some health officials speculate contamination may have occurred after the peanut butter was heated and processed but before it was packaged.
ConAgra's own testing did not reveal the presence of salmonella in the peanut butter or the factory. Company representatives said they will stop production at the Georgia plant until the exact cause of contamination can be identified and eliminated.
Consumers may return open or unopened peanut butter jars with the 2111 product code to stores where they bought it for a full refund. If they are uncertain about where they bought the product, they also may send lids with the product code along with their names and addresses to ConAgra Foods, P.O. Box 3768, Omaha, NE 68103 for a refund. For more information, call ConAgra at 866-344-6970.
MV Transit Authority ridership is up
Vineyard residents are riding the Transit Authority buses in record numbers. Angie Grant, Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority administrator, told Edgartown selectmen at a meeting Feb. 6 that off-season ridership was up 21 percent in the last fiscal year.
Last month alone, the buses had nearly 5,000 more riders than a year ago. "It's just phenomenal," she said. "Every year it's going up."
All passenger boardings in fiscal year 2006, (July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006), totaled 821,000, the highest number ever, Ms. Grant said.
Her report was in response to the All-Island selectmen's request to monitor the off-season ridership in connection with the pilot program that expanded off-season bus routes and provides day transportation for the elderly. Six routes that had previously been disbanded in the off-season were continued under the federally funded two-year pilot program.
In contrast, before the program began, off-season ridership was up 13 percent annually, Ms. Grant said. In the first year of the program, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 additional passengers used the bus system as a result of the expanded off-season service, according to a full written report on the pilot program prepared in January.
A wide range of people are using the buses in the off-season for various reasons, including going to work, shopping, and appointments, Ms. Grant said.
She also reported that the MVTA had received an additional $150,000 from a federal operating assistance grant for rural areas. The funds cover nearly all of the $160,000 cost of expanding the off-season service.
Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck had high praise for the bus service, which he uses himself daily. He said he had noticed the increasing numbers riding the buses, adding, "I'm astonished to see how on time the buses are."
In response, Ms. Grant said, "We're trying to be very customer-focused."
The transit authority is encouraging feedback from riders through e-mail, the authority's web site or by phone, Ms. Grant said. "It helps us do our jobs better."
Cape Wind files final impact statement
Cape Wind, developer of the proposed Horseshoe Shoals windfarm, filed its Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on Feb. 15 with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office.
"We hope this filing brings the public benefits of cleaner air, greater energy independence and new jobs closer to becoming a reality for the citizens of Massachusetts," Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said.
The MEPA Office will take public comments on the FEIR for 30 days, through March 22. Information about submitting comments to MEPA will be available at: http://www.mass.gov/envir/mepa/index.htm. The FEIR is available at: www.capewind.org/FEIR.
Jury commissioner warns of jury duty telephone scam
Telephone scam artists have a new trick that takes advantage of people's sense of responsibility, according to the Massachusetts Jury Commissioner.
The scam begins when a person receives a call from someone claiming to be a court official chasing scofflaws who have missed jury duty. When the target protests that he or she knows nothing of the supposedly missed jury duty, the caller demands personal identifying information such as a social security number and date of birth to confirm that the target is not at risk of fine or arrest according to a press release.
"This is a particularly ingenious scam because it preys on people's fears and indignation at being falsely accused of breaking the law," said state Jury Commissioner.
"The scam artist will often pose as a sheriff or court officer, and state that you or someone close to you, such as your child or spouse, has missed jury duty and will be fined or arrested if they don't report to the court immediately. Because the caller isn't selling something or directly asking for personal information, the target often doesn't recognize the scam and is only too eager to offer information to persuade the caller that they've made a mistake."
The jury duty scam has been reported in many other states over the past year, but is only now appearing in Massachusetts, according to court officials.
Commissioner Wood said that neither the Office of Jury Commissioner nor the courts ever contact jurors by telephone regarding their jury service. All communication is by mail.
The Office of Jury Commissioner said that anyone who receives a telephone call about missed jury duty should hang up and call the Office of Jury Commissioner at 800-843-5879, or send an e-mail to JurorHelp@jud.state.ma.us requesting confirmation of their juror status.
Mediation program approved for Superior Court
The Martha's Vineyard Mediation Program recently received authorization to handle cases at the Superior Court level. The non-profit program founded in 1984 has been handling cases from the community as well as those referred by the Edgartown District Court and the Probate and Family Court.
Executive director Louisa Williams said that mediation provides a means to resolve conflicts in an affordable, constructive, peaceful way that avoids the alternative of going to court.
"Conflict's rarely fun, and it can be especially challenging in a small community where you're apt to see the "other side" standing in line at the grocery store," said Ms. Williams.
Ms. Williams said the program has helped Vineyard residents and visitors solve problems between neighbors, friends, spouses, partners, businesspeople, and parents and children. Examples include estate questions, such as what three siblings should do when they inherit one house and each heir has a different idea about it, landlord-tenant disputes, and disputes between homeowners and contractors.
The mediation program has continually expanded the services it offers Islanders. On May 11, the mediation program will offer a one-day session designed to help business people deal with workplace conflict.
For more information call 508-693-2999 or go to mvmediation.org.
Chicama Vineyards is now shipping direct
Chicama Vineyards, the West Tisbury winery located off State Road, said that as a result of a recent change in state law Chicama Vineyards is now shipping the company's wines directly to customers within Massachusetts. Information is available on the company web site, chicamavineyards.com, or by calling 508-693-0309.
Sovereign Bank promotes employee
Sovereign Bank recently announced it had promoted Elsa Vieira to assistant vice president and community banking manager of its Pilgrim Hill Community Banking Office in Plymouth, where she is responsible for managing operations and for all business and team member development
Miss Vieira, a Plymouth resident, began her career with the bank on her native Martha's Vineyard in November 1986. She is a member of the South Shore Women's Business network.
Addiction specialist opens Vineyard clinic
Dr. Punyamurtaula Kishore, the owner of a network of clinics specializing in addiction treatment, has opened a clinic in the Woodland Garden Center in Vineyard Haven.
Vineyard Healthcare Associates provides a full range of treatments for people with substance abuse problems, and does so without the use of further addictive pharmaceuticals, according to a press release. The clinic does not prescribe methadone or suboxone.
Vineyard Healthcare Associates is part of the Preventive Medicine Associates network, which includes 17 clinics across Massachusetts owned by Dr. Kishore, a well-known specialist in addiction treatment. Each clinic includes licensed addiction counselors, specialized registered nurses and physicians who are trained in the "sobriety maintenance" method.
For more information, call 508-693-3900.
Safety film targets clandestine drug labs
The increasing number of clandestine drug labs used to produce methamphetamine creates unique hazards for emergency personnel who are likely to discover a lab during a routine response. According to a press release, Emergency Film Group of Edgartown has produced "Response to Illicit Drug Labs," a training program for law enforcement, firefighters, hazmat teams, environmental response personnel, and others who may be involved in a raid at an illegal lab, or who may unexpectedly discover one.
Emergency Film Group is the winner of more than 130 awards in national and international competitions. The company provides training for more than 12,000 customers on such timely topics as incident management, terrorism response, homeland security, hazardous materials, protective clothing, and air monitoring.
For more information, call 508-627-8844, or visit www.efilmgroup.com.
Frank Markwica joins Sandpiper Realty
Sandpiper Realty in Edgartown announced that Frank Markwica recently joined the agency. According to a press release, Mr. Markwica has an extensive business background and ten years of professional real estate experience on the island. He is an active member of many community groups and the father of a high school senior. For more information, call 506-627-3737.
Fred Roven named resort specialist
Fred Roven, owner/broker of Martha's Vineyard Buyer Agents, received the Resort and Second Home Property Specialist (RSPS®) designation by the National Association of Realtors, an industry trade group.
Mr. Roven completed the required training while working as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, according to a press release.
Mr. Roven can be reached at 508-627-5177.
On the cover of the Feb. 15 Calendar section, the actor playing Cecil was misidentified. In fact, Gordon Moore played Cecil in "Sailors, Painters, and Identicals." part of the Fourth Grade Theatre Project.
A story published Feb. 15 ("Mill Pond rehab on West Tisbury warrant") incorrectly reported that the estimated permitting costs for the proposed Mill Pond dredging project is $2,500. The estimated cost is $20,000 to $30,000, according to town officials.