Letters to the Editor
Value of town
To the Editor:
Much has been written lately about personal service contracts entered into by some Oak Bluffs department heads. Reading the headlines and stories, one would think that they are all lucrative and loaded with perks and benefits that are afforded to no other town employees. We would like to inform the voters of Oak Bluffs about the facts surrounding the contracts associated with the Wastewater Department.
To understand why we have these contracts, one must start at the beginning. Prior to our facility going on line, the town, having no wastewater department or employees, considered using an outside firm to manage and operate the facility (known as privatizing). The OB wastewater committee (an elected commission had not yet been set up), solicited bids from the industry; the prices that came back were higher than our projected budget; and even higher than the costs to manage and operate the Edgartown plant, which is twice the size of ours.
We consulted with the Department of Environmental Protection about possible options. Considering our small user base and plant, they suggested that we utilize the talent we had on-Island. Discussions were held with the Edgartown wastewater commissioners about whether we could utilize some of their staff to help us get the plant up and running and to assist in the training of our own operators.
The arrangement suggested was for us to utilize the Edgartown employees during their free time, evenings and weekends, to get our plant up and running. We on the Wastewater Committee felt strongly that Mr. Alosso would be an excellent department head for Oak Bluffs, working 20 hours per week; we assured Edgartown that they would, in no way, get less of his time.
Because a wastewater facility operates 24 hours a day/ seven days a week, a licensed operator must be on call for emergencies, to take instrument readings, and perform lab tests on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. With only two full-time operators, we felt that requiring them to be on call in the evening every other week and every other weekend was unacceptable. What we have done is to utilize the staff in Edgartown on a contract basis, to join our staff in taking shifts on call, so that each employee is on call about once every fifth week. This has worked well; those contract employees are paid an hourly rate, and receive absolutely no benefits.
Mr. Alosso's contract, which is with the O.B. board of selectmen, began in August of 2001, and we couldn't be more pleased with his management of the department, and the operation of the facility. As with the other contracts, Mr. Alosso receives no health or dental insurance, no paid sick time, vacation time, nor personal days. There are no bonuses, nor built-in salary increases. Mr. Alosso's annual salary started out at $40,000; and six years later is now $46,000. He also has the use of a pick-up truck, which enables him to share his services between the two towns.
This agreement has worked very well over the past five and a half years, and we are as shocked as everyone else to find that the town didn't have the authority to enter into these contracts with the wastewater personnel.
In 2001, the town adopted certain sections of Massachusetts State Law Chapter 40N, to enable the elected Wastewater Commission to function. A few sections that were not included at that time would permit these contracts to be legally executed. In view of Ron Rappaport and Michael Gilman's opinions, we will be presenting a warrant article at this year's town meeting asking the town to adopt another section of Chapter 40N which will give the wastewater commission the authority to enter into employment contracts and maintain the current level of staffing.
Without this option, we would need to hire more employees to maintain the current staffing levels. These employees would be fully benefited with all town benefits and we would have to pay all the costs associated with them. We would be paying for many more hours than the contract employees because the contract employees are paid only as we need them. The costs to run the department would increase by more than $100,000 per year. It must be emphasized that the costs of the wastewater plant are completely paid for by the 700 users; there is no cost to the OB taxpayers. With user fees already a burden for many users, these extra costs would be devastating.
We hope this letter explains the use of professional service contracts at the Oak Bluffs Wastewater Facility, the reasons for having them, and their benefits. We urge everyone to vote yes to adopting Section 5 of Chapter 40N.
Robert A. Iadicicco
Hans Von Steiger
is this one?
To the Editor:
For the past few weeks there has been the sweetest old black lab running loose in Oak Bluffs. He looks to be about 10 to 15 years old, has a graying face, wears a collar with a Cukes Co. tag, but has eluded capture. He seems very friendly, and very lost. He makes his way all throughout the southwest section of O.B., finding his way from Debettencourt's gas station all the way to Tony's, and then over through the neighborhood east of Wing Road.
I see him nearly every day, and I am worried that he may be very lost. He also has a bad limp on his left back leg, but he favors it and keeps on going and going.
I saw an ad in the MV Times a few weeks ago about a black lab that had passed away, and this dog looks exactly like the dog in the picture. Could it be that the dog I see running around is actually the dog in the paper?
If anyone knows the owner of this friendly canine, please have them come over to O.B. and pick him up. I'm sure he wants to go home, but I don't think he knows where he is. Thanks to all.
To the Editor:
This is a copy of a letter to West Tisbury Fire Chief Manuel Estrella.
Our thanks to you and the men and women of the fire departments of West Tisbury and Chilmark who came out on a freezing night last month to fight the fire at our home on Indian Hill. The thought of the cold, ice, flames and darkness that they had to deal with makes one realize just how much they give to the community. Being available at a moment's notice is tough for anyone with a busy life as we all have, but to put one's well being and even, God forbid, life, at risk under such conditions is truly sacrificial.
We are dealing with the loss of our home and many family treasures as well as the hope of moving to the Island this spring, but we are glad that you could contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to the woods and neighbors' properties. Our plans are to rebuild and soon to be full-time members of the community that has shown us so much support.
Again, many thanks to you and all the firefighters involved.
Catherine and Michael Minkiewicz
Brookline and West Tisbury
To the Editor:
As one of the many dedicated Vineyard Transit Authority's bus drivers, I strongly urge parents and teachers to tell their children and students that if they use any public transportation, not to walk in front of the bus to cross the street.
They are accustomed to doing this when disembarking a yellow school bus with its lights flashing and Stay Clear signs posted. For VTA buses, they should cross the street safely after our buses have pulled away.
With our busy schedule ahead of us, and many vehicles on the roads, it is a potential tragedy waiting to happen that could easily be prevented.
To the Editor:
I absolutely love the commentary under the live webcam. Who knew that it would be so dangerous to change the angle of the webcam. My heart is forever on the Island and I hope one day to live there, but until that time I keep the live webcam picture on my desktop all day long at work and when I need and moment of peace, I gaze at my heart's dream. Thank you for providing a few moments of serenity in a very hectic day!
North Providence, R.I.
Need the tools back
To the Editor:
On Thursday, March 1, a large amount of tools were stolen off a construction site in Oak Bluffs. Whiting Construction has been doing business on the Vineyard for 35 years and has never had anything like this happen before. I find it sad and disheartening that in this small community, where the majority of people work in the building trades, someone had no problem going onto someone else's job site and completely cleaning a company out.
What will this local Island community do if we cannot trust each other not to steal from someone's livelihood? I would hate to deadbolt my doors and look over my shoulder all the time. This Island never used to be like that.
Items that were stolen: 12" Metabo chop saw; 8" Delta chop saw; Metabo jigsaw; Iglow 2-stage compressor; 4: Bostitch air guns; air hoses; Levels: 2', 3', 6', 10'; extension cords. And more.
Most of these tools have the initials J.W. or D.W. on them. There is a reward of $500 for information leading to the tools. You can contact Jonathan Whiting, 508-693-5291 or Dan Whiting, 508-566-2166.
To The Editor:
I read with great interest James Norton's Feb. 15 Op-Ed on the Manter Trust and what it might be worth today, as we all know Mr. Norton's intellectual talents and historical knowledge. However, once I saw that there were numbers involved, specifically dealing with long-term asset returns, I could see that I might have some expertise to bring to the matter.
My first step was to directly contact shareowner affairs at The Coca- Cola Company concerning the potential fund appreciation noted in the article. Alas, as I feared, even with such a paragon of the U. S stock market as Coke, the returns noted are way off the mark. Coca-Cola states that $3,000 invested in Coca-Cola stock in 1935 would be worth $7,677,706 today, if all the dividends had been reinvested over that time. If there was no reinvestment of dividends - the case Mr. Norton cites - the initial $3,000 would be worth $887,293 today. This is only 2.7 percent of the $32 million plus sum that is noted in the article.
The standard benchmark for long-term asset returns has for many years been the data series constructed by Ibbotson Associates who calculate a number of return series from 1926 to the present. Their Large Company Stock measure is the S&P 500, and returns are calculated on a total return basis with dividends reinvested and on capital appreciation only. Using the Ibbotson data, $3,000 invested in the stock market in 1935 would have become $5,224,667 today, assuming reinvestment of all dividends. On a capital appreciation only basis, the approach Mr. Norton alludes to, that starting sum would be worth $316,752 today.
Mr. Norton notes the present value of the Manter Fund as $281,030. This is almost exactly the value that a portfolio of 90 percent stocks and 10 percent bonds would have appreciated to over the period.
Given that the fund has no doubt been conservatively managed over the years and probably not 100 percent invested in stocks, I do not think the trustees past and present should be criticized for their investment performance, but rather congratulated for their prudence and responsible work.
George J. Balco, CFA
To the Editor:
Away down here in southwest Florida, the first thing I do each Thursday morning is look up on the Internet the week's issue of the Martha's Vineyard Times. This week, March 8, was truly special - the section on the Islander. Memories started of when we used to live on the Island: tears of joy of when the Islander approached the Vineyard with our family or friends on board - tears of sorrow when we had to say goodbye. Then we would quickly drive to the East Chop lighthouse (it was light chocolate brown) and we could still wave goodbye as the Islander sailed out of Vineyard Haven harbor and turned left toward Woods Hole. The times we would wait in the parking lot - waiting to board at either end of the trip. Time to chat with neighbors of perhaps new friends.
This past October, my daughter and two granddaughters took me to visit the Vineyard so I could have my last ride on the Islander. With all their digital cameras, the trip was well documented. As we looked at my old pictures, the girls noted that there are plastic benches now. The red and blue canvas deck chairs are gone. We have a picture of them neatly folded and lined up along the railing ready for the next trip.
Thanks for the memories - a truly wonderful section on the Islander.
Helen Van Duzer
Cape Coral, Florida
What about Bridget?
To the Editor:
During the ceremonies commissioning Island Home and the retirement of the Islander, no Bridget Tobin, terminal manager for Vineyard Haven. Why not? I expected recognition for her, a familiar (and most welcome) sight as we travel to and fro. When there is a problem, I look for Bridget. As soon as she appears in the midst of any great muddle, I know that matters will soon be put to right.
Does anyone work harder than our highly regarded Vineyard Haven terminal manager? And where was she during the excitement?
I saw Bridget once, on Monday, setting out folding chairs for the ceremony.
Kristen Kingsbury Henshaw
To the Editor:
In my last letter about the fate of our (unpaid) deputy shellfish wardens, I made a mistake. There are two wardens that stand out strong. They are David Belcher and Paul Schultz. Paul had a master plan because of his love for the Jackson clan. Every morning, noon and night, he would make sure that the fishermen were all right and has been doing so for many years. He's helped to dry our frightful tears. Thank you, Paul, for a job well done and to The Trustees of Reservations for taking care of our fishermen, because those that should, don't.
A Pond Poem
I went to a meeting the other day
They told me don't go near that sluiceway,
While the town fishermen are dropping like flies,
And all we get are alibis
If you hold these truths to be true
And want a brighter morning
Then help me fight the paper warden
If you have any complaints
And want to help our dying ponds
And see the deputy wardens reunite,
Sign my petition and speak out loud and clear
Because we hold our ponds so dear.
I need help. I can't do this alone! Call me at 508-627-5815.
William (Dubud) Bassett