News in Brief
Tisbury voters reelect selectman Tristan Israel
Tisbury voters on Tuesday elected incumbent Tristan Israel to a fifth term on the board of selectmen. Mr. Israel defeated challenger Jeffrey Kristal by a vote of 498-372.
Other races were uncontested. However, with four candidates on the ballot and five slots available on the Finance and Advisory Committee, write-in candidate Peter Goodale won a seat with 71 votes.
About 34.4 percent of Tisbury's registered voters, 882 out of 2,563, turned out for the election, compared to 27 percent last year.
Voters rejected eight of 14 Proposition 2.5 override requests on the ballot. Although town meeting approved an additional $35,305 to fund a full-time fire chief position, the override ballot question was defeated 463-385. A no vote at town meeting regarding $1.6 million for purchasing property for a new emergency services facility also was matched on election day with a second defeat, 508-307.
Voters also said no to $315,778 in funding requests for administrative costs for Dukes County Regional Housing Authority; replacing sidewalks in the William Street Historic District; reconstructing William Street from Church Street to Woodlawn Ave.; new sidewalks on Franklin St. from Fairfield Ave. to Holly Tree Lane; repainting and repairing the police station exterior; and a sick/vacation fund for town employees.
Voters agreed to spend $135,000 to purchase and equip a new ambulance, which will be reflected in the fiscal year 2009 budget. They also approved replacing the Tisbury School gymnasium roof ($150,000); surveying and engineering work for a connector road from Edgartown Rd. to State Rd. ($50,000); dredging Tashmoo channel ($40,000); and funding a disability program for town employees ($25,000).
Although an override ballot question for $25,000 in funds to dredge Tisbury's inner harbor passed, voters at town meeting had approved taking the money from embarkation fee revenues instead.
Island agencies team up to accept burying ground
The Martha's Vineyard Land Bank commission and Martha's Vineyard Museum jointly accepted a donation of the historic Sailors' Burying Ground in Vineyard Haven from the Boston Seamen's Friend Society, Inc.
The one-acre property is located on the Sailors' Burying Ground Road off of Evelyn Way and behind the Park and Ride lot. The land bank and the historical society each now own a 50 percent interest in the lot and have signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the society to manage the actual cemetery - which totals about one-third of the property - and the land bank to manage the balance, according to a press release issued Wednesday.
Comcast upgrading Island cable network
Comcast Communications crews flooded the Island this week, with clusters of trucks surrounding network points, and crews scaling poles in order to upgrade the existing cable network.
Spokesperson Jim Hughes said Comcast is spending $1 million to upgrade the existing Adelphia Communications digital communications network on Martha's Vineyard. "Our goal is to have an intense focused effort right now so that the network can be up to Comcast standards before the high season," Mr. Hughes said.
Subscribers are currently able to utilize Comcast's digital cable and high-speed internet services, and the current upgrade will ensure that the network can handle Digital Voice, the company's telephone service. Digital Voice should be available to customers this summer, Mr. Hughes said.
Tina Brooks (left), Massachusetts undersecretary of housing, listens Wednesday to representatives from all of the Vineyard agencies, committees, banks and other organizations working for affordable housing. Caroline Locke, right, spoke on behalf of the West Tisbury's affordable housing committee's efforts. Ms. Brooks spent the day on the Island seeing and learning about affordable housing efforts. The Dukes County Regional Housing Authority sponsored Ms. Brooks's all-day visit. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Affordable housing advocates exchange ideas
More than 30 people representing all of the Vineyard's affordable housing programs and supporting agencies had the opportunity Wednesday to describe their efforts to Tina Brooks, undersecretary of housing for the state, during an all-day visit led by the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority.
State Sen. Robert O'Leary joined the group later in the day at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury to lend his support and advice to pending housing bank legislation. Russell Smith, aide to state Rep. Eric Turkington, also provided tips on how the legislation's supporters could present their case at the statehouse later this spring.
Ms. Brooks listened to a presentation in the morning at the housing authority offices on various housing issues, projects and funding. She also toured some of the affordable housing projects before the luncheon.
After hearing the brief presentations, Ms. Brooks praised the Island projects, especially the regional and cooperative efforts among the various contingents, including the business community.
"You do better when you think regionally. This is one of the first places doing that," she said. "You actually have much more control over your destiny."
Richard Leonard, chairman of the Island Housing Trust, also outlined on a Power Point presentation the arguments for the proposed housing bank legislation, which was defeated in the state House of Representatives last year and is under consideration again.
Sen. O'Leary encouraged the legislation's supporters to get commitments from representatives before the debate on the bill.
"I'm optimistic, but not totally confident," Sen. O'Leary said regarding the bill's passage. "You should be lining up votes now."
High school bus hit by air rifle pellets in New Bedford
Air rifle pellets were fired sometime after 4 pm Tuesday at a Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) bus that had dropped off Coach John Stabile and the boys' varsity lacrosse team for a game against New Bedford High School, according to superintendent of schools James Weiss. Driver Roy Hope, the only one aboard the bus at the time, was not injured, Mr. Weiss said.
After parking the school bus in a lot at the old Keith Junior High School, Mr. Hope was taking a nap in the front-passenger-side seat when he heard the sound of air rifle pellets strike the side of the bus. He estimated about 10 to 15 rounds were fired.
Mr. Weiss said a Barnstable school bus parked in front of the Vineyard's bus was not fired upon. However, the driver was seated behind the wheel and clearly visible. "Our driver was not, and we assume that was why our bus was shot at," Mr. Weiss said.
However, according to a news story in the New Bedford Standard-Times, one shot shattered the outer pane of the driver's side window on the Vineyard bus. The shots apparently originated from a nearby apartment complex, the report said.
The New Bedford police responded to the incident about 4:30 pm. They searched but did not find any of the pellets that hit the bus, the Standard-Times reported. Mr. Weiss said the police plan to continue their investigation.
Unfortunately, the Vineyard bus that sustained damage had been in use only a few months, purchased new at the end of 2006.
Edgartown Stop and Shop evacuated due to fire
The Edgartown Stop and Shop closed for several hours Tuesday afternoon after a fire in the generator room forced shoppers and employees out of the store.
A stack of cardboard boxes was piled against the generator on the second floor of the store, and when the generator started its routine cycle at about 3:30 pm, the boxes caught on fire and immediately set off the sprinkler system, Edgartown fire chief Peter Schemeth said yesterday. Stop and Shop employees evacuated all the shoppers before fire officials arrived on scene, and no one was injured.
Water from the sprinklers caused most of the damage, Chief Schemeth said, and firefighters mostly had to mop up water when they arrived.
Edgartown Police blocked off the parking lot for nearly three hours, while the health inspector examined the store. Stop and Shop reopened for business around 6:30 pm Tuesday night.
Polly Hill dead at 100
Polly Hill died yesterday morning at her home at Cokesbury Village, Hockessin, Del. She was 100.
A widely respected horticulturist, she was known here as the founder of what is now the Polly Hill Arboretum, which she began in 1957 as a private garden at her family's summer home in West Tisbury. She grew a broad variety of woody plants including camellias, dogwoods, magnolias, stewartias, conifers, and hollies, mostly from seed. She was especially well known for her North Tisbury Azaleas and named more than 60 plant varieties. Polly kept detailed records of her work, which represent valuable scientific archives, and won many awards, including a medal of honor from the American Horticultural Society.
In 1997, her 20-acre property became a public arboretum and scientific institution devoted to the cultivation and study of plants, thanks to a creative funding partnership among the David H. Smith Foundation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Hill family, and several of Ms. Hill's horticultural colleagues.
For several years Polly continued to spend summers at the arboretum, keeping watch over her plantings and progress at the facility. Although she was not able to travel to the Vineyard after 2003 she stayed in close touch with arboretum staff and, according to executive director Tim Boland, was pleased with new projects, especially the recently completed greenhouse, something she had always wanted. Although the guest of honor could not be present, dozens of Vineyarders gathered in the new greenhouse, nick-named the "Polly House," on Jan. 30 for a festive celebration honoring Ms. Hill's 100th birthday.
On that occasion, Mr. Boland recalled driving around with Ms. Hill looking at plants during the last summer she spent here. "I asked Polly what we could do to preserve and enhance her horticultural legacy," he said. "Her response was pure Polly - 'Grow!'"
"She always is thinking about the future," he said with admiration.
Her husband, Julian, after whom she named one of her magnificent magnolia trees, died in 1996.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 5, 10 am, at Cokesbury Village. A memorial celebration of Ms. Hill's life and legacy will take place on the Vineyard this summer at a time to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be sent to the Polly Hill Arboretum Endowment Fund, P.O. Box 561, West Tisbury, MA 02575.
A full obituary will appear in next week's Times.
Oak Bluffs police circulate bilingual pamphlets
Oak Bluffs police have begun to distribute a pamphlet they created, printed in Portuguese and English, that describes state laws regarding driving regulations, domestic violence, and restraining orders.
The pamphlet covers infractions that are common in the Brazilian community, for instance driving without a license, and encourages Brazilians not to let fear get in the way of reporting a crime.
Lieutenant Tim Williamson said the pamphlets are now available at public locations around the Island.
In addition to 10 educational points regarding Massachusetts driving regulations, the pamphlet includes a definition of domestic abuse, and it states that despite immigration status, everyone has the right to protection for themselves and their loved ones. It suggests seeking help from social service agencies.
The pamphlet also makes clear that despite visa status, restraining orders can be obtained, as can divorces, even by those who were not married in the U.S.
At the conclusion of the pamphlet is a list of resources, including phone numbers for the State Police, Women's Support Services, and Legal Services for the Cape and Islands.
According to Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake, the decision to create the pamphlet was made after hearing from Brazilians living on the Island who said they are sometimes afraid to report a crime out of fear that they themselves will be arrested and deported for immigration violations. "My focus is to create a transparent understanding between the police department and the Brazilian community," Chief Blake wrote in a cover letter attached to the pamphlet.
In an earlier interview, Chief Blake said he is trying to prevent serious crimes from occurring, specifically domestic violence and rape, by making members of the Brazilian community, even illegal aliens, comfortable with approaching the police for protection.
School committee approves statutory formula
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) District school committee voted to approve the state's statutory, wealth-based school assessment formula at a meeting Monday night.
Under the state's department of education (DOE) regulations passed in January, the existing regional agreement required the unanimous approval of all six towns. Oak Bluffs rejected the high school budget, based on the Island's existing regional assessment formula, at town meeting on April 10, forcing the school committee to go back and redo the town assessments using the statutory formula.
Based on figures from the DOE as of April 17, using the statutory formula, Tisbury's assessment increases by $241,100, West Tisbury's by $122,153, Edgartown's by $86,446, and Chilmark's by $75,258. Oak Bluffs's assessment decreases by $434,755 and Aquinnah's by $60,938.
In discussion before the vote, school committee member John Bacheller and several Tisbury residents made arguments for sticking with the regional agreement. Superintendent of schools James Weiss reiterated that he does not believe the statutory method is fair, but that it is important to move forward with a budget in place, especially since contracts were recently negotiated.
The school committee voted 4-3 to adopt the statutory formula. Mr. Bachellor, Maura Valley of Tisbury, and Jeffrey "Skip" Manter of West Tisbury voted no. The school committee also voted 5-2 to establish an action group to come up with a possible alternative regional formula agreement, with Mr. Bachellor and Mr. Manter dissenting.
In the meantime, Mr. Weiss said that Representative Eric Turkington filed an amendment to budget legislation in the Massachusetts House of Representatives this week. The House is proposing to put a "pothole" fund back into the state's budget to help towns and school districts hit with extraordinary, one-time increases in school funding expenses.
With Martha's Vineyard in mind, Mr. Turkington proposed helping towns like Tisbury, which incur huge increases in the change from a regional agreement to the state's statutory formula, by covering the difference with the "pothole" funds. If the budget legislation passes in both houses and is approved by the governor, funds would be distributed by October 15.
Aquinnah housing committee offers resident homesite
The Aquinnah housing committee is in the process of qualifying applicants for one available resident homesite.
The lot will be awarded by a lottery held on June 19 and overseen by the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority (DCRHA) and Aquinnah selectmen.
Applicants must attend a Homebuyer Education Workshop sponsored by the DCRHA and meet residency and income guidelines.
The land will be leased in perpetuity to the recipient, who will be responsible for, and hold ownership to, all improvements to the property, according to a press release.
Applications and guidelines are available at the Aquinnah Town Hall and at the offices of the Regional Housing Authority. Applications must be received by May 18, at Aquinnah Town Hall.
For more information, call Aquinnah town clerk Carolyn Feltz at 508-645-2304 or Terri Keech at the DCRHA 508-693-4419.
Island officials met Tuesday at the Oak Bluffs wastewater plant to discuss the future of a small, regional wastewater facility at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). At town meeting two weeks ago, voters rejected a proposal for the town to borrow $350,000 to begin the design and engineering process for a new plant, which would also serve the YMCA, Martha's Vineyard Community Services, and other nearby entities.
By law, the high school must build a plant soon, because it is at maximum capacity, wastewater superintendent Joe Alosso said yesterday. Since voters said they didn't like the idea of the town borrowing money for a regional project, Mr. Alosso said he and superintendent of public schools James Weiss are exploring other options.
"We could have an arrangement where the school is the borrowing agent, and then the town takes ownership of it and runs it," Mr. Alosso said. "Dr. Weiss said he does not want to run a wastewater plant. He doesn't have the staff and doesn't want the responsibility."
Representatives from Community Services, the YMCA, the Oak Bluffs conservation commission, Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), MVRHS, Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, and high school abutters all attended Tuesday's meeting.
Mr. Alosso said public hearings would be held this summer to get the neighbors involved, and they even flirted with the idea of taking a field trip to off-Island wastewater plants that use similar technology.
SSA meets on Nantucket Tuesday
The Steamship Authority (SSA) will convene the boatline's regular monthly meeting Tuesday at 9:30 am in the Nantucket High School. A review of priority capital projects is on the agenda, according to SSA general manager Wayne Lamson.
The projects include a $6.5-million project to upgrade the SSA's Fairhaven facility that would include dredging and bulkhead repairs and would allow more vessels to tie up along the entire length of the dock; the $6.6 million mid-life refurbishment of the aging Nantucket this fall; and the start of the 12.6-million project to improve the Oak Bluffs SSA terminal.
Mr. Lamson said the Oak Bluffs project has been broken into three phases so that the terminal would not need to be closed during the busy summer season. In the first phase planned for the off-season, the dolphins would be repaired and the staging area over the water on the north side would be expanded allowing for more staging capacity.
Mr. Lamson said that while management wants to move forward, a number of factors could affect the schedule. The SSA must wait on the availability of state and federal grants, the pending sale of the Flying Cloud and the response to request for proposals to see what the projects would cost.
A report on the Island Home is also expected. The new ferry was taken out of service for two weeks, for a scheduled break, in order to address any warranty items and other issues brought to management's attention once the ferry began regular service.
Mr. Lamson said the SSA is working on modifications to the lift decks, which experienced some problems, and addressing a problem with the heavy passenger compartment doors slamming shut hard in certain wind conditions.
He said the SSA also added an additional rail on the upper deck and removed chair arm rests in response to concerns expressed by some passengers about the potential danger it posed for unsupervised children. Mr. Lamson said the new ferry operated well in the recent stormy conditions.
Our Island Club donations rise
Our Island Club, a discount purchasing club that contributes to local nonprofits, announced that it would distribute almost $25,000 to more than 125 local organizations and charities.
Local businesses and services provide discounts to club members. Membership is open to year-round residents. According to a press release, 20 percent of the annual membership fee is donated to the organization or charity of the member's choice.
Information, as well as a complete list of the charities and donation amounts is available at www.OurIslandClub.com.
Realtor joins Caroline Taylor Properties
Caroline Taylor Properties announced that Scott Mallegol has joined the firm to work with buyers, sellers and vacation rentals. Mr. Mallegol has been a part-time Island resident since 1987. For more information, call 508-627-5554.