News in Brief
Water Street parking lot construction next week
Construction is slated to begin next Wednesday on the Water Street parking lot next to the Stop and Shop Supermarket in Vineyard Haven. The project involves reconfiguring and reconstructing the entire lot to enhance its visual impact as the gateway to the town, while improving traffic and pedestrian access and safety.
The contractor, the Falmouth-based Lawrence Lynch Company owned by White Brothers-Lynch Corporation, aims to complete the project by Memorial Day. White Brothers-Lynch superintendent Walter (Terry) Eglinas told the Tisbury selectmen at a meeting a few weeks ago that the lot will have to be closed to traffic from time to time during the construction, especially during the pulverization phase at the beginning.
With news of the construction start date, town administrator John Bugbee wrote in a press release yesterday, "It is our hope that we can contain traffic within the parking lot itself and not further compound the traffic buildup in and around Five Corners by sending traffic back onto Water Street in search of a parking spot."
While the town pledges to make every effort to keep the parking lot open as much as possible, Mr. Bugbee added, "However, some patience will be needed in making it through these beginning stages."
He encourages anyone who has questions about the project to call him at 508-696-4203.
Middle Line housing hearing opens tonight
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) opens a public hearing tonight on the Middle Line Path affordable housing project at 7:30 pm at the Chilmark Community Center. The project was referred to the MVC by the Chilmark Planning Board for review as a development of regional impact (DRI).
A town committee has been working on the project since 2001. "Some of the time involved was due to our own town decision-making process, so it took us quite awhile as a town to agree on details such as how many rental units and how many home sites," said Warren Doty, a Chilmark selectman and committee chairman.
Chilmark town meeting approved the basic parameters of the project over a year ago. Plans for the project include a nine-building, 12-unit affordable housing complex of 6 residential home sites and 6 rental units on 21 acres of land on Middle Line Road.
The rental and housing units will be integrated together in three clusters consisting of one duplex and two single-family homes, creating a mixed-use project unique for Martha's Vineyard.
Instead of selling the land to the homeowners, the town will retain ownership of the 21-acre piece with ground leases for the six residential home sites. Chilmark also included another 48 acres of conservation-restricted land owned by the town in the DRI application, which brings the total to 69 acres.
The project will preserve about 80 percent of the property as natural habitat. The property contains two clay pits that are now manmade wetlands, which the town agreed to protect with a conservation restriction.
"We have some issues we know need to be worked on and satisfied, and we're pursuing them," Mr. Doty said. Key issues identified by the MVC staff include the impact on habitat and the rural character of the area, traffic increases on Middle Line and Tabor House Road, and wastewater. The Massachusetts Historical Commission recommended conducting an archaeological survey of the area, with which the Wampanoag Tribe concurred.
"Chilmark has been banking Community Preservation (CP) funds over the past three to four years, counting on this project," Mr. Doty said. So far, the town has appropriated about $225,000 in CP funds towards the project for architects' fees and other development costs.
NSTAR upgrade took longer than expected
A planned early morning power outage by NSTAR on May 3 ended up taking a few more hours than expected, causing approximately 1,500 Tisbury customers to be without electricity until nearly 8 am.
"Every now and then, the work just takes longer," NSTAR spokesperson Mike Durand said Monday. "We apologize for any inconvenience that the delay had on our customers."
Mr. Durand said NSTAR crews were in the final phase of a major upgrade to the Tisbury circuit last week, and the work took longer than expected. The circuit has now been fully upgraded to newer equipment.
Approximately 1,500 customers on 50 streets in Tisbury were affected by the outage, Mr. Durand said. NSTAR sent out a letter to customers notifying them that the electricity would be cut from approximately 2 am until 6 am on Thursday.
Newest Oak Bluffs officer makes mom proud
Linda LaBell of Oak Bluffs pins an Oak Bluffs police officer's badge on her son, Jeffrey W. LaBell, at a swearing in ceremony last Thursday.
Officer LaBell fills a vacancy left by Officer Brian Kenney, who recently left the Island to take a job in his hometown of Hanson.
Mr. LaBell is very familiar with is his new beat. Born and raised in Oak Bluffs, he is a 2000 graduate of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. Mr. LaBell worked summers through college as a Special Police Officer in Edgartown and was a full-time police officer in Tisbury before he resigned to join the Oak Bluffs Police Department.
Oak Bluffs selectmen
grant liquor licenses,
make charitable donation
The Oak Bluffs selectmen granted liquor licenses to a handful of local restaurants, reviewed a construction plan for Lake Avenue, and agreed to donate the fire department's old ladder truck to Greensburg, Kansas. In the board's first meeting with its new chairman, Kerry Scott, in charge, Tuesday's meeting ran longer than three hours, but few significant decisions were made.
Selectmen granted a seasonal liquor license to 20 Kennebec Bistro and Bar, a new establishment run by Scott Mullen, and Bangkok Cuisine, the Thai restaurant on upper Circuit Avenue that has been open for nearly 10 months, which was granted an annual beer and wine license.
Dukes County engineer Steve Berlucchi and Martha's Vineyard Commission executive director Mark London arrived with several enlarged Google images on poster board to illustrate lane changes and sidewalk expansion on Lake Avenue. Selectmen rejected a suggestion to do away with the right turn lane, and agreed to move ahead with securing state funds for the project.
A new ladder truck for the fire department is expected to arrive in Oak Bluffs soon, and selectman Ron DiOrio suggested donating the old truck to Greensburg, which was devastated by a tornado last week.
Rep. Turkington announces district appropriations
Rep. Eric Turkington (D-Cape and Islands) released a list of appropriations last week for projects or activities in his district that were included in the House of Representatives fiscal year 2008 (FY08) budget adopted on April 27.
Two that specifically target Vineyard entities include $60,000 for the Martha's Vineyard Commission and $40,000 for the Martha's Vineyard mediation program. Other funding aimed at the Cape, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard include: $100,000 for research and prevention of Lyme disease; $50,000 for assistance to film festivals; $45,000 for shellfish propagation on the Islands; and $10,000,000 for Cultural Facilities Fund grants statewide, some of which could be made available to district projects.
The FY08 budget also includes $5.5 million for a "pothole" education funding account to reimburse towns like Tisbury, whose regional school assessments increased exorbitantly under the new state funding formula.
Arraignment date set
for Kevin Cusack
Kevin Cusack, accused of assaulting an Oak Bluffs employee, will be arraigned in the Edgartown District Court on June 11.
According to the criminal complaint issued on April 26 at the Dukes County Courthouse, Mr. Cusack is charged with one count of assault and battery on a public employee. The incident occurred on March 14 when Elizabeth Durkee, the town's conservation commission administrator, was conducting a site visit at 337 Barnes Rd. Mr. Cusack, owner of Autumn Construction Company, allegedly pushed Ms. Durkee to the ground and punched her in the face with a closed fist.
A clerk's hearing was held on April 23 in front of clerk magistrate Liza Williamson, where probable cause was found and the criminal complaint was issued three days later.
Town administrator Michael Dutton said the town would be tracking the case very closely. Mr. Dutton said the town also asked town counsel Ron Rappaport to keep a close eye on the progress.
In a telephone conversation yesterday, Ms. Durkee said she would prefer not to comment on the incident.
Packer Company installs new storage tanks
A large excavation site on the east side of the R. M. Packer Company property on Beach Road marks the future home of four new fuel storage tanks to be installed underground this fall. The new tanks, with a total capacity of 40,000 gallons, will store gasoline, low-sulfur diesel fuel, and bio-diesel fuel.
The Tisbury selectmen granted company owner Ralph M. Packer a fuel storage license on Jan. 3, 2006. He also met with the town's conservation commission, who must review projects on property within 300 feet of the harbor.
During a public hearing at the selectmen's meeting, Mr. Packer presented plans for the installation of the four new tanks on the east side of his facility to replace three underground tanks on the west side that will be removed. By putting the new tanks in a different location, he said, fuel delivery will be safer, without hoses exposed or delivery trucks blocking traffic on Beach Road.
Mr. Packer explained at the hearing that because of his company's waterfront location, the fuel storage tanks are subject to the pressure and deteriorating effects of salty groundwater. The new steel storage tanks, coated with fiberglass for secondary containment, are guaranteed for 30 years, he said.
In an update this week, Mr. Packer said that the excavation is complete and a cell to contain the tanks was put into place. Because the project got off to a late start this spring, Mr. Packer said installation of the tanks will be postponed until fall when there is less traffic.
On Monday, the United States Postal Service (USPS) will raise postage rates and introduce a stamp that will never go out of style.
A first-class stamp will jump from 39 cents to 41 cents; postcards will increase two cents to 26 cents, and a one-ounce parcel will climb from 52 cents to $1.13. Curiously, postage for a 2-ounce letter, commonly used for hefty wedding invitations, will drop a nickel to 58 cents.
Postage rates have traditionally been based on weight, but in a recent brochure, the USPS said the shape of the package would now take precedence in pricing. Larger packages take up more space and are more difficult to handle, so they will now cost more to transport. The USPS encourages shipping in boxes that are just big enough to fit the contents inside.
On Monday, the USPS is also introducing the Forever Stamp. Marked with the Liberty Bell and missing a price, the Forever Stamp can be purchased for 41 cents but is good forever, even when postal rates increase in the future.
Island towns conduct FY08 property revaluations
Property revaluations are underway in several Island towns. The process is necessary so that town assessments can be certified by the Department of Revenue for fiscal year (FY) 2008, which begins on July 1.
Revaluation of all business personal property is a part of the recertification of all property values, according to a press release. The West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury boards of assessors have hired Real Estate Research Consultants, Inc. (RRC) to carry out the business personal property revaluation project.
RRC will visit businesses to list taxable personal property items such as inventory, furniture and fixtures, and machinery and equipment used in the conduct of business. Most inspections are brief and will take only about ten minutes or less, according to a press release.
RRC employees will carry identification letters advises Jo-Ann Resendes of the Island Counties Assessors Association (ICAA).
Booklets that explain the assessing process are available in the assessors offices. For more information call: Aquinnah 508-645-2306; Chilmark 508-645-2102; Edgartown 508-627-6140; Oak Bluffs 508-693-3554; Tisbury 508-696-4206; West Tisbury 508-696-0101.
New building committee in West Tisbury
West Tisbury selectmen last week took the next step toward the town hall renovation project by appointing a building committee to handle the design and construction phases.
All six residents who applied for the positions were appointed. They are Kent Healy, Chuck Hodgkinson, Ginny Jones, Jim Osmonson, Bea Phear, and Kate Warner. The selectmen also appointed two town employees, town treasurer Kathy Logue and executive secretary Jennifer Rand, as non-voting ex officio members.
Mr. Healy, Mr. Hodgkinson, and Ms. Phear served on the space needs committee, which met for nine months to consider options for town building needs. This spring the committee recommended renovating the existing town hall instead of building a replacement. Ms. Warner was also an adviser to that committee on energy efficiency issues. The space needs committee has been disbanded.
Ms. Logue and Ms. Rand both suggested to the selectmen that having a liaison from town staff would be most helpful for procurement and procedural issues. Ms. Logue said it could also be useful to have someone on the committee who works in the building to advise on design issues.
Ms. Rand said she would need to attend the meetings in the beginning anyway to give the committee guidance on state requirements and on whom to call at the state level. "The procurement issues on a project this size are enormous and incredibly complicated," she said.
The selectmen appointed both women to share the liaison position. Ms. Rand said the committee would also need a person to take minutes at its meetings. Ms. Logue said there is $5,000 to $6,000 left in the space needs budget to pay for support staff.
Voters at the April 10 annual town meeting approved the space needs committee's recommendation to renovate the town hall and form a building committee, and appropriated $150,000 to produce construction drawings for contractor bidding. The town hall renovation is estimated to cost $4.9 million to $5.2 million.
Photo by Kathy Retmier
Island EMTs and firefighters drill together
Five Island fire departments joined with the four local EMT services to perform a federally mandated drill, to comply with the Incident Command Structure created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Sixty EMT's and firefighters and 15 volunteer victims gathered Sunday morning at 9 am at the unoccupied section of the Edgartown School to recreate a mock situation created by a team of advisors, including Edgartown assistant fire chief Alex Schaeffer. The mock setting Sunday was a hotel boiler that exploded in the basement, while several guests were stuck in their rooms as the hallways filled with smoke. Volunteers were dressed as victims, and crews went into the building to rescue them, according to Mr. Schaeffer.
The drill, which was attended by Edgartown, Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury, and Chilmark fire crews, is meant to prepare Island rescue crews for emergencies as small as a car accident or as large as a regional disaster. The FEMA regulations were updated after Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Schaeffer said, and this was the first Island drill since the update.
After the two-and-a-half-hour drill concluded, crews munched on a lunch donated by Stop and Shop and talked about what worked and what didn't, and what they learned from the drill.
MVY Radio to rely on listener, corporate support
Faced with a sizeable increase in royalty payments based on a per-song, per-listener basis for its Internet broadcasts, WMVY radio, a popular Vineyard-based FM radio station, is transforming its world wide web business model.
MVYradio.com will move from an advertiser-supported business to a listener and corporate underwriting-supported station similar to public radio called "Friends of mvyradio," according to a press release.
In prepared remarks, Joe Gallagher, president of Aritaur Communications, WMVY-FM's parent company, said the change is critical to meet the challenges of escalating bandwidth and licensing costs.
The business model shift for mvyradio.com will not affect WMVY-FM, which will continue to be advertiser supported, and transmits locally at 92.7 FM from a tower in Vineyard Haven as well as 93.9 in Centerville, 100.7 Harwichport, and 96.5 Newport, R.I.
Aritaur Communications, Inc. is a small privately held company based in Newport. WMVY's content is licensed to mvyradio.com, LLC, which streams mvyradio via the Internet in a variety of formats, according to the company web site.
Vineyard Vines to sponsor SailMV's
2007 Vineyard Cup
Vineyard Vines has partnered with Sail Martha's Vineyard and will be the presenting sponsor of the 2007 Vineyard Cup and Seafaring Festival again this year. Walter Cronkite of Edgartown, who sailed in the inaugural Vineyard Cup competition in 2006, will serve as honorary commodore of the 2007 Vineyard Cup Race.
Sail Martha's Vineyard is a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating and protecting the Vineyard's seafaring traditions. The 2006 Vineyard Cup and Seafaring Festival was a great success, drawing participants from all over the Cape, Islands and New England. Proceeds from the cup and festival will support and broaden the organization's youth sailing programs, teaching initiatives, adult sailing instruction as well as its cultural and seafaring history-based activities.
The series of weekend events will be held from July 5 to July 8. In addition to the Vineyard Cup Races, activities will include the 16th annual Seafood Buffet and Auction, the East Coast Junior Olympic Windsurfing Championship, the Northeast Gig Racing Championship and a fun oriented low-key junior regatta. Families will also be able to enjoy live entertainment, great food, games, hands-on activities, and boat tours at Sunday's festival.
"We are thrilled to partner with Sail Martha's Vineyard again this year," commented Ian Murray, CEO and co-founder of vineyard vines. "It's a perfect match for us. We have always loved the Vineyard and spending time on the water. To have an opportunity to help enable others to do the same feels great. The people at Sail Martha's Vineyard are wonderful, and we're looking forward to having a lot of fun this summer!"
vineyard vines, a company best known for its elegant neckties, was founded in 1998 on Martha's Vineyard by brothers Shep and Ian Murray. The company now offers a variety of accessories and apparel for men, women, and children and its products are sold in more than 600 specialty and department stores worldwide.
Endowment fund names grant recipients
The Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha's Vineyard recently announced the award of 14 spring grants totaling $36,500. The recipients are: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Martha's Vineyard, the Dukes County Health Council Youth Task Force, Windemere Rehabilitation, Tisbury Council on Aging, the Martha's Vineyard Chamber Music Society, Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, The Vineyard Energy Project, Friends of Family Planning, Island Grown Initiative, Second Chance Animal Rescue, The Tashmoo Spring Building Committee, The Martha's Vineyard Commission Island Plan, The Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group, and the Martha's Vineyard Hospital New Building Fund.
According to a press release the grants will help to finance several innovative and vital programs on the Island, including grief support systems, violins for a lending library, spay and neuter programs, alternative energy use programs, a residential exercise program, and professional development for medical staff.
These grants were made from the foundation's general discretionary fund, the James P. Cahen Fund, and the Harriet N. Goldberg Fund, which was brought under the management of the Permanent Endowment Fund last year and allowed the board to issue a number of diverse grants to benefit the commercial maritime community of the Vineyard.
The Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha's Vineyard is a community foundation established in 1982, that enables people who love the Vineyard to make tax deductible gifts in order to strengthen the quality of Vineyard life. For more information contact Gail Craig at 508-627-3754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beacon Hill Briefly
Islanders return to Boston to push Housing Bank
Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket residents returned to Beacon Hill Monday, again pushing a new levy on home sales to pay for affordable housing, a controversial idea that was rejected by the House last session after it cleared the Senate.
Critics of the proposal say it perversely increases the cost of housing in the name of making affordable housing available to those on the lower end of the income spectrum. The proposed 1 percent tax to be paid by sellers of the islands' costlier homes, opponents fear, may spread to other cities and towns and drive up housing costs everywhere.
"This is like Robin Hood here - taking from the rich and giving to the poor," said Rep. Patrick Natale (D-Woburn), a member of the Legislature's Committee on Revenue, during a public hearing today. "I just don't buy it."
But island residents say that if locals are willing to impose the tax as a method of delivering funds to pay for affordable housing, the state should not get in their way.
Richard Leonard, president of Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank, referring to the small towns on the Vineyard, said they had all agreed to recommend passage of the bill. "There are not many things that you can get people from six little independent towns to agree on," he said.
Island officials say the bill's passage is needed to secure stable housing for those who propel its "service economy" as well as for year-round workers like teachers and law enforcement officials.
Her voice cracking with emotion, Beth Ann Meehan, chair of the private non-profit Nantucket Housing Office, urged lawmakers to pass the bill for island workers "so they don't have to fly in every day for work." She said that after her early afternoon testimony, she was headed back to an island day care to pick up her three-year-old, but feared for the day care's future because its employees face severe housing affordability problems.
Sen. Robert O'Leary and Rep. Eric Turkington spoke in favor of assessing home sales above $750,000 on Martha's Vineyard and above $2 million on Nantucket. "There's a housing problem statewide, but there's more than a housing problem on the islands. It's about the very essence of these communities," O'Leary said.
Nantucket Selectman Michael Kopko said island fire and police agencies spend time training new firefighters and police officers only to watch them leave after a year. "They leave because they have nowhere to live and the cost to the town is just tremendous," said Kopko. "We're asking to fund this our own way down there."
The Massachusetts Association of Realtors and the state chapter of the National Association of Industrial Properties oppose the bills. The realtors, noting Chatham wants a similar tax to pay for its sewer system, said in written testimony that "creating an entrance or exit fee to homeownership is the wrong way to solve these problems."
O'Leary agreed during his testimony that the Chatham proposal should be treated separately from the island bills.
Real estate transfer taxes require property buyers and sellers, rather than an entire community, to pay to solve problems, the realtors say, and transfer taxes on the housing, targeted for open space purchases, already have raised the cost of housing on the islands. The realtors group says the islands should take advantage of other affordable housing production laws already available, such as Chapter 40B, 40R, and 40S. They also note that many of the individuals who would pay the new tax are not primary residents on Nantucket and would not get to vote on it.
But committee co-chair Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) said she was convinced of the bill's merits because the islands "are harder to get to and different from other communities."
Natale disagreed, saying, "I don't believe this is a bill that should be put on the backs of sellers. This is another tax. I think it's a terrible bill and I won't be supporting it down the line."
The bill passed the Senate 23 to 14 last year, but died in the House, where 64 members voted for it and 90 against.
Provided to The Times by State House News Service
A news brief published in the May 3 issue of The Times, "SSA puts Islander up for sale," incorrectly reported that the SSA would issue an invitation for bids for the Islander, with a minimum acceptable price of $750,000.
According to SSA general manager Wayne Lamson, the SSA members "approved a commitment to sell the vessel to the highest and eligible bidder if that bidder's bid complies in all respects with the Authority's invitation for bids and contains an offer to pay the Authority a total purchase price of $750,000 or more. If the highest offer comes in at less than $750,000, the Authority still retains the right to reject any or all bids received."