News in Brief
Island towns remain divided on high school budget
The regional high school budget for fiscal year 2007-2008 remains in limbo, as Edgartown, Chilmark and Tisbury selectmen stall on scheduling special town meetings for voters' approval because new assessment amounts are based on the state's statutory formula.
The Island's existing regional agreement is based on a per-pupil cost, while the state's statutory formula takes into account a town's aggregate wealth, based on its total equalized property valuation and income.
Under the state's formula, Aquinnah's assessment decreases by about $61,000 and Oak Bluffs by $435,000, while Chilmark's increases by $75,258, Edgartown's by $86,000, Tisbury's by $241,000, and West Tisbury's by $122,000.
Under Department of Education regulations adopted in January, all member towns must approve an existing regional agreement, while only two-thirds of the towns must approve the statutory formula. Oak Bluffs voted to change from the Island's regional agreement and go with the state formula instead, as did Aquinnah.
The rejection triggered the budget's review by the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Committee, which voted to recertify it using the state formula and submit it to the towns for approval at a special town meeting.
On May 14, Chilmark, Edgartown, Tisbury, and West Tisbury selectmen met to discuss the school formula issue. The Edgartown and Tisbury selectmen decided they would not call special town meetings. Chilmark's selectmen postponed making a decision. The West Tisbury selectmen have agreed to hold a special town meeting on June 5.
If four of the six Island towns do not approve the budget by July 1, the state commissioner of education will establish an interim budget of no less than one-twelfth of the previous fiscal year's approved budget per month. If no budget is approved by December 1, the commissioner will assume control of the district and establish a budget.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
New Water Street parking lot challenges drivers
Old habits die hard, as drivers demonstrated this week at the newly repaved and reconfigured Water Street parking lot, next to the Stop and Shop grocery store. At any given time, there was likely to be a driver going in the wrong direction.
Lawrence Lynch Company, owned by White-Brothers-Lynch Corporation, completed the initial phase of the reconstruction at the end of last week. The three parking bays now parallel Water Street, with one-way traffic in the bay closest to the street, two-way traffic in the center bay, and one-way traffic in the last bay, mid-way up the hill. The parking spaces in the center bay are not angled.
What was a one-way lane exiting the north end of the lot now allows two-way traffic, so that cars circulating from the first parking bay do not have to exit onto Water Street to make another pass through the lot. However, the lane nearest the grocery store continues to be a one-way to exit onto Water Street.
The Tisbury selectmen approved the new design about two years ago, with the goal of enhancing the parking lot's visual impact as the gateway to the town, while improving traffic and pedestrian access and safety. Then chairman Raymond LaPorte pushed strongly for the new configuration.
Selectman Tom Pachico opposed the changes on several occasions. The straight-on parking spaces in the center would prove difficult for drivers to maneuver into, Mr. Pachico pointed out, and the lot's overall traffic pattern could easily confuse drivers and create gridlock. The design was approved 2-1, with selectman Tristan Israel and Mr. LaPorte voting for it and Mr. Pachico against.
At a meeting last month, the selectmen agreed they would ask the contractor to delay applying the parking lot's final topcoat and striping until fall, after seeing how the new configuration works out this summer.
Historic Tisbury buildings undergo spring repairs
Two of Tisbury's old-timers, the town hall and the pump station at the Tisbury water works, received some much-needed support work this week. A crew from Campbell Construction Group in Beverly worked to stabilize the base of the steeple on top of town hall and to prevent water from leaking through the roof. They also stabilized and redid a portion of the chimney on the Tashmoo spring building, reusing the original bricks as much as possible.
"Both jobs are going on this week, and we hope to have them completed by end of this week or early next week," town administrator John Bugbee said yesterday.
Tisbury's town hall dates to 1844. Built as a Congregational Church, it is the oldest public building in Tisbury and one of few that survived the 1883 fire. Voters agreed to fund stabilization of the steeple at town meeting in 2006.
The Tashmoo spring building was built in 1887. Pending final authorization from the state, the chimney stabilization is included in a $30,000 emergency grant to the town from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, obtained through the efforts of the Tashmoo Spring Building Preservation Committee. The Tisbury selectmen voted to accept the grant at a meeting on May 15.
Voters approved the Community Preservation Act committee's request to allocate $227,000 toward preserving and restoring the spring building at town meeting in April. The Tashmoo Spring building preservation committee is continuing to seek other grants to fund the building's repair as well.
Police respond to report
of high schoolers' fight
Oak Bluffs police, assisted by units from Tisbury, Edgartown and the State Police who heard the call over the police scanner, responded to a report of a large group of high school students preparing to fight behind the Martha's Vineyard Ice Arena about 2 pm Tuesday.
But what was initially reported to be a large group of combatants turned out to be spectators who had gathered to watch two students with a long-standing grudge fight, said Oak Bluffs Police lieutenant Tim Williamson. "It sounded a lot worse than it was," said Lieutenant Williamson, one of the primary responding officers.
He said the students left quickly after several police cars arrived on the scene.
Lieutenant Williamson said it is always better to have additional police arrive, to quickly de-escalate a situation, rather than call in additional units when a situation gets out of control.
Oak Bluffs police are conducting a follow-up investigation of the fight between the two students who could face school disciplinary action.
Steve Nixon, assistant principal, said that the fight occurred off campus and school officials were not involved. He said there have been no problems at the high school.
FEMA will lay out county disaster aid options
Dukes County manager Winn Davis said representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will visit the Island Wednesday to explain what expenses may be reimbursable from the April northeaster that left a cut in Norton Point Beach in Edgartown.
The Bush Administration last week issued a major disaster declaration for the eight Massachusetts counties flooded and damaged by the storm. Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement, "This declaration will help our communities - whose budgets are already stretched thin - deal with the financial impact."
The disaster declaration enables local governments and state agencies to apply for federal reimbursement for up to 75 percent of the cost of repair. Essex, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Berkshire counties qualify to apply for the benefit.
In an application filed with MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency) on April 20, Dukes County manager Winn Davis filed a preliminary damage assessment with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) meant to qualify the county for federal disaster relief. In his application, Mr. Davis estimated it would cost $511,000 in federal emergency disaster money for the town dredge to repair a beach that he said provides an emergency exit for 375 homeowners on Chappaquiddick in the event of a wildfire.
When they learned of the plan days later, Edgartown officials and The Trustees of Reservations, the conservation organization that manages the county-owned beach, said the breach was not an emergency or a disaster.
Although the county applied for $500,000 in disaster funds, any actual reimbursement would be tied to the cost of any specific projects yet to be determined.
Mr. Davis Tuesday said FEMA would come discuss the options. Mr. Davis said that at the moment the county has no plans to apply for reimbursement but would assist Edgartown in its efforts. He said reimbursable expenses could include jet skis and warning buoys.
Chilmark map thief's restitution gets hiked
Last September E. Forbes Smiley, of 340 North Road in Chilmark, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison and three years of supervised release by United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven, Conn., on a federal charge of theft of major artwork. He was also tentatively ordered to pay $1.9 million in restitution according to Federal officials.
This week the court increased the restitution amount to $2.3 million.
According to New York attorney John Koegel, who represented two dealers who lost between $800,000 and $900,000, once the stolen maps were located the dealers had to give customers their money back and return the maps to the institutions from where they were stolen.
The new amount was based on further investigation and recovered evidence. In all, Mr. Smiley, 50, stole maps from six major libraries, including the New York and Boston Public Libraries and the British Library in London.
Mr. Smiley, who is currently serving his term, pled guilty last summer to stealing 98 rare maps from several institutions, including the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven. According to court documents, suspicions were first raised when a Yale University librarian discovered an X-Acto knife on a reading room floor in the library.
According to court documents, Mr. Smiley has cooperated with authorities since his arrest in June 2005, alerting them to the locations of numerous maps he sold fraudulently. He has agreed to pay restitution to dealers and collectors who had bought the maps.
Oak Bluffs/Tisbury transfer station contract extended
Tisbury and Oak Bluffs selectmen met Monday in the Oak Bluffs Library meeting room to talk trash - trash removal, that is. The contract for the Oak Bluffs/Tisbury transfer station operations, currently operated by Allied Waste, expires in June.
Although bids were accepted in February, scheduling conflicts between the two towns' selectmen delayed the contract award. During Monday's 45-minute meeting, the selectmen concluded that many of the issues relating to the contract required further discussion in executive session.
Although the Tisbury selectmen favored voting to award the contract on Monday, Oak Bluffs selectman chairman Kerry Scott requested they postpone the decision because only three of five of her fellow board members were in attendance. Instead, the two towns' selectmen agreed to vote at their respective board meetings to extend the current transfer station operations contract until November 1. The Oak Bluffs selectmen okayed the extension at their regular meeting Tuesday night.
Tisbury and Oak Bluffs pulled out of the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal District (MVRDD), a regional entity that handles refuse services for Edgartown, Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Aquinnah, in 1993. The two towns operate a municipal refuse service in partnership that utilizes a transfer station in Oak Bluffs. Each town is responsible for curbside service for its own residents.
The company awarded the transfer station operations contract 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 three bids submitted in February included Allied Waste ($1,936,631); Bruno's Roll-Off ($1,904,325); and MVRDD ($2,000,625). The submission of a bid from MVRDD to run the Oak Bluffs/Tisbury transfer station operations offers the possibility of the two refuse districts working together again and the reestablishment an Island-wide refuse district.
Photo by Kirsten Gannon
Alliance in her element
Alliance, a 32-foot powerboat designed by Nat Benjamin and built by Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway, slid into Vineyard Haven Harbor Saturday. Commissioned by Michael and Lyn Cook, who will keep her in Southwest Harbor, Maine, Alliance is the 56th Benjamin design, but the 46th boat built. She is the third powerboat design over 30 feet, by the Vineyard Haven designer, known for fast, nimble, classic sailing yachts. The powerboats ELISA LEE and ILONA preceded her. Alliance will be used by the Cooks for commuting from Southwest Harbor to Northeast Harbor and for picnics and other excursions with family and friends.
Ten feet wide and three feet deep, Alliance has a teak deck and cockpit sole. The hull has a single chine. She is double-planked below the waterline and single planked above. Construction materials are angelique, silver balli, white oak, locust, yellow heart, cedar, teak and bronze. She has custom-designed and cast bronze hardware, including cleats, fair leads, and helmsmen's seats. Joinery and trim are varnished. Power is furnished by a Cummins 270 hp diesel, and she has an Evolution drive with a 17" fixed propeller. Cushions and canvas work are by Sarah Smith in The Loft.
In Sports in last week's Times, a photo of runner Kate Mahoney was incorrectly credited to Ralph Stewart.
The photo was taken by Stephanie Pavao, who also took the photo of some members of the MVRHS girls track team that appeared on Page 1.