News in Brief
SSA union members vote to reject contract
Members of the Marine Engineering Beneficial Association (MEBA) voted this week to reject a contract offer from the Steamship Authority (SSA).
This week's vote followed four years of often bitter contract negotiations between the boatline and representatives of its largest union.
Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, announced last month that the boatline and MEBA had agreed on the terms of a contract, subject to ratification by the union membership in a vote on July 10 and July 11.
At the time, William Campbell, a MEBA representative, attributed the conclusion of the tentative agreement to the attendance of Mr. Lamson in the negotiating sessions. Mr. Campbell said he believed it was in the interests of all parties to ratify this agreement.
Reached at his Boston office late yesterday, Mr. Campbell said he was on his way to a meeting and had no time to speak to The Times or confirm the vote tally.
Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member, said he was disappointed by the results of the vote. "We would like to get this resolved and thought we were on the right track," said Mr. Hanover. "It is just unfortunate that it has not come to fruition. I guess it is back to the bargaining table."
The union may also return to Beacon Hill where it has been busy seeking the support of lawmakers for legislation affecting the boatline.
In June, union-backed legislation emerged on Beacon Hill that would amend the SSA's enabling legislation by inserting language that declares that authority and union representatives must engage the services of a single state arbitrator, when they have been unable to agree on the terms of a new contract for more than five months.
In May, SSA members were surprised when a bill intended to put the now independent authority within the Executive Office of Transportation suddenly appeared on the state legislature's agenda.
Both bills, which have yet to gain any traction, are similar to legislation introduced last year at the request of the union.
Tisbury selectmen tackle dog days of summer
The Tisbury selectmen, meeting Tuesday, signed off on taxi license regulations, settled a dog dispute, and firmed up an agreement with a private property owner to allow emergency vehicles to cross his property.
The selectmen reviewed some minor changes in proposed taxi licensing regulations they drafted on June 12. Town counsel David Doneski suggested the changes. Attorney Daniel Larkosh, representing AAA Taxi, Able Taxi, and Tisbury Taxi, asked for clarification regarding drivers' suspensions and negligent operations convictions.
The selectmen voted to approve the revised regulations. Police Chief John Cashin said he would review the taxi drivers' license applications and issue new licenses for those who qualify within a week.
Admitting that the selectmen hate dog issues as much as mooring and parking issues, selectman chairman Tom Pachico heard testimony from John Shannon and his wife Karen Swift-Shannon, who said their neighbor Noreen Baker's golden retriever dog, Winslow, had come onto their property several times, unleashed, and exhibited aggressive behavior toward them and their dog.
The selectmen approved animal control officer Laurie Clement's recommendation that Ms. Baker post a $100 bond, which will be returned in one year provided the dog is kept restrained and there are no more complaints.
After some give and take, the selectmen and Brian Hall, whose family owns the Capawock Theater and Bowl and Board properties, agreed that the town's emergency vehicles will be allowed to pass over seven feet of the Hall property behind the comfort station in the Water Street parking lot. In return, the Halls will be allowed access across the town's emergency vehicle lane to their property.
In town department reports, Tisbury tax collector Tim McLean announced that it is now possible for Tisbury property owners to pay their tax bills online by clicking on the link "pay bill online" at the town's web site, www.tisburygov.org. The tax bill number is needed to complete the process, Mr. McLean said.
At Chief Cashin's recommendation, the selectmen approved the appointment of Nick DiCicco as a Tisbury special police officer for the summer, followed by a move into a full-time position, after he completes the next available police academy program. The selectmen must agree to underwrite the cost of the academy training.
Town administrator John Bugbee said that he and town clerk Marion Mudge submitted documentation about the vote taken at town meeting on an article regarding beer and wine legislation to Rep. Eric Turkington, who will file a bill in the state legislature to get the beer and wine question on the ballot.
Lady Bird Johnson, wife of late president dies at 94
Lady Bird Johnson, wife of the late former President Lyndon B. Johnson and a frequent summer visitor to the Vineyard after the president's death in 1973, died Wednesday at her Austin, Texas home. She was 94. Mrs. Johnson was a champion of conservation and beautification efforts, especially urging the planting and protection of wildflowers.
Vandalism at Island Alpaca Company
Vandals rampaged through the Island Alpaca Company on Head of the Pond Road off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road on June 28 and 29, according to owner Barbara Ronchetti.
Ms. Ronchetti said shortly after midnight on Friday, June 29, she heard the sound of voices, perhaps three or four, in the pasture area where her alpacas are kept.
Oak Bluffs police officer Sgt J.J. Mendez responded to her call. In checking for damage, police found one of the pregnant female alpacas with a rope from one of the gates around its neck. The vandals also slashed fencing used to separate the males and females, tore signs shaped like alpacas off posts, smashed information sign holders, and rummaged through a trailer on the property.
Vandals returned at 12:20 am on Sunday, July 1. Ms. Ronchetti said she heard voices again out in one of the pastures and called 911. While waiting for the police, Ms. Ronchetti said she accidentally flicked on a light, which seemed to frighten off the vandals about a minute before State Police Trooper Matt West and Oak Bluffs Police Officer Jim Morse arrived. Although they spotted a truck between Ms. Ronchetti's home and her neighbor's, it sped off before they could pursue it.
While alpacas are valuable animals, they also are registered and could not be sold to anyone without papers, Ms. Ronchetti said.
Oak Bluffs Police Lt. Timothy Williamson said the case remains open and under investigation, "until somebody comes forward with some information or if we catch someone out there." He encourages anyone who might have any information to call the Oak Bluffs police department at 508-693-0750.
Ms. Ronchetti met with an electronic security company representative last week about installing cameras and lighting. "I thought the only predator here on the Island I would have would be dogs," Ms. Ronchetti said. "Now I need to put up an electric fence for humans."
She is offering a reward for the recovery of her signs and for information about who is responsible for the vandalism. Contact her at 508-693-5554.
Oak Bluffs awarded
The town of Oak Bluffs has been awarded an $817,768 grant for housing rehabilitation, through the Massachusetts Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program.
Tisbury was also included in the grant, which was announced in a Tuesday press release from Alice Boyd of Bailey Boyd Associates.
The money will be used to help repair 20 homes in the two towns, said Ms. Boyd, who wrote the grant for Oak Bluffs, in a telephone conversation with The Times on Wednesday.
The Oak Bluffs application scored second among towns in the state. Applications were judged on criteria that included a town's need and the research gathered by the town, according to Ms Boyd. The grant money comes in what is known as a zero interest, forgivable loan.
"The homeowners that participate in these programs simply can't afford critical repairs. Many participants are elderly; some are on the brink of selling their homes and leaving due to failed septic systems or leaking roofs. In many cases, it's demolition by neglect. Too often, the homes are sold and lost to our affordable housing inventory," Ms. Boyd said in the press release.
Wellfleet, Dennis, and Provincetown also received sizeable awards from the CDBG, according the press release.
Commercial striped bass season opens
The Massachusetts commercial striped bass fishing season opens today. Fishermen holding a commercial striped bass fishing license may keep and sell striped bass four days out of the week until the state's commercial quota is filled.
Using last summer as a guide, non-fishermen can expect to enjoy fresh, locally caught bass for approximately five weeks. Last summer, the state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) closed the season on August 23 based on dealer reports that projected that the total 2006 quota of 1,140,807 pounds had been reached.
Because the state exceeded the 2006 quota by 175,912 pounds, the 2007 quota was reduced to 988,406 pounds. How that will affect the season remains to be seen.
State fisheries regulators have wrestled for years with how to stretch out the commercial season and comply with inter-state regulations governing the closely monitored fishery.
During the height of the 2004 summer season, the striped bass, a fish synonymous with the waters of the Cape and Islands, disappeared from market shelves and restaurant menus. Although the fish were still available to be caught, fishermen had filled the state's commercial quota in less than five weeks, and the closely monitored fishery was shut down.
As a result, the Division of Marine Fisheries proposed several regulatory changes intended to lengthen the state's commercial season. In order to maintain a market for striped bass, the state also allows fish markets to import striped bass from other states for sale in Massachusetts. The fish must carry a tag designating the state of origin.
Commercially caught striped bass in Massachusetts must be a minimum of 34 inches in length. Fishermen can keep five fish per boat on Sunday and 30 fish per boat on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Recreational fishermen may keep up to two striped bass over 28 inches in length per day.
Lengthy shellfish closure of Sengekontacket likely
For the second time this summer, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown shellfish constables have prohibited shellfishing in Sengekontacket Pond, because recent state water quality monitoring tests showed high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.
Paul Bagnall, Edgartown shellfish constable, said he does not expect the pond to be reopened until the fall, when the water temperature cools.
Mr. Bagnall thinks an abundance of waterfowl, primarily non-migratory geese and cormorants that nest and feed on the pond, coupled with warm summer water temperatures, are responsible for pushing the water quality markers above the safe level for shellfish intended for human consumption. He said summer closures could well become an annual occurrence.
The shellfishing prohibition does not affect swimmers or boaters.
The Edgartown School committee will interview six semi-finalists for principal on July 16 and 17, from 7 to 9 pm, and on July 18, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. The interviews will take place in the school library. The school committee invites the public to attend.
The six semi-finalists are Nancy Dahlstrom, Michael Grenier, Richard Hamasian Jr., Donna Lowell-Bettencourt, Sylvia Santucci, and John Stevens.
Ms. Dahlstrom is the principal of Forest Avenue School in Hudson, Mass. Mr. Grenier, now the assistant principal of the Dennis-Yarmouth regional schools, formerly served as principal of Lancaster Middle School in Lancaster, Pa.
As assistant principal of Casimir Pulaski Elementary School in Meridan, Conn., Mr. Hamasian shares a common bond with Martha's Vineyard Public Schools Superintendent James Weiss, who once held the same job many years ago.
Ms. Santucci, the principal of New Hingham Elementary School in Chesterfield, also has served as a principal in two other schools, one in Massachusetts and one in Connecticut, as well as teaching overseas.
Two of the candidates, Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt and Mr. Stevens, have Island ties. Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt works at Edgartown School as a librarian and media specialist. Earlier this year, she was chosen by Mr. Weiss to serve on the school's leadership team when Principal Paul Dulac resigned. Mr. Stevens, principal of Santaluces High School in Lantana, Fla., owns a home in Edgartown.
The New England School Development Council conducted the principal search and selected seven candidates from a field of 28. Principal Peri-Anne Chobot from Coconut, Fla., withdrew her name from consideration.
CR preserves Indian
Hill Road vistas
A view of farmlands and open fields visible from Indian Hill Road in West Tisbury will be preserved as a result of a gift of a conservation restriction to the Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF).
Mary E. and Rebecca J. Cournoyer, trustees of the Meadow Brook Nominee Trust, gave a conservation restriction to VOLF on 5.7 acres of agricultural land at the Rogers Farm. The gift was announced in a VOLF press release dated June 29.
According to the press release, the conservation restriction allows for the continuance of farming and agricultural use "on this unique Island farm, which will help to preserve an endangered way of life and livelihood on Martha's Vineyard."
Housing Fund finds a friend on television
The Island Affordable Housing Fund has received a $25,000 grant for the organization's annual telethon, "Housing on the Tube," from Comcast, the Island's cable television provider.
The 2007 event will be held on Plum TV from July 26 through July 29. The company will also air Public Service Announcements promoting the Island Affordable Housing Fund free of charge - an in-kind donation of advertising worth approximately $16,000, according to a Tuesday Comcast press release.
The Island Affordable Housing provides grants, loans, and services to support affordable housing solutions on Martha's Vineyard.
"Comcast is strongly committed to making a true difference in the communities where our customers and employees live," said Zakee Rashid, Vice President of Comcast's South Shore, Cape Code, and Islands systems, in the press release.
Executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund Patrick Manning thanked the company. "Comcast's investment in 'Housing on the Tube' will allow us not just to raise funds to support local working families, but also to raise awareness of this crisis in our community," Mr. Manning said in the press release.
Strong June lifts
Strong passenger traffic in June boosted the Steamship Authority's year to date numbers into positive territory, 1.2 percent above the year ago benchmark. Auto traffic, also strong in June, pushed the year to date number almost into the black, with just 46 fewer cars traveling back and forth, a statistical change of zero percent. Freight traffic (trucks) continued down in June, off 5.2 percent for the month. For the year to date end of June, freight is off 7.9 percent. Nantucket-Hyannis route numbers are better, up 7.8 percent on passengers year to date as of the end of June, up 2.5 percent for autos, and off just 1.4 percent for freight.
New chef joins
Chef Melissa Martin recently joined the staff at Zephrus Restaurant, located in the Mansion House on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
"Her daily specials reflect her respect for fresh local ingredients combined with a sophisticated palate," according to a press release from Mansion House and Zephrus co-owner Susan Goldstein.
Although Chef Martin's career began in Chicago and New Orleans, her Island ties developed with visits to Martha's Vineyard since childhood.
Chef Martin's more than 23 years of professional cooking and kitchen management experience include internships in South America and Provence, France, and positions as an executive, sous and pastry chef in Sugar Magnolia Restaurant and Emeril Lagasse's NOLA and Delmonico restaurants in New Orleans, and the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.
Recently, Chef Martin participated with renowned chefs Emeril Lagasse and Charlie Trotter in fund-raising events to help victims affected by Hurricane Katrina and flooding along the Mississippi River.
Zephrus Restaurant's all-day menu is available starting at 11:30 am, seven days a week, year-round.
Harbor View principals sign deal with management group
Scout Capital, owners of the Harbor View and Kelley House hotels in Edgartown, signed a deal with Gulph Creek Hotels, a hotel development and management company, to manage the company's two Vineyard properties, according to a report in the trade publication Hotel and Motel Management magazine.
The magazine quoted a Gulph Creek executive, who said his company would provide support to Scout and the hotel's management team through the redevelopment process to enhance profitability, service levels, facilities, and amenity offerings.
Gulph Creek Hotels was founded in 1996 and currently manages eight Hilton and Marriott branded hotels, according to the magazine.
Beverly Sills, who died on July 2 at 78, had a vacation home in Makonikey, not in West Chop, as was reported in last Thursday's Times.