News in Brief
Class action lawsuit
would target high gas prices
A pair of experienced trial lawyers, one of whom is a seasonal Edgartown resident, said they would file a class action lawsuit in Dukes County Superior Court today challenging the price of gas on Martha's Vineyard.
Michael Roitman, a lawyer with the Boston firm of Engel & Schultz, told The Times late yesterday that he and Stephen Schultz, a member of the same law firm, would file a class action lawsuit today on behalf of people who purchase gasoline at prices that do not need to be so high.
Mr. Roitman said that the lawsuit would claim that the defendants in the case, the R.M. Packer Company and Drake Petroleum, "have conspired to maintain the price of gasoline at an artificially high level and higher than what the market price should be."
Mr. Roitman said they also plan to bring a claim against the Edgartown Mobil Station but do not plan to sue the three up-Island stations, located at the airport, West Tisbury, and Menemsha. However, he did not preclude later action. "Our focus right now is what you would call the down-Island gas stations," he said.
Mr. Roitman said that Mr. Schultz has been aware of the problem for some years and decided to do something about it. Mr. Schultz owns a home in Edgartown and he has some experience with gas stations on the Vineyard. Mr. Schultz contributed his legal time to help defend Tisbury Fuel Service after the Martha's Vineyard Commission refused to grant the company a special permit to build a new gas station on State Road in Vineyard Haven.
According to his biography on the firm's web site, Mr. Schultz's practice has included cases involving complex civil litigation, and he is an experienced trial lawyer.
Mr. Roitman's specialties include business litigation and complex civil disputes, according to the same site.
Photo by Tim Johnson
Lagoon Pond permanent drawbridge plans underway
At a public planning session for the permanent Lagoon Pond drawbridge replacement two years ago, Islanders said they would like a new bridge that allows for better boating access in and out of the Lagoon, straightens the "dog-leg" in the navigational channel, incorporates a multi-user pedestrian/bike path - and is unobtrusive.
With that in mind, the Lagoon Pond drawbridge committee launched a preliminary planning session last week for the proposed permanent bridge design, discussing approach ramps, bascules, pedestrian and bike access, and other design features with representatives from Parsons Engineering, the overall contractor, MassHighway, and the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC).
About 16 attended the meeting, including several drawbridge committee members. A team from the Parsons Transportation Group provided an overview of the design process and pre-construction tasks.
Parsons engineer Frank Vitale said data collection necessary for the permitting process, including depth measurements and eelgrass and shellfish surveys, was recently completed. An essential fish habitat study will be done next.
Parsons project manager Leslie Haine said a draft of a marine clearance study, which includes an inventory of the number and heights of boats going in and out of the Lagoon, should be complete by the end of August and will help design engineers to determine the best height for the new permanent bridge based on actual usage. Ms. Haine presented sketches showing the difference in the drawbridge elevation if the clearance study indicates it should be raised by two, four, or six feet.
Based on the results of the clearance study, the Parsons design team will draft a bridge type study report by October 1. In mid-October, the Lagoon Pond drawbridge committee plans to hold a public hearing at the 25 percent design phase to allow Islanders to weigh in with their opinions on what the bridge should look like and what design elements they would prefer, such as pedestrian and bike paths, railings, and lights.
Ms. Haine said once the final type study is completed, Parsons would submit it to MassHighway, probably in late December. Once approved, Parsons Engineering will start drawing up the designs, possibly in January 2008. Construction of the permanent drawbridge is expected to take about four years, from 2010 to 2013.
In the meantime, construction is scheduled to begin this fall on a temporary drawbridge, to be completed by 2010. Those who were waiting in traffic while the drawbridge was stuck temporarily yesterday afternoon probably were thinking that a new bridge can't be built a moment too soon.
John Stevens named new Edgartown principal
John Stevens, a 1971 graduate of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, is the new Edgartown School principal. He begins work on August 20, according to an announcement made Monday by superintendent of schools James Weiss.
"John was selected as the principal for two basic reasons," said Mr. Weiss. "One, his broad experience, having been an elementary school principal, a middle school principal, and high school principal for many years - he brings all of that experience to the table - and two, his knowledge of the Island. He grew up here. And those two things combined make him an excellent candidate."
Mr. Stevens currently serves as principal of Santaluces Community High School in Lantana, Fla. He grew up in Edgartown and received a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Boston University and a master's degree in education from Florida Atlantic University.
Mr. Stevens, his wife Susan, and their three children, all college students, own a home in Edgartown, where they have been summer residents for many years.
The decision on the principal's job came down to two finalists, Mr. Stevens and Richard Hamasian, the assistant principal of Casimir Pulaski Elementary School in Meridan, Conn. In making his final decision, Mr. Weiss said he carefully weighed feedback he received, including many e-mails, from the Edgartown School committee, school board members, parents, teachers, and others in the community following the two men's final interviews and visits to the school last week.
Aquinnah will hold special meeting, not town meeting
The Aquinnah special town meeting scheduled for August 9 has been cancelled. The meeting may be rescheduled for December, according to Aquinnah town administrator Jeff Burgoyne.
However, the town will still hold a scheduled special meeting for seasonal residents attended by selectmen and town department heads. The residents, many of whom are only in town during the summer months will have an opportunity to discuss town issues and ask questions about town operations.
The meeting begins at 6:30 pm in the Old Town Hall on State Road.
Mr. Burgoyne said that one of the principal reasons for holding the special town meeting was to ask voters to decide whether to approve the Martha's Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District's borrowing of $1.5 million to expand the district facility in Edgartown. All four member towns, Aquinnah, Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Edgartown need to approve the loan to buy 11 acres adjacent to the existing site.
Chilmark and West Tisbury have approved the loan at town meetings. However, the issue stalled after an Edgartown special town meeting failed to reach a quorum on June 28, removing the need for immediate action by Aquinnah, Mr. Burgoyne said.
finds pot plants
State and federal police officials conducted a helicopter search of the Island last Wednesday and Thursday as part of a drug enforcement effort designed to find cultivated marijuana plants.
The aerial search by an Air National Guard helicopter located several hundred plants in a number of places, which were then confiscated and destroyed on the ground. Asked if there had been any arrests, State Police sergeant Neal Maciel said, "Not at this point."
Yacht plows into Edgartown dinghy dock
A 116-ft. Intermarine yacht named "Kipany" piloted by Captain David Johnson hit the Harborside Inn dock used by dinghys in Edgartown last Friday afternoon. No one was injured, but eight rubber dinghies were pushed underwater, damaging a few engines, said Edgartown harbormaster Charlie Blair.
Mr. Blair said the collision was purely an accident and there was no negligence or alcohol involved. Although Captain Johnson has brought the yacht to the same dock in previous years, Mr. Blair said it is a difficult one to navigate, even for experienced captains and crews.
Dinghy owners were contacted and the boats were taken care of as quickly as possible, Mr. Blair said. Most of the boat engines started up right away.
He likened the accident to a marine version of a "fender bender."
"The dock was not damaged, and everything was back to normal after about an hour," Mr. Blair said. "There were no injuries to anyone - that's the important thing. The rest is just paperwork."
Edgartown will discuss Chappy ferry purchase
Edgartown selectmen will hold a public meeting Tuesday to discuss whether the town ought to purchase the privately owned ferry service that operates between town and Chappaquiddick Island.
The meeting begins at 5 pm in the Chappaquiddick Community Center.
Long ferry staging lines, limited parking for Chappaquiddick residents, and increased fares were topics of some discussion during the off-season. At a February meeting, some residents encouraged the selectmen to consider purchasing the ferry service.
Owner Roy Hayes said he is planning to sell the ferry in four or five years and retire. Edgartown selectmen established a committee to consider the purchase, called the selectmen's group for evaluation of town purchase of the ferry, which is sponsoring the August meeting.
Public asked to weigh in on Dukes County budget
One month into the start of the 2008 fiscal year that began on July 1, the public will have an opportunity to comment on the Dukes County budget at a public hearing next Thursday.
The county finance advisory board, made up of one selectman from each town, holds its required public hearing at 5:30 pm on August 9, at the County Administration Building on Airport Road in Edgartown.
Taxpayers may be interested in a revised state formula, under which Aquinnah and Chilmark taxpayers will pay less for county government in fiscal 2008. Their counterparts in West Tisbury, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury will pay more.
For example, Chilmark will save $20,572, while Edgartown will pay an additional $17,646 and Tisbury $13,441 for county services
Art Smadbeck, Edgartown selectman and a member of the finance advisory board that must still approve the budget, said he is concerned that there is not much of a reserve in the county budget. "If they don't hit their revenue targets, then they are going to be in a real pickle," he said.
Asked if there is any reason to think that the county will meet its revenue targets based on past years when revenue consistently fell short of budget marks, Mr. Smadbeck said he could not predict the future and could only express his reservations "...about having a budget as thin as it is."
Asked if Edgartown taxpayers, who must pay an additional assessment, are going to be getting their money's worth in the 2008 budget, Mr. Smadbeck said he could only hope so.
The seven Dukes County commissioners approved the $4,783,215 budget last month. The advisory board, which must still approve the budget, can send it back to the commissioners for revisions. Final approval rests with the state's County Finance Review Board.
The finance review board includes Mr. Smadbeck, Denys Wortman of Tisbury, Ron D'Orio of Oak Bluffs, Jeffrey Manter of West Tisbury, Frank Fenner of Chilmark, and James Newman of Aquinnah.
The seven towns of Dukes County, which includes Gosnold, pay 16.5 percent of the county's operating budget through annual assessments.
The assessments provide the major source of revenue available to the county commissioners.
The new increases and decreases in town assessments are based on recent computations by the state Department of Revenue, based on changes in the total valuation of property in each town.
Affordable housing telethon surpasses $500,000 goal
The Island Affordable Housing (IAH) reported it raised at least $517,535 during a weekend of events that included a telethon. The group's goal was $500,000.
The money will be used to fund affordable housing programs on Martha's Vineyard, according to the IAH.
The telethon aired on the cable station Plum TV on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as part of a coordinated weekend of fund-raising activities. An exact amount was difficult to arrive at because checks not pledged were still arriving in the mail Tuesday afternoon, said IAH Executive Director Patrick Manning in an e-mail to The Times.
However, the "showstopper" of the weekend was the Saturday evening "Premiere Party" at the Daniel Fisher House in Edgartown attended by 350 people, said Mr. Manning. Tickets for the sold-out event, which included performers Jim Belushi and Kate Taylor ranged from $135 to $500.
"No matter if the donation was $50 or $50,000, the object here was to get involvement from all Vineyarders, which we were successful in doing. We know going in that we raised the bar high for such a new event, but we never doubted the generosity of the Vineyard and once gain we weren't proven wrong. We will be back again next year, bigger and better," Mr. Manning said.
Chilmark firefighters to hold town party
The Chilmark Fireman's Association will host a Back Yard Bash Wednesday evening at the Community Center field. Six bands, including Johnny Hoy and The Bluefish, are scheduled to entertain the crowd from 5 pm until sunset. Beverages, homemade chowder and desserts will be available. "This is just a fun event for the community to come together to have a good time," said Chilmark Assistant Fire Chief and Executive Secretary Timothy Carroll.