News in Brief
Photo by Ralph Stewart
146th annual Agricultural Fair opens today
Forget the beach, stay out of the busy towns, and play hooky from work if you can. West Tisbury is the place to be this weekend as the 146th annual Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Fair opens this morning and runs through Sunday, Aug. 19. "In The Pink" is this year's theme with a cheerful piglet painted by artist Jackie Mendez-Diez setting the lighthearted tone on posters, tee shirts, and aprons.
The Agricultural Hall, which stands empty most the year, was open for business Wednesday as non-perishable and children's entries poured in to fill the exhibition areas. Early this morning, Islanders arrived at the hall before 9 am to enter their best baked goods, produce, and other perishable items. Judging began last night for some categories and continues today. The hall will be open to the public only after all judging is completed, sometime this afternoon.
The four-day schedule is packed with competitions including the pet show, a children's favorite, on Thursday; the ever-popular draft horse pull and the clam and oyster shucking contest on Friday afternoon; the 31st annual woodsmen's contest on Saturday. On Sunday both the dog show and the women's skillet throw share the schedule with the Island Draft Horse show. Animal judging continues during the day on Thursday and Friday. All the details may be found in the Ag Fair supplement in today's Times.
Plenty of convenient parking is available, and Vineyard Transit Authority buses will provide transportation.
Photo opportunities abound at the Fair; so don't forget your camera. And to add a little motivation to get those perfect shots, the Times is sponsoring an Ag Fair video clip contest. Capture a captivating scene on video using your digital camera and submit it to the Times for prizes ranging from Fair tee-shirts to a $100 gift certificate for dinner at The Coach House Restaurant in Edgartown. Winning videos will be showcased on mvtimes.com. Upload your video at mvtimes.com/ag_fair or drop a CD at the Times office in Vineyard Haven. Contest closes Aug. 31.
Oak Bluffs selectmen suspend Sand Bar license
Stressing that they want to send a strong message to restaurant owners, the Oak Bluffs selectmen voted Tuesday to suspend the Sand Bar and Grill's entertainment license for three days based on three noise complaints.
The action means the restaurant cannot have entertainment for three nights, Aug. 22, 24 and 26. The selectmen made the suspensions for the same days of the week as the original complaints in July.
"We are trying to send a message loud and clear...," selectman Ronald DiOrio said in making the motion. "We mean business, and we will take action. If it continues, the punishment will be more severe."
The other selectmen agreed. Selectman chairman Kerry Scott said, "We're trying to find a way to treat everyone equally and give the police guidelines."
Two Oak Bluffs police officers described the noise complaints for the selectmen. Sgt. George Fisher said police responded to the first complaint on July 4 at 12:30 am from a neighbor about loud music coming from the restaurant. Sgt. Fisher said officers asked the manager to close the doors and lower the music volume, and returned again in about 10 minutes when the band was playing the last song of the evening.
"The officers felt it was a violation," Sergeant Fisher said.
Sgt. Michael Marchand reported on the complaints on the nights of July 20 and 29. The officers verified they could hear the music both times from as far as 250 yards, he said, and they concluded the noise was in violation of the entertainment license regulations.
Sgt. Marchand said the restaurant manager complied with requests to lower the music, and there have been no more complaints from the Sand Bar and Grill.
Town administrator Michael Dutton clarified for the selectmen that the violations were not related to the noise bylaw, but were considered "unnecessary noise" as part of the entertainment license regulations. The noise law exempts liquor licenses based on state law, he said.
The suspension does not affect the restaurant being open or serving alcohol on the designated dates.
The suspension was the second one this summer related to a noise violation, Mr. Dutton said. The entertainment license of the Island House was suspended for one night a couple of weeks ago, he said.
Oak Bluffs police investigate stabbing
Oak Bluffs Police responded to a report of a fight at a large house party on Perkins Avenue at 2:57 am Monday morning. When police officers arrived, the fight was over, and they found a young man bleeding from a stab wound.
Lieutenant Tim Williamson said the young man, age 21, was stabbed in the torso during a melee that involved several people. The man, whom he did not identify because the investigation remains active, was treated at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital and released.
Lieutenant Williamson said police have interviewed more than 15 people and are continuing to investigate. He said there are conflicting reports that place the number of people at the party between 20 and 50.
The partygoers ranged in age from16 to 23. The house is rented by Kyle Pearson, police said.
SSA board votes to ratify union contract
The Steamship Authority (SSA) members Friday voted to ratify a two-year contract with the boatline's unlicensed vessel employees.
The contract affects 170 unlicensed vessel employees represented by the Marine Engineering Beneficial Association (MEBA). The SSA has yet to reach an agreement with the boatline's licensed engineers, also represented by MEBA.
In prepared remarks Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, referred to management efforts to seek efficiencies and work rule changes aimed at reducing costs. "With all of our unions, for the last four years we have been negotiating gradual but important changes for the future of the SSA," he said. "During that four-year span, the SSA was successful in reaching new collective bargaining agreement with six other groups of employees. The contract settlement with this union is another important step."
According to a press release, under the new contract members of the bargaining unit will contribute five percent to the cost of their medical coverage. The SSA may also fill three-day vacancies caused by employees' calling in sick without regard to seniority, and it relaxes some work rule restrictions.
Under the new contract an entry level ordinary seaman will earn $18.91 per hour or an annual base salary of approximately $41,000. The contract includes a three percent increase in December and another three percent increase in June 2008.
Wage increases over the life of the contract will result in a cumulative 15.64 percent wage increase from the employees last wage increase in April 2002.
Employees will receive some retroactive wage increases and other benefits, including continued medical coverage for up to three years in the event they are out on medical leave or disability.
West Tisbury summer residents invited to forum
The West Tisbury selectmen will hold a forum to discuss town issues with seasonal, non-voting residents on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 7 pm at the Howes House.
Selectmen chairman Glenn Hearn said he suggested the meeting because the town hasn't held one for several years. Nonvoting residents own a home in West Tisbury and pay taxes, but have a permanent residence elsewhere where they vote.
Mr. Hearn said the selectmen will inform the seasonal residents on current town issues, including the town hall renovations project, efforts to get better cell phone service, updating of cemetery records, and hiring of a public works employee to improve the roads.
A question of rural character
The West Tisbury zoning and building inspector has plenty of case law to back him if he decides to allow residents in the Longview section to keep chickens, roosters and guinea hens in their yard.
Town counsel Ronald Rappaport released a six-page opinion at the request of Ernest Mendenhall, zoning officer and building inspector, to help settle the dispute over the birds brought by neighbors. Bob and Kathy Harris brought the complaint to Mr. Mendenhall in July against Kurt Freund and Dyan Redick, the owners of 14 chickens, four roosters, and several guinea hens. The complaints related primarily to excessive noise from the roosters and the wandering guinea hens.
In his opinion, Mr. Rappaport noted that the Freund and Redick property is in an RU or rural zoning district, which is intended to maintain the town's historic pattern of rural settlement. The zoning bylaw is characterized as "permissive in spirit rather than prohibitive," he said. The bylaw states the RU district allows "flexibility of land use and new development that is in keeping with the town's rural character."
Mr. Rappaport cited other Massachusetts court cases involving hens and roosters, one dating back to 1905, in which the number of domestic birds was similar to the current situation. He left the ruling in the dispute up to Mr. Mendenhall, saying he should determine whether a zoning violation exists by the number of animals involved and the size of the affected lots.
Mr. Rappaport also said the zoning officer should consider whether there is "substantial and unreasonable interference with the abutters' use and enjoyment of their properties."
Mr. Mendenhall said Wednesday his decision on the matter is back in Mr. Rappaport's hands for review. He did not want to comment until it is returned.
Carol Lashnits, longtime leader, retires from IEH
Carol E. Lashnits, executive director of Island Elderly Housing, will retire at the end of this month, the directors of IEH announced last week. Ms. Lashnits was a founder of IEH and has helped lead it for 30 years.
"Carol has devoted her working life to bringing in more than twenty five million dollars in federal and state grants to create affordable housing with guaranteed and subsidized rental assistance for elders and people with disabilities on the Island and their families," the directors said in a press statement accompanying the announcement. "Carol has skillfully navigated the shoal waters of federal regulations, political hurdles, grant applications, and local ordinances to oversee one hundred sixty-five apartments on four locations in two towns.
"The growth and success of Island Elderly Housing is a testament to Carol's dedication and work to provide housing so that people can live independently for as long as possible. Inspired by the vision she shared with co-founders Margaret Love and Marguerite Bergstrom, Carol has provided leadership and commitment to this important work of caring for the lives of the elderly and disabled in our community for over 30 years. We celebrate Carol's gift to the Vineyard, which has and will continue to touch so many lives of individuals, families, and the larger Vineyard community."
Ms. Lashnits describes her reasons for retirement and why retirement may not accurately characterize her plans in an Essay on the OpEd page of this morning's Times.
IEH plans a celebration in September to honor the success of IEH under Ms. Lashnits's leadership. The directors say they will announce a decision about an interim executive director in the coming weeks.
MVC accepts nomination on roads district
The Martha's Vineyard Commission voted unanimously to accept for consideration a nomination to add five ancient ways to the Edgartown Island Road District, a district of critical planning concern (DCPC), at a meeting last Thursday night. The five paths include designated parts of Ben Tom's Road, Middle Line Path, Pennywise Path, Tar Kiln Path, and Watcha Path.
Edgartown selectman Michael Donaroma told the commissioners that because of one person's recent actions in clear-cutting a section on one path, "We feel there's an urgency to protect these paths."
The issue came to the forefront at an Edgartown selectmen's meeting on July 30. Representatives of the Edgartown Meadows Road Association attended the meeting to protest that Attorney Benjamin Hall Jr. cut trees on property along Middle Line Path that he did not own. Mr. Hall, however, maintained he has an easement he is allowed to maintain, which entitled him to cut and remove 41 trees since early April. Mr. Hall's familiarity with the Island Roads District bylaws stems from his participation on a planning board subcommittee, which recently has been reviewing the bylaws.
The Edgartown selectmen and Edgartown planning board agreed to refer the nomination of the five byways to the MVC. According to the planning board's DCPC nomination papers, the five ancient ways date back to the 1600's and 1700's.
At last week's MVC meeting, Mr. Hall tried to dissuade the commissioners from accepting the DCPC nomination for consideration. He said he had concerns that the ancient ways' boundaries were not clearly defined enough to designate them as part of the DCPC.
"I'm only interested in what's on the nomination tonight," Mr. Sederholm told him. "The determination of the boundaries of the district will be made in a public hearing." He encouraged Mr. Hall to detail his concerns about the path boundaries then.
The commissioners voted unanimously to accept the nomination, which immediately put into effect a moratorium on building within 20 feet on either side of the paths. By accepting the nomination, the MVC is required to hold a public hearing within 60 days. The hearing has been scheduled for September 20, 7:30 pm, at the MVC offices at 33 New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs.
What will happen if no county government?
A subcommittee of the Dukes County Charter Study Commission (DCCSC) met last week to begin exploring the consequences of abandoning the present county government, without replacing it, as has been done in five other Massachusetts counties. Convener Jim Newman and scribe Mimi Davisson outlined the tasks for the subcommittee in the form of questions to be answered.
For example, what will happen to the present county assessments charged to the towns? Will the Commonwealth of Massachusetts continue to charge the towns' cherry sheets for services formerly provided by Dukes County?
What will happen to county assets such as the airport, the courthouse, the jail, county beaches, the county building and communications center? And, what will happen to financial assets such as the county retirement fund?
What happens to county employees? In addition to the registry of deeds and the sheriff's department, will the state take over all county programs, such as veterans' services, rodent control, the county engineer, the housing authority?
Will the Vineyard lose control over appointments to the airport commission and the steamship authority?
Mr. Newman and Ms. Davisson said that the job of the subcommittee is not to make a judgment about the wisdom of any course of action, but only to assemble the facts as far as they can be found.
Advisory board approves
Dukes County budget
More than one month into the 2008 fiscal year and with only three Island towns represented, the Dukes County finance advisory board approved a $4,783,502 county operating budget following a public hearing on August 9.
Based on a readjustment in property valuation, 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
The advisory board is made up of one selectman from each town. Present was Art Smadbeck of Edgartown, Jeffery Manter of West Tisbury, and Denys Wortman of Tisbury. Ron D'Orio of Oak Bluffs, James Newman of Aquinnah and Rank Fenner of Chilmark did not attend the meeting according to county manager Winn Davis.
The fact that only three selectmen could approve the budget is attributable to the weighted vote afforded each town based on each town's share of the budget. 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.
The assessments provide the major source of revenue available to the county commissioners.
Mr. Davis, who ends his tenure as county manager tomorrow, said the finance advisory board spent a considerable amount of time going over the budget and approved it as presented. "I am very pleased with that," he said.
Noreen Flanders, county treasurer, will take over as acting county manager following the departure of Mr. Davis. A screening committee made up of one representative from each town, the NAACP and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is scheduled to meet Monday to begin the process of selecting candidates for the job of county manager.
SSA meets on Nantucket Tuesday
The Steamship Authority (SSA) board is scheduled to hold its monthly business meeting on Nantucket on Tuesday. SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said the agenda is light.
The members are expected to vote to accept a $5.9 million bid from a Norfolk Virginia company to refurbish the Nantucket. The schedule calls for work to begin in mid-November and be completed by March 2008.
Mr. Lamson said he also plans to discuss the boatline concession contract. The current contract with Boston Culinary Group is about to expire, and management will be issuing a new request for proposals.
The meeting begins at 9:30 am in the Nantucket High School meeting room.
Hospital Tree of Lights
moved to Mink Meadows
The great pine that stood outside the main entrance to Martha's Vineyard Hospital has a new home. It now overlooks the seventh tee on the Mink Meadows Golf Club in Vineyard Haven.
The large pine figured prominently in the annual Martha's Vineyard Hospital fundraiser known as the Tree of Lights. Each December the auxiliary decorated the tree with twinkling lights purchased by donors.
The pine and other trees were moved as part of the site preparation for the new hospital building project. Matthew Crowther, golf club superintendent, said the pine now protects people from getting hit by golf balls.
The Auxiliary and the hospital plan to continue the tradition with a new tree, yet to be planted.
A wedding announcement in last week's Calendar section incorrectly reported that Kate Korman and Dan Orell were married. Their wedding is scheduled for June 7, 2008.