News in Brief
MV Coop, Dukes County Banks merge this weekend
In the photo at right, board chairman Philip "Jeff" Norton, bank president Chris Wells and chief operating officer Richard Leonard stand next to a new sign outside the Dukes County Savings Bank's Edgartown office.
Signs for the new Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank will go up around the Island Tuesday following the Veterans Day weekend electronic merger of the Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank and Dukes County Savings Bank.
Banking regulators issued their formal approval for the combined bank last month. This weekend, the two banks will formally combine their separate operations into one. Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 13, all customers may begin using any of the bank's eight branches and its Island-wide ATM network, as well as the ATM located in the Woods Hole ferry terminal. The new bank web site, www.mvbank.com, will also be available to customers.
On-line and telephone banking services will be interrupted beginning at 5 am Friday until Monday morning while the two computer systems are combined. Also this weekend, Dukes County Savings Bank's West Tisbury office will be closed and consolidated into the West Tisbury branch of The Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank.
"We have been working extremely hard these last months to make this merger a smooth and easy transition for all of our customers," said Chris Wells, president of the Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank.
"As a show of our appreciation, we would like to invite our customers to join us next Tuesday through Friday at any of our eight branches for refreshments. We value our relationships with our customers and hope they will come celebrate their new Island bank with us," said Richard Leonard, the bank's chief operating officer.
The bank's offices will be open from 8 am to 5 pm, Mondays through Fridays, and 8 am to noon on Saturdays. All existing phone numbers will remain in place.
Chilmark finances are
in good shape
Chilmark ended the 2007 fiscal year on June 30 in very good shape. That was the message delivered to the selectmen Tuesday night by Dick Sullivan of Powers and Sullivan Certified Public Accountants.
Mr. Sullivan said revenue was two percent higher than expected and expenditures less than originally estimated. The town has a "pretty healthy balance sheet," Mr. Sullivan said.
Mr. Sullivan said the general fund reserves made up a healthy 14 percent of the total revenue. Community Preservation Act funds totaled $926,000 and stabilization funds totaled $600,000. The town's fixed assets saw an increase of more than $500,000. The town "has a good handle on finances," and good internal controls, Mr. Sullivan said.
In a meeting with a packed agenda, Chilmark selectmen asked legislative liaison Russell Smith to submit a home rule petition to state lawmakers that would enable the Engley land swap to move forward as soon as possible so that land set aside for affordable housing could be sub-divided into four lots.
The agenda included a presentation by County Commissioners Tristan Israel of Tisbury and Leonard Jason of Chilmark. The commissioners were there as part of an Island-wide county effort to talk about areas where the county could assist the towns.
The reaction was decidedly cool. The selectmen noted the county's decision to ignore the recommendation of a county manager selection committee to re-advertise for county manager candidates.
"The relationship between the county and the boards of selectmen probably took a hit," said chairman Warren Doty.
to host information session
Falmouth Academy will host an information session for students and their families interested in learning more about the school at the home of Falmouth Academy parents Gary Stuber and Tamara Weiss at 19 North Rd., Chilmark on Sunday, Nov. 18, from 2 to 4 pm.
Falmouth Academy is a deliberately small, academically rigorous, college-preparatory school for students in grades 7 to 12, according to a press release. Currently, 25 Vineyard students attend the school.
Headmaster David C. Faus and members of the school's faculty will be available to discuss academics, arts electives, sports, and extracurricular school life.
Call 508-457-9696 for information or directions.
West Tisbury dredging project sent to committee
The West Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously last week to submit the permitting and design work request for the Mill Pond dredging project to the town's capital improvements committee.
The selectmen sent a letter to the committee requesting $50,000 to hire a consultant to get the necessary permits and come up with the design. The committee must approve all projects that cost more than $5,000.
The selectmen also discussed the possibility of putting an article on the April annual town meeting warrant to pay for the dredging. Selectmen Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter said he would not support the use of town money for the project and suggested private money be found.
In other business, the selectmen voted 2-1 to meet with the Dukes County commissioners to discuss the future of county government in 2008. Mr. Manter cast the dissenting vote. He said he wanted to wait to see what the voters decide about the future of county government.
Nov. 15 is key for health insurance enrollment
Most Massachusetts residents must be enrolled in a health care insurance plan by Dec. 31, or face a tax penalty. But state officials urge everyone to enroll by Nov. 15, so that paperwork can be completed and the first payment can be received prior to Dec. 1. Commonwealth Care plans, for individuals who earn less than the established income guidelines, begin on the first of each month. Dec. 1 is effectively the last chance to comply with new universal health-care legislation.
"It's not quite that black and white," cautions Sarah Kuh, director of Vineyard Health Care Access Program. In her experience, the application and approval process often gets delayed, and at this point, any delay is likely to leave the applicant without insurance by December 1.
"We're on the threshold of being too late," said Ms. Kuh yesterday. "A complete application needs to be fully approved by Nov. 15, having all the paperwork go through the system." Approval requires verification of income, citizenship, and identification, and the burden is on the applicant to provide that documentation.
Anyone not enrolled by the end of the year faces the loss of the personal exemption when filing 2007 state tax returns. That amounts to $219 for most people.
Penalties will increase substantially in 2008 if one is not enrolled in a qualified plan. Uninsured adults can be fined an amount equal to 1/2 of the monthly premium cost of the most affordable health plan available to them.
In some ways signing up is easier for Island residents than others in Massachusetts. With rare exceptions, only one of the state's four managed care plans, Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan, is available to Island residents. Vineyard Health Care Access (508-696-0020) is the only agency on the Vineyard authorized by the state to enroll people.
Other options for enrollment are the Commonwealth Connector web site at www.mahealthconnector.org, Commonwealth Health Connector at 1-877-623-6765, or Boston Medical HealthNet Plan, 1-800-792-4355.
Premiums are based on ability to pay. Ms. Kuh urges local residents to enroll as soon as possible, and her agency will be ready to enroll people even after the Nov. 15 deadline.
As of Nov. 1, 839 Vineyard residents had enrolled in Commonwealth Care.
Veira Park Little League project faces legal challenge
A group of 12 Oak Bluffs residents filed suit on Oct. 22 in Dukes County Superior Court to challenge the use of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to add a second baseball diamond and other improvements to Veira Park.
The project is currently under review by the Martha's Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact.
Listed as plaintiffs are Jesse J. Williams, Ann L. Margetson, Amy Billings, Eric Shenhom, Michelle Ratte, Anne M. Bromwell, Margaret O'Keefe McGrath, Kathleen Nasser, Stephanie K. Michalczyk, Deborah Dean, Marjorie Fulp, and Dan Fulp.
CPA funds are generated by a property tax surcharge, matched by state funds, and earmarked for specific uses.
In September, a Middlesex superior court judge ruled that the city of Newton could not use CPA funds to renovate two city parks, because the projects did not fit the law's definition of preservation, or acquisition of open space. Newton has appealed the ruling.
"Preservation is defined in the statute quite narrowly as protection of personal or real property from injury, harm, or destruction, but not maintenance," said Ellen Kaplan, an Edgartown attorney representing the Oak Bluffs residents in the lawsuit. "The judge in the Newton case rejected that adding new facilities to an existing recreational parcel could come in under maintenance. Our theory is partly the same. It's not preservation, and it's certainly not acquisition. It's not creation of land for recreation use."
Considerable uncertainty remains about the intent of the law. Similar court challenges are underway in several towns, and the rulings may affect CPA-funded projects in other Island towns.
"This is an issue which many towns are confronting - the city of Newton, the towns of Wayland, Weston and others," said Ron Rappaport, Oak Bluffs town counsel. "While there has been an impact on our case, the facts were quite a bit different. Myself and other town counsel and CPA committees are waiting for guidance from the appellate court."
Mr. Rappaport said the town would respond to the complaint at the appropriate time.
Cape workshop will cover financial aid process
Congressman Bill Delahunt and the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority will sponsor a forum on financial aid from 10 am to noon Saturday, November 10, at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay.
"This year, the Congress followed through with a commitment to make college more affordable for all Americans and passed the single largest investment in college financial assistance in over 50 years," Mr. Delahunt said in prepared remarks. "The purpose of this forum is to provide families with the information that they need as they begin to plan for impending college costs."
Officials from the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority will provide an overview of several topics, which will include information on completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the financial aid application and award process, and MEFA's parent assistance services.
Representatives from local area colleges will be available to speak with students and their parents beginning at 9 am.
In September, the President signed into law the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, a "New Direction" legislative priority of this Congress, according to a press release provided by Congressman Delahunt's office. This legislation includes measures to ease the financial burden imposed on students and families by the cost of college. The legislation cuts interest rates in half on subsidized student loans over the next four years; increases the maximum Pell Grant scholarships over the next 5 years; expands eligibility through needs analysis to include and serve more students with financial need; provides upfront tuition assistance to qualified undergraduate students who commit to teach in public schools; and provides loan forgiveness after 10 years of public service.
For more information about federal student financial aid, such as eligibility requirements, application instructions, or repayment options, call Representative Delahunt's office toll-free at 800-794-9911.
"Shibori," artisans holiday shop,
Tomorrow three local artists will open "Shibori" for the holiday season. The store is located in The Mansion House in Vineyard Haven and features the works of artists Margot Parrot, Robert Osborne, and Jamie Rogers.
Margot Parrot's dyeing methods are borrowed from multiple cultures, using modern dyes that are machine washable.
Robert Osborne's recent works on paper feature mixed media and collage using papers from the German papermaker, Gmund.
Jamie Rogers, of Stones of the Earth, creates silver and crystal fine art jewelry. Rogers studied at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.
For more information call 508-696-5459.
Harborside Realty expands staff
Angela "Pink" LeRoyer has joined Harborside Realty of Edgartown as a sales associate. Ms. LeRoyer worked for the past 12 years as a paralegal and administrative assistant at the Edgartown law office of Reynolds, Rappaport & Kaplan, LLC, where she was involved in real estate matters. Ms. LeRoyer is the wife of Bill LeRoyer, principal and co-owner of Harborside Realty.
Island Club adds to member benefits
Our Island Club, a buying club for Islanders that provides a variety of discounts for goods and services while donating a percentage of member's fees to Island nonprofits, has joined with One Big-Planet, a members discount program.
Members can enjoy daily savings of up to 50 percent, according to a press release at over 80 participating merchant locations nationwide.
Our Island Club has more than 2,400 members who enjoy discounts at more than 100 participating businesses and has donated in excess of $35,000 to Island organizations, according to a press release.
Members can visit www.OurIslandClub.com to enroll for their free benefits program. For more information, contact Geoff Rose at 508-696-5430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
An error in a story published on Nov. 1, "Aquinnah wins costly lawsuit, begun in 1977," made its way into the headline. The correct date is 1997.
A story published Nov. 1, "Special Ed need grows," reported that the total number of students in Martha's Vineyard public schools was 2,120. That figure did not take into account the 172 students at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School. The correct total is 2,292.