West Tisbury will keep single tax rate
In a unanimous vote, the West Tisbury selectmen last week agreed to keep a single tax rate for all property classes, including residential, commercial, industrial, and personal.
Assistant assessor Christina West had presented the selectmen with different options to shift the tax burden. Since 97 percent of the taxable property in West Tisbury is residential, the rest commercial, selectmen chose to keep the single rate system they have been using. "It's been that way [a single tax rate] for years, and the character of the town has not changed much," said chairman Glenn Hearn.
Selectmen set the tax rate at $4.10 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $2,050 in taxes for a piece of property valued at $500,000.
Town accountant Bruce Stone provided a brief explanation of why the town has an excess of so-called free cash. The town has $787,532 in free cash available. Free cash represents the difference, often a positive balance, between a town's budget and the amount of tax revenue raised, certified by the state Department of Revenue.
Break-in at Tea Lane Christmas Shoppe
The Tea Lane Christmas Shoppe at 259 State Road reported a robbery last Sunday morning. Tisbury police officer Kelly Kershaw responded to a call at 10:40 am from an employee who arrived to go to work and found the cash register and money missing, including donations to the Red Stocking Fund.
Sergeant Rodney Silvia said on Tuesday that there was no sign of forced entry at the store. "We're continuing to investigate, and encourage anyone who might have any leads to give us a call," he said.
Office manager Mia Espy said the store donates to the Red Stocking fund every year, matching what customers donate. The collection box is set up by the cash register.
"The loss of the Red Stocking Fund bothers me more than the money in the cash register - that's to help kids," said Matthew Tobin, owner and president of Tea Lane Nursery in Chilmark, whose letter to the editor about the theft appears on Page 14 of today's paper.
The Christmas Shoppe leases the Eden Market and Garden Center, which closes down in late fall. "It keeps my employees working until Christmas so they get a full paycheck, and I also enjoy seeing our customers over the holidays," Mr. Tobin said. "I hope whoever took the money really needed it, and if they did, they should have just come to me and asked. I would have helped them out.
Edgartown supports private ferry purchase
Edgartown selectman Monday approved a resolution in support of private purchase of the Chappaquiddick ferry.
According to town administrator Pamela Dolby, ferry captain Peter Wells is eager to move forward with negotiations to purchase the business from long-time owner Roy Hayes. Mr. Wells did not return phone calls from the Times seeking comment.
Earlier this year, Mr. Hayes offered to sell the ferry to the town, at a price of $3 million. A committee appointed by the selectmen recommended against the town purchasing the ferry and running it as a town department.
"I guess the town is just not interested, so that's irrelevant," said Mr. Hayes on Wednesday.
The ferry committee's report also recommended against continuing the licensing arrangement they have had with Mr. Hayes with the future owner, but fell short of specific recommendations to address the frustration of Chappaquiddick residents who expressed concern at two public hearings about the ferry's future. Among the complaints are rising fares, long staging lines, and the level of service.
Edgartown selectman have taken no action on the committee's recommendations, but they wanted to clarify that they supported Mr. Wells in his efforts to secure private sale of the Chappy ferry.
Electrical problem trips up Island Home
The Steamship Authority's (SSA) Island Home ferry was unable to sail on her 6:15 pm and 8:30 pm trips to Martha's Vineyard Tuesday night.
Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson said that a voltage regulator that has proven to be problematic in the past failed. The part was replaced yesterday.
The Steamship Authority ran an unscheduled freight boat and added a 9:45 trip by the Martha's Vineyard. He said the SSA left no reservations behind, but the standby line was closed, disappointing travelers who had expected to make a crossing that evening.
Chilmark selectmen want slimmer county government
Chilmark selectmen Tuesday told Paddy Moore of West Tisbury, Dukes County Charter Study Commission (DCCSC) vice chairman, they want to see changes in county government.
Ms. Moore was there on behalf of the committee that is examining the future of county government, as part of an outreach effort to solicit the opinions of Island selectmen.
Ms. Moore said the DCCSC had examined several options, including eliminating county government altogether, keeping the county manager form of government but tweaking it for improved efficiency, and electing an executive county commissioner in place of a county manager.
Selectman Riggs Parker suggested decreasing the number of county commissioners from seven to three, in order to decrease the county bureaucracy. "I don't want them to have a place to hide," he said.
Mr. Parker also took issue with the budget for the office of the county manager, estimated to cost $175,000 in the next fiscal year. "The county manager budget is way out of whack for what the responsibilities are," he said.
Mr. Parker said the county commissioners should take on as much responsibility as Island selectmen do.
Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll, a former county commissioner and acting county manager, said the county commissioners have very limited power granted them under the existing county charter. He suggested the commissioners have more power, and the county manager have less.
Selectmen Warren Doty said he would like to see the county commissioners, now elected in November, elected in the spring at the same time as local officials. "Now the county commissioners are at the bottom of the ballot, and the election doesn't get a lot of attention," he said.
Mr. Parker agreed. He said that if the county commissioners were elected at the same time as other local officials it would attract more attention from voters.
Ms. Moore said the election date could be changed with approval of the state legislature.
In other business, the selectmen unanimously reappointed Chris Murphy to the Martha's Vineyard Commission. They also approved the housing committee's homesite guidelines and rental guidelines.
Aquinnah affordable parcel awarded to Ms. Ignacio
The Aquinnah affordable housing committee and the non-profit Island Housing Trust announced last week that a town-owned parcel on Church Street in Aquinnah was awarded to Amera Ignacio of Aquinnah.
Ownership of the parcel was transferred to IHT, which will ground lease the parcel. Ms. Ignacio was chosen through a town lottery process under the oversight of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, according to a press release.
Ms. Ignacio will build her own house as part of the Resident Homesite Program. This is the second collaboration between the Trust and the town.
The IHT ground lease is designed to make sure the property stays permanently affordable while also providing the town certain assurances including local preference, long-term affordability, project monitoring, and affordable purchase options in the event of resale.
Edgartown shellfish constable honored
Edgartown shellfish constable Paul Bagnall received the 2006 Massachusetts shellfish officer of the year award Monday at Edgartown town hall. Mr. Bagnall has been the town's shellfish constable for 23 years.
A large contingent of shellfish officers from Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod were on hand for the ceremony. Also attending was Michael Hickey, a shellfish biologist from the state's Division of Marine Fisheries.
"He's worked hard to propagate shellfish, he's been involved in many innovative programs," said Mr. Hickey.
Mr. Bagnall thanked taxpayers for support of programs to expand the town's commercial and recreational shellfish stocks.
"Fortunately we live in a town that has a rich heritage of shellfisheries," said Mr. Bagnall. "It's a great honor."
The award is given each year to one officer from the 57 member towns in the Massachusetts Shellfish Officers Association.
Steamship Authority numbers up as November ends
With just a few days remaining, the Steamship Authority's traffic figures for 2007, as of the end of November, show modest upticks. Passengers are up 2.1 percent, or about 42 thousand travelers, and autos are up eight tenths of a percent, about 3,000 cars. On the other hand, freight figures show a 5.5 percent decline. Steamship Authority passenger and auto traffic has declined for several years, prior to 2007, for both Nantucket and the Vineyard operations. This year, as of the end of November, Nantucket passengers were up 7.4 percent, autos up 1.9 percent, and freight off 2.2 percent.
Passenger revenue, as November ended, was up 12.6 percent, for the line as a whole, due largely to rate increases. Auto revenue was up 8.3 percent, and freight was up 7.7 percent, despite the decline in volume.
Farm Neck Foundation announces annual grants
The Farm Neck Foundation recently announced it would award a total of $51,800 in grants to 13 separate Vineyard organizations in 2007. The Foundation is an independent charitable corporation created by the Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs to provide charitable assistance exclusively on Martha's Vineyard, according to a press release announcing the grants.
The largest single grant is a $25,000 pledge toward a YMCA of Martha's Vineyard building.
Foundation grants included: $5,000 to the Vineyard Health Access Care Program to help fund a prescription medication assistance program; $2,500 to Friends of Sengekontacket for bacterial testing of Senekontacket Pond; $2,200 to the Vineyard Nursing Association to purchase equipment; $2,000 to the Vineyard Playhouse to purchase a copier/printer/scanner; $2,500 for the repair and maintenance of the American Legion Post and Seaman's Bethel; and $2,600 to purchase a water filtration system for the Island Children's School.
Stop & Shop parking lot tussle ends with shoplifting charge
Edgartown Police arrested Eugene Courtney, 67, of Edgartown for shoplifting, following a tussle on Wednesday last week in the Stop & Shop Supermarket parking lot on Upper Main Street,.
Police received a call that store manager David Gauvain was attempting to restrain a man in the store's parking lot. When police officers arrived shortly after 11 am, Mr. Gauvain was holding onto Mr. Courtney in the parking lot.
According to the incident report, Mr. Gauvain told police he saw Mr. Courtney place several items under his coat and leave the store.
When asked by police what he had under his coat, Mr. Courtney produced a package of four GE light bulbs, two pairs of utility gloves, Pristine windshield de-icer, and three packages of Nabisco wafers.
Mr. Courtney was placed under arrest and taken to the Dukes County Jail where he was booked and later released on his own recognizance. He has yet to be arraigned.
Mr. Gauvain declined comment, citing store policy.
Mr. Courtney, a well-known Edgartown figure, owns a number of prominent Edgartown commercial and residential properties with an assessed value of approximately $13.8 million, according to town records.
Reached at his home Tuesday evening, Mr. Courtney said it is an embarrassing situation for him, and that he is seeking professional help.
Island veterans honored at wreath ceremony
A special Wreaths Across America ceremony held at Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven Saturday honored those who gave their lives in military service to their country. In the photo above, Islanders who served in the military take part in the ceremony by placing wreaths at the base of flags representing their branches of service. They included, from left, Lt. James Craig, U.S. Navy, Lance Corporal Woodrow Williams, U.S. Marine Corps, Sr. Master Sgt. David Kann, U.S. Air Force, Petty Officer Nicolas Prescott, U.S. Coast Guard Menemsha station, Cpt. Richard Reinhardsen, Merchant Marines, and Maj. Stan Mercer, U.S. Air Force, who was assisted in placing a wreath in memory of prisoners of war (POW's) and those missing in action by former World War II POW Lt. Col. Curtis Jones (not pictured). Sgt. Paul Humber, representing the U.S. Army, also is not pictured.
The Worcester Wreath Company in Harrington, Maine, provided the seven wreaths.
Despite last Saturday's frigid temperatures, a small group of Islanders attended the event. Dukes County Director of Veterans Services Jo Ann Murphy hosted the special ceremony which took place at noon, at the same time as similar ceremonies held in more than 230 state and national cemeteries and veterans' monuments nationwide.
David Berube, a chaplain with the Massachusetts Air National Guard and an Oak Bluffs police officer, started the ceremony with a prayer. American Legion member Edson Rodgers performed above and beyond duty by playing taps on his bugle despite the lip-numbing cold.
The Worcester Wreath Company has provided more than 5,000 holiday wreaths to place on every headstone at Arlington National Cemetery for 16 years. This was the second year for the Wreaths Across America program on the Island.
Richards trial delayed, new charge filed
The trial of 38-year old Tisbury resident Blake Richards, a computer technician accused of exposing himself during a repair call, was delayed last week after Tisbury Police filed an additional charge of indecent assault and battery.
The trial was rescheduled for January 30.
This is the second time since his arrest on March 21 that Mr. Richards has been in Edgartown District Court for arraignment on additional charges.
As a result of new information received by prosecutors during interviews with the victim in that case, Tisbury police filed the new assault and battery charge earlier this month. Mr. Richards entered a plea of not guilty to the latest charge last Monday in court.
Following the initial news reports of Mr. Richards' arrest five other people came forward with similar accusations dating back to 2003, but police were able to file charges in only one case. Mr. Richards is also due to go to trial in connection with a charge of exposing himself to a 12-year-old girl in October 2006.
Also in district court last Monday, 50-year-old John Cecilio of Tisbury was arraigned on charges of indecent assault and battery on a retarded person. According to the police report, Mr. Cecilio was arrested at his home on Saturday December 8. He was released on $1,000 cash bail and ordered not to have any contact with the victim in the case.
Artisan's Gift Gallery holds Friday reception
The Artisan's Gift Gallery, a holiday artist's cooperative located at Beth McElhiney's Gallery on State Road next to Cronig's in Vineyard Haven will hold an artist's reception Friday evening from 4 to 7 pm.
Featured artists will include Jeri Dantzig, Amy Nevin, and Washington Ledesma showing a wide range of glass and ceramic creations created especially for the holiday season.
The gallery is open in December daily from 10 to 6 pm.
Participating artists include Jeri Dantzig, Dan Waters, Diana Stewart, Kathy Tackabury, Beldan K. Radcliffe, Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, Amy Nevin, Washington Ledesma, Marie Meyer-Barton, and L.A. Brown.
Physical therapists study latest rehab treatments
Larry Greenberg and Deborah Shipkin of Greenberg Physical and Hand Therapy Associates in West Tisbury recently attended two separate conferences about various treatment techniques.
The Boston Shoulder Symposium presented advanced surgical and rehabilitation techniques for the treatment of shoulder injuries. The duo also attended a seminar in Burlington Vermont titled "the efficacy of low level lasers in physical therapy" and received certification in the use of the Erchonia laser, which has been found effective for physical therapy, according to a press release. For more information, call 508-696-9171.