News in Brief
Interviews set for Martha's Vineyard Regional High School principal semi-finalists
The search committee for a new principal for Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) has scheduled interviews on Jan. 23-24 with five semi-finalists chosen from a field of 12 applicants.
Search committee co-chairman Laurie Halt said next week's interviews will not be open to the public, at the request of one candidate who would like to remain anonymous unless he or she is chosen as a finalist. Ms. Halt said that one of the five candidates is from the Island.
Once the first round of interviews is completed, the search committee will make its recommendations to superintendent of schools James Weiss, Ms. Halt said. He and the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School school committee then will schedule public interviews with the finalists.
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School principal Margaret (Peg) Regan submitted her resignation last September, effective at the end of the school year in June. The school committee agreed with Mr. Weiss's recommendation to form an in-house committee to find a new principal, rather than paying a search firm.
The principal's job was advertised in local and regional newspapers and national educator publications, as well as in letters sent to Blue Ribbon Schools. Twelve candidates submitted applications by the Nov. 20 deadline.
MVC turns attention to Vineyard living
The Martha's Vineyard Commission ambitious three-year plan to chart the future of the Vineyard known as the Island Plan has taken up a variety of topics including housing, energy, and growth.
On Wednesday night, the Island Plan turns its attention to living on the Vineyard with what is described as a "social environment work group kick-off workshop."
According to a press release, the work group will look at the human aspects of the Island, such as the characteristics of the population and community; social, health, educational, and recreational services, and culture.
The workshop begins at 7 pm at the Oak Bluffs Senior Center. The public is invited to participate.
For more information, go to www.islandplan.org or contact MVC planner Bill Veno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-693-3453.
Principal Michael Halt awarded Bronze Star
West Tisbury School principal Michael Halt, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, received a Bronze Star for meritorious service during his tour in Iraq from March to September 2007. Mr. Halt received the medal in a ceremony last Saturday at Naval Station Newport, R.I.
Mr. Halt serves as a military advisor to the U.S. Navy Seabees in the 7th Naval Construction Regiment based in Newport. Mr. Halt was assigned as the military advisor to the U.S. Navy Seabees of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in Camp Fallujah, Iraq, to aid and advise Navy engineers who were working alongside the Marines. He was sent with the first group of Seabees from his unit to go to Iraq last March.
Lt. Col. Halt's Bronze Star citation, signed by Lt. Gen. S. T. Helland, USMC, Commander, USMC Forces, Central Command, highlighted Lieutenant Colonel Halt's leadership and tactical expertise in ensuring the safe conduct of more than 450 tactical and logistical convoys. "Lieutenant Colonel Halt's total effectiveness, forceful leadership, and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service," read the citation.
Mr. Halt, West Tisbury School principal since 2004, kept in touch with his students and staff through Internet blog entries in which he described his experiences as he traveled to Al Taqaddum, Al Asad, Ramadi, and Fallujah. He returned to the Vineyard and a warm welcome by the school on Sept. 24.
No budget yet for Up-Island school district
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee, which squares off in another budget battle go-round next Tuesday night. The school committee meeting starts at 5 pm with a report from an auditor in the West Tisbury School Library.
After two meetings and six hours of discussion so far, the committee failed to achieve a two-thirds majority vote to approve the school district's fiscal year 2009 (FY09) budget, which was supposed to be wrapped up by Dec. 31, according to the terms of the regional agreement.
Amy Tierney, the assistant superintendent for business affairs, said the draft budget has been amended since December to reflect new costs. "The latest version represents a 1.64 percent increase in the operational budget, and the bottom line we're assessing to the towns is an increase of 3.65 percent over fiscal year 2008," she said.
The proposed FY09 budget for both schools is $8,330,000 (including the superintendent's costs), compared to $8,196,000 last year. Chilmark School's FY09 operating budget at $1,000,476 represents a decrease of 2.91 percent from $1,030,469 in FY08. West Tisbury School's FY09 operating budget rose only slightly to $5,139,000 from $5,059,000 in FY08, a 1.53 percent increase. New cost increases include $30,500 for the Dukes County retirement board, $13,500 for unemployment insurance from the state's Department of Work Force Development, and about $45,000 to cover the debt incurred on the West Tisbury School addition in the 1990's, Ms. Tierney said.
The cost of shared programs in superintendent of schools James Weiss's budget is up by about 24 percent for the UIRSD due to the addition of some new special education programs and a facilities manager to his staff. However, at the regional high school's budget meeting a few weeks ago, however, Mr. Weiss agreed to remove the position, which will result in a decrease of $19,333 for the UIRSD.
The UIRSD school committee's last vote on the budget split 3 to 2, with school committee members Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter and Roxanne Ackerman voting against it. Both expressed concerns about adding administrators and staff members in view of declining enrollment and growing costs. Enrollment at West Tisbury School went up this year from 273 to 283 students, and down at Chilmark School from 50 to 42 students.
Sheriff's Meadow hires new executive director
Stephen Crampton, president of the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation (SMF), confirmed yesterday that the private conservation organization is negotiating to hire a new executive director to lead the land conservation organization.
He is Adam Moore, currently the executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, the oldest private nonprofit environmental organization in Connecticut. Mr. Moore is already familiar with the Vineyard's political and environmental landscape.
Mr. Crampton told The Times that Sheriff's Meadow offered Mr. Moore the job, and he accepted, subject to final agreement over the terms of a contract. Mr. Crampton said that Mr. Moore's past experience makes him a perfect fit.
In February 1998, the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank hired Mr. Moore, who received his master's degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in 1995, to be the public land conservation agency's land superintendent. He left that job for his home state of Connecticut late in 2001.
He and his wife maintained ownership of their house in Oak Bluffs. They have four children, ages one through 11 years of age. Mr. Moore told The Times that he and his wife are very excited to be moving back to the Vineyard.
Sheriff's Meadow leaders announced last summer that the organization would turn its focus to land management and restoration. As part of that shift in direction, executive director Dick Johnson, a biologist by training, stepped down from the administrative position he has held for 17 years, in order to fill the newly created position of restoration ecologist.
Yesterday, Mr. Johnson said he was very excited about the news and looked forward to working with Mr. Moore. "It's going to be great," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Sheriff's Meadow owns or manages approximately 2,600 acres. Mr. Moore is expected to begin his new job in May.
Three seek county Steamship Authority appointment
A retired maritime industry executive, a former Steamship Authority (SSA) employee, and the incumbent boatline member seeking reappointment will compete for the Vineyard seat on the Steamship Authority's five-member board.
The Dukes County commissioners are expected to interview the three candidates for the three-year term when the commission next meets on Wednesday. Appointing the Vineyard Steamship Authority member is one of several appointments that fall to the seven county commissioners.
Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, in a two-page letter that outlines the board's accomplishments during his tenure, asked the commissioners for a second term. Mr. Hanover said that he has done his best to be responsive to the needs of Islanders and worked to improve Steamship Authority operations.
His appointment almost four years ago, following the death of former Steamship Authority member Kathryn Roessel, marked a sea change in the tenor of the previously tumultuous board meetings. By all accounts, Mr. Hanover, owner of Linda Jean's Restaurant in Oak Bluffs, is respected by his fellow board members and SSA management.
The commissioners will also consider a request for appointment from Rodney M. Elden of Oak Bluffs. Mr. Elden's resume includes several executive positions in the maritime industry and official appointments to industry boards. A summer visitor, Mr. Elden moved to the Vineyard two years ago. He said one of his major concerns is ferry safety.
A former Steamship Authority employee and union representative is also interested in serving on the authority board. Rick McElhinney of Tisbury said he retired from the SSA in February 2006, after more than 22 years on the job. Mr. McElhinney said that his familiarity with the boatline would be a distinct advantage and help him to implement ideas that would benefit the traveling public. He said the SSA's frontline employees are often blamed for rising costs at the same time that little attention is focused on the costs associated with management.
Cape Wind supporters buoyed by federal report
Supporters of the Cape Wind project say they are confident the project will move forward after getting a federal review Monday, but opponents said the report failed to address some key issues.
After a two-year review, the Minerals Management Service released a draft environmental impact statement on the project, which seeks to erect 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound. Federal officials cited no major environmental impacts of the project in the 2,000-page report. Opponents of the project contend the turbines would ruin scenic views and threaten the habitats of birds, fish, and marine mammals.
The draft environmental impact study is the most recent step in the 182.6-megawatt renewable energy project that was first proposed by Cape Wind Associates LLC in 2001.
In the report, federal officials cited "negligible and minor" impacts on environmental conditions including water quality, coastal vegetation, and noise pollution.
The minerals agency, which is a U.S. Department of the Interior agency tasked with managing national natural gas, oil and other mineral resources, plans to issue its final recommendations later this year. Agency officials said it's the first offshore wind energy project to go before it for review. The project moves forward if Cape Wind wins approval for a lease, easement or right-of-way approval by the U.S. Department of Interior under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
The minerals agency plans a public comment period on the draft report for 60 days beginning on Jan. 18. The agency is hosting four public hearings in March at West Yarmouth, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and UMass Boston.
If the approval process advances further this year, said Mr. Gordon, the company plans to start construction in 2010 and have the turbines operational by 2011.
Reporting provided by the State House News Service
Menemsha slip lawsuit goes back to court
A Middlesex Superior Court judge has allowed a lawsuit filed by boat owner Paul DeJesus against the town of Chilmark and selectman J. B. Riggs Parker to proceed. Mr. Parker is named, both in his capacity as a selectman and individually.
Associate Justice Linda E. Giles reinstated the lawsuit on Dec. 20, after it was amended to claim that the town and Mr. Parker discriminated against Mr. DeJesus by allowing a politically connected boat owner extended stays in Menemsha Harbor, while denying him the same privilege.
The amended lawsuit also names as a defendant harbormaster Dennis Jason, individually and in his official capacity.
Mr. Parker has played a lead role in drafting new harbor regulations and pushing for consistent enforcement.
In November, a Middlesex Superior Court judge rejected a claim by Mr. DeJesus, a long-time transient boat visitor to Menemsha, that he had a grandfathered right to continue to dock his 70-foot Hatteras yacht in excess of the time period allowed by Chilmark harbor regulations.
Town regulations, adopted by the three-member board of selectmen in 1996, limit tie-ups for transient boats to 14 days between July 1 and Labor Day, and require that boaters leave for one week before they can request dockage again.
Attorney Leonard Kesten, who represents the town, told The Times that he will ask the judge to dismiss the amended lawsuit at the appropriate time. "Everybody in the world is being treated the same," said Mr. Kesten. "This is unfortunate that people have gone to the court system over this."
Mr. DeJesus charges that the town allows Maurice Templeton, a former companion of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, to keep his boat Relamar in Menemsha in violation of harbor regulations that limit dockage to 14 consecutive days.
"They're discriminating against me because they are not fairly and evenly enforcing their regulations on anyone," Mr. DeJesus told The Times. "The only one their regulations were enforced on in 2006 was me."
Court rejects bid to upsize replacement homes on substandard lots
In a legal challenge that began in Edgartown, the state's highest court has strengthened the hand of town zoning officials, in a decision concerning property owners in Norwell who wanted to tear down a house on a lot smaller than current zoning regulations allow, in order to build a bigger house.
The case affirms that zoning officials in Island towns have wide latitude to preserve the character of communities through zoning regulations.
William Rossi, chairman of the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) in Chilmark, lauded the ruling, saying it helps preserve harbor communities like Menemsha, where a similar case recently arose.
"If something is before us, if it's not allowed as of right, we can pretty much make a determination about whether it's out of character," said Mr. Rossi.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) handed down the ruling on Jan. 7. The court voted 5-2 that the Norwell property owners did not have a right to build the bigger house, without a special permit from the ZBA.
The legal principle was the foundation of a ruling by the state Supreme Court in 2005, when a Katama property owner wanted to remove an old home and build a home approximately twice the size.
That case went to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, where the court ruled in Edgartown's favor. That case also affirmed the ZBA right to deny a permit, on the grounds that the home was detrimental to the neighborhood.
Because the Edgartown case affirmed a lower court's ruling in a 3-3 vote, and because many Massachusetts towns are grappling with the specific zoning issue, the justices sought to clarify the ruling by reviewing the case from Norwell.
The only difference in the Norwell case was the size of the new home. In that case the owners wanted to tear down an existing home, and build another with more than six times the living space.
LWV sponsors immigration issues forum
The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Martha's Vineyard will take up the often emotional and complex issues surrounding immigration at an informational meeting open to the public on January 26.
The meeting is part of an effort by the League's national organization to facilitate discussion at the local level in anticipation of establishing a formal position and lobbying for specific laws and regulations, said Susan Wasserman of West Tisbury, a LWV representative.
According to a press release, topics that will be presented for discussion include: federal immigration policy regarding family reunification, students, work visas; enforcement issues with our current federal immigration policy; what motivates immigration to America; and economic aspects of legal and illegal immigration.
Information will be presented by local League members assisted by Seth Miller, an immigration attorney with the law firm of Wynn & Wynn of Raynham.
Ms. Wasserman said the League prides itself on presenting all points of view. She said there would be an opportunity to ask questions following the presentations.
The Saturday meeting begins at 9 am in the Howes House in West Tisbury, opposite Alley's General Store. Light refreshments will be served beginning at 8:30.
For more information, call Susan Wasserman at 508-693-3671.
Vineyard offender charged in Cape crimes
An Edgartown man on probation for a robbery on Martha's Vineyard was arrested Monday and linked to eight smash-and-grab robberies on Cape Cod over the past month.
Sean Wilcoxson, 20, listed his address as 39 Pearl Street in Hyannis. Police say he is on probation from Edgartown District Court, resulting from an arrest for breaking and entering.
Barnstable police say a vehicle registered to Mr. Wilcoxson was captured on surveillance video near one of the robberies, and later spotted by an off-duty police officer.
Mr. Wilcoxson was arraigned Tuesday on 14 separate charges, involving eight different robberies in the towns of Barnstable, Yarmouth, and Sandwich. Not guilty pleas were entered for all charges.
He was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail.
Police say two others were involved in the robberies, and they expect to make more arrests soon.
A story published in the Jan. 10 issue of The Times, "Fresh not frozen, Farm to School's initiative," incorrectly identified the Island Grown Initiative (IGI) in the first sentence as the Farm Grown Initiative.
Melinda DeFeo was incorrectly identified as the founder of IGI. She shares that distinction with Randi Baird, Steve Bernier, Rebecca Miller, and Liz Thompson.