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Oak Bluffs

— File photo by Susan Safford

Earlier this month the Ocean View Restaurant in Oak Bluffs came under the ownership of Mike Santoro, who owns the Lookout Tavern and Fishbones Grille. Mr. Santoro purchased the restaurant from Ron and Peggy Jackson, who had owned the popular year-round restaurant for close to 35 years.

New General Manager Jennifer Toppin, formerly of the Lookout Tavern, notes that the tried-and-true Ocean View menu will remain intact, with some new additions that were popular at the Lookout, including the Tuesday-night burger special. Now Ocean View customers can enjoy a ½-lb. burger with cheese for $8, or a specialty burger for $10, which includes fries. Customers can still take advantage of the popular prime rib special on Saturdays and lobster night on Wednesdays.

The Ocean View serves a full menu for lunch and dinner daily, including Sundays, from 11:30 am to 10 pm. Their pizza and bar menu is also available until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. Ms. Toppin said that the restaurant can accommodate large parties, and is a great option for the sporting groups crowd after a late game, given their reliable late hours.

Mr. Santoro and Ms. Toppin also managed the serving staff at this past Saturday’s Big Chili Contest. “Now that Chilifest is behind us, we’re excited to hit the ground running. It’s already been amazing, and everyone has been so supportive,” said Ms. Toppin.

To the Editor:

A story published Jan. 15, “Oak Bluffs FinCom objects to hike in school assessment,” suggested that the vote of the Oak Bluffs Finance Committee on Dec. 18, 2014, to send letters to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Committee and the All-Island School Committee was unanimous. It was not.

Six members voted yes and two voted no. One member was absent. At the time of the vote the committee did not have budget information for other town departments, so another member and I thought that sending the letter was, at best, premature.

Maura McGroarty

Oak Bluffs

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Oak Bluffs building inspector Mark Barbadoro has asked permission to inspect the Island theater building to determine if it is unsafe. – Photos by Michael Cummo

Late last week, Oak Bluffs building inspector Mark Barbadoro said, he sent a registered letter to Benjamin Hall Jr. of Edgartown, requesting entry into the Island theater. Mr. Hall, a lawyer, represents the Lucky Seven Trust, the hall’s holding company and owner of record for the moribund and deteriorating building that sits at the foot of Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

Mr. Barbadoro told The Times that as of Wednesday, he has not received a return receipt or a phone call from Mr. Hall. “I requested entry to determine if the theater needs to be placarded as an unsafe building,” Mr. Barbadoro said, adding that he has not been inside the theater since he began working for the town in October.

Oak Bluffs building inspector Mark Barbadoro expects to gain admission soon.
Oak Bluffs building inspector Mark Barbadoro expects to gain admission soon.

“There are three conditions that can render a building unsafe,” he said. “Open and exposed to the weather, which I don’t need entry to make a determination; especially unsafe in case of fire, which I don’t think it is; and structurally unsafe, which right now is a maybe. I don’t want to make their lives difficult, I just want to make sure the building is safe. My objective is to get the building in much better repair by spring. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get it done.”

In an email to The Times on Wednesday, Benjamin Hall Jr. said he was not aware of any letter from Mr. Barbadoro, and indicated that he and his brother and co-owner Brian Hall were in frequent communication with the building inspector.

“The owner has been for some time working closely with the new OB building inspector to get him information he has requested in order for work to be recommenced at the theater,” he said.

Mr. Hall explained that the cease-and-desist order issued last spring by former Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn left the roof in disrepair and the building interior open to the elements, further complicating and delaying repairs. “The only avenue to appeal this order took several months to be heard,” he said. “The State Board voted to reverse the order. Shortly thereafter, the new inspector took over. He has asked for a different series of drawings and the use of construction control to move forward. These have been in process, but I understand there should soon be complete specs and drawings so the repairs can recommence.”

In a conversation with The Times, Brian Hall said he’d been receiving frequent calls from Mr. Barbadoro, and that he’s currently working with engineer Reid Silva to determine what materials will best suit the roof repair. “It’s an old building with a lot of unknown materials, and it’s a complex process for the engineers to determine the best materials that will meet the specs to make it as strong, or stronger, than it was originally built,” he said. “I’m waiting on the certification of that plan so the building inspector will issue the permit for the work.”

Mr. Hall said that there are negotiations with a prospective tenant, whom he declined to name. The tenant will ultimately be responsible for the repairs to the roof, truss, and walls of the theater, but negotiations cannot proceed until the final costs have been determined. “Once I have a building permit with specs of how the job needs to be done, I will give that information to the tenant,” he said.“They need to know what’s required to get the building back into condition before they’ll sign the lease.”

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A chart-topping 180-pound bigeye tuna brought it in at last year's Bluewater Classic.— File photo by Michael Cummo

Oak Bluffs selectmen unanimously approved the return of the Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic at their regular meeting last Tuesday. The tournament will be held July 22 to 25.

Harbormaster Todd Alexander told selectmen that last year’s inaugural event was well run and there were no problems. A total of 25 boats entered the tournament last year.  Mr. Alexander said he’d been informed by tournament organizer Damon Sacco, owner of Castafari Sport Fishing, that he expected at least 40 boats to compete this year.

The Oak Bluffs Bluewater Classic is sanctioned by the International Game Fishing Association, and will operate on a points system. Species that will accrue points are bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, wahoo, mahi-mahi, and marlin. Marlin will be catch and release only. Sharks will have no point value.

Selectmen were also informed that last year, the tournament sponsors donated $3,850 to the Island Autism Group and $9,700 to Massachusetts General Hospital for colon cancer research.

“It’s a great substitute from the previous tournament,” selectman Kathy Burton said, a reference to the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, which ended with the accidental death last January of organizer Steve James.

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Officials vow increased outreach, greater transparency, and a stronger presence in town hall.

Oak Bluffs planning board members Euell Hopkins (left) and Brian Packish want the planning board to play a stronger role in town affairs. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Oak Bluffs officials have good reason to be optimistic in 2015. Reduced deficits, increased reserves, and a stable outlook recently prompted Standard and Poor’s (S&P) to up Oak Bluffs’ town bond rating two grades, from AA- to AA+. New buildings are springing up in the business district, improvements abound on Circuit Avenue, and last month construction began on a new $8.3 million fire station, the town’s first capital project since the library broke ground more than a decade ago.

At the fire station groundbreaking, chairman of the board of selectmen Greg Coogan said the new municipal building embodied a rejuvenated cooperative spirit in town government. “We’ve seen a renewed sense of teamwork here in town, demonstrated by all of you,” he said.

If indeed the new fire station evinces a new spirit of teamwork in Oak Bluffs, members of the town planning board said they were left sitting on the bench. Only a last-minute discovery by the newly hired town building inspector, who legally couldn’t issue construction permits without a site review, gave the planning board a say. Ultimately, the board approved the project with minimal changes and a unanimous vote that was less than enthusiastic.

“Our hands were pretty well tied,” planning board chairman Brian Packish told The Times. “Legally, the planning board has 60 days to vet a project. We had seven days. But the last thing you want to do is show the process being ineffective at this final hour…The hope is we’re going to create a better process and do some things differently in Oak Bluffs.”

In a recent conversation with The Times, Mr. Packish, owner of Packish Landscaping, and board member Ewell Hopkins, an information technology consultant, discussed changes they believe will improve the planning process, increase the board’s efficiency, and make the town more responsive to taxpayers.

Town hall transparency
“There’s a misconception that it’s crazy in O.B., and we’re fighting all the time,” Mr. Packish said. “People are passionate about O.B. When they’re excluded from the process, they make decisions based on rumors because our government isn’t presenting them with facts, soliciting their input, and making decisions based on the will of the people.”

“The process is fundamentally busted,” Mr. Hopkins said. “There are many anecdotal examples that show the lack of appreciation for a collaborative approach in the town. Anytime officials say they want to get something done so they don’t want to involve other voices, they’re reaching a level of arrogance that I don’t support. I don’t think there’s any decision you can make that is a better decision by excluding people.”

“Some people can argue that financially, the town of Oak Bluffs has come a long way, but as we cleaned up our books, the rest of our process stayed as broken as our finances were five years ago,” Mr. Packish said. “In the name of control and in the name of owning and manipulating the process, many, many steps are skipped.”

Mr. Packish cited a Dec. 4 roads and byways committee meeting that was not posted or open to the public. “We had a meeting that was very, very illegal,” he said. “I said, ‘This a quorum, we shouldn’t be having a meeting behind closed doors,’ and Bob [Whritenour] said, ‘Well, we are.’”

Mr. Packish said he was assured by committee chairman and selectman Michael Santoro that no decisions would be made in the meeting. “But that’s not relevant criteria to whether you have a meeting or not,” he said. “And they did make decisions. They picked areas for potential paid parking. They talked a lot about park and ride. I kept asking, ‘When are we going to have a hearing? How do we vet this?’ and there were no answers. Basically what you’re saying is you don’t want to hear from the people who are writing the check. Where else would you go and say, ‘I don’t care what you think, I just want your money’? That’s what the town has been doing.”

Mr. Hopkins said the agenda for the park and ride is an example of a special interest group, in this case the Oak Bluffs Association (OBA), promoting an agenda without input from the wider population. “The OBA hasn’t said, ‘What do we need to do to broaden our perspective on this?’” he said. “They’re coming together to design something based on their perception of need, which in this case is commerce. But you don’t have a residential voice in this discussion; you don’t have an elderly voice in this discussion; you don’t have parents of young children in this discussion. I think those voices are as valuable as the other voices.”

More cohesion
In addition to creating a better working relationship between town government and taxpayers, a priority for the board is to increase efficiency within town hall.

“There’s got to be a central repository for planning,” Mr. Hopkins said. “We don’t do that, because historically whoever had the juice makes the decisions. You can’t properly plan if you don’t know what’s happening in other [departments], and it ain’t happening.”

“Our goal is to create a process that shows cooperation between all of the town boards,” Mr. Packish said. “We’re not looking to own the process, we’re looking to have the information in one place.”

“But,” Mr. Hopkins interjected, you need to have a planning board that has respect in the town. The planning board in Edgartown is listened to by the town. They fund it properly, they give it the authority that it warrants, because they understand the importance of planning. If you look at the budgets at the six towns and look at Oak Bluffs, you can see something is wrong.”

In 2013, the budget for the Edgartown planning board was $77,673, according to the town report. The planning board budget for West Tisbury was $53,574, for Tisbury $60,700, and for Oak Bluffs, the Island’s largest, most populous town, the budget was $7,654.

“Before we spend an extra dime on the planning budget in Oak Bluffs, we have to figure out where we’re spending planning dollars already,” Mr. Hopkins said. “We’ve seen how dispersed the planning process is in other departments; that translates to additional costs. We write a check to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) every year, but what do we get for that money? How many professional planning hours do we get, and who’s auditing it? The relationship with the MVC shouldn’t always be adversarial. Why not take advantage of their resources — the mapping, the traffic studies, et cetera, and in effect, use the expertise we’re already paying for, so we don’t have to carry that load.”

Oak Bluffs assessment in the $1.4 million MVC’s FY16 budget, set to be approved next week, is $141,868.

Broken records
The Edgartown planning board has a support staff of one full-time and one part-time employee. Currently the Oak Bluffs board is allocated five hours a week from Shelly Carter, administrative assistant to the board of selectmen. “Shelly does a great job, but we at least need a part-time administrative assistant,” Mr. Packish said. “In Oak Bluffs, we can’t even document what we’ve done.”

“There’s two years worth of minutes missing from the planning board,” Mr. Hopkins said. “The minutes are in complete disarray. We can’t afford to be so amateuristic. We have major legal challenges ahead, and there’s no documentation. Now the big elephant in the room is Southern Woodlands.”

Mr. Packish said the board was recently informed by MVC development of regional impact (DRI) coordinator Paul Foley that a developer has expressed interest in purchasing the long-troubled tract.

“You can’t just decide that you’re going to allow 70 acres to be developed with no documentation of what transpired up to that,” Mr. Hopkins said. “Right now, legal challenges cannot be defended, because [meeting minutes] are still on tapes that haven’t been transcribed. That’s not acceptable. We’re going to have to get sued for us to realize that we can’t keep doing that.”

Entrenched attitudes
There are long-held beliefs in town hall and in the vox populi that the planning board intends to challenge in 2015. “I hear two things consistently,” Mr. Packish said. “On the one hand I hear [town officials] say, ‘We have to do it this way, otherwise everyone is just going to stop it.’ So they hold it and covet it, and spring it on you at the last minute. Then I talk to people on the street and I say, ‘Why don’t you participate? You’ve got a great idea there. Come to the next meeting.’ They say to me, ‘Why? The decision’s already been made, I’m not going to waste my time.’ We need to bridge those two mindsets.”

“There’s no public input, because fundamentally, starting with the governing body, there’s no appreciation for the importance of public input, and that turns to apathy,” Mr. Hopkins said.

Mr. Packish said the recently formed Downtown Streetscape Committee is an example of how increased outreach can work. “We’ve been tireless in exploiting every avenue,” he said, “from sitting in front of the post office to manning a booth at Harborfest. We went door-to-door to downtown businesses, we did a direct mailing to everybody within 500 feet of the district, and we’ve expanded our social media presence. What we’re finding is people are embracing it. After seeing the amount of participation that we had with the streetscape committee, it feels foreign to me to sit at a meeting and create a park and ride, which is such a big item for our downtown, and see zero outreach.”

Mr. Packish said he is optimistic the the incipient change in 2014 will gain momentum in 2015. “I think the tide is slowly turning,” he said. “We’re seeing more faces at meetings. We’ve had 30 and 40 people at planning board meetings. Not long ago, if 10 people came it was considered a crowd. When you sit in a meeting with 30 to 40 people, when you get constant emails and have constant discussions, you get a really clear sense, very quickly, as to what the people want. It’s really very simple.”

Chairman responds
In a telephone conversation with The Times on Tuesday, chairman of the board of selectmen Greg Coogan responded to some of the concerns Mr. Packish and Mr. Hopkins expressed.

“I don’t feel like that we’ve ignored them. I think the planning board has played an increased role since the downtown study was done with consultants, and got the town looking at itself from someone else’s perspective,” he said. “Brian and Ewell have done a great job, as have all the members of the planning board. We welcome their involvement.”

Mr. Coogan said the board intends to address the administrative shortcomings in this year’s budget. “The budget is tight, but we are looking at giving them more administrative assistance,” he said. “Keep in mind we’re also trying to give more support to the building department and the health department. I’m sure they’ll want more than we can give, but we have to start somewhere. We have a lot of planning to be done in the coming year, and it’s nice to have a board that’s so energetic about the planning process.”

In his budget for FY16, presented to the selectmen Tuesday night, town administrator Robert Whritenour proposed a $12,000 budget for the planning board. The amount is a 57 percent increase over the FY15 budget and the $10,000 allocation for clerical salary almost doubles the $5,654 allocation in FY15, but it falls considerably short of the requested $21,836.

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Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and Tisbury firefighters converged on the Lampost Sunday morning.

As smoke billowed out of the Lampost early Sunday morning, first responders from Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and Edgartown raced to the scene and quickly took their pre-assigned positions. Over the course of the next three hours, firemen battle the “blaze,” searched the four-story structure for victims and rescued a fellow firefighter.

Firefighters prepare to enter the Lampost building amid billowing smoke.
Firefighters prepare to enter the Lampost building amid billowing smoke.

As firemen rolled up the hoses that criss-crossed Kennebec and passers-by did double takes at the victims lying on the ground — mannequins that had been hidden in the building — Chief John Rose provided an assessment of the morning drill. “Overall it went pretty well,” he told The Times.

Mr. Rose said the drill provided valuable information about where to best place equipment, especially Tisbury Fire Tower 1, a ladder engine equipped with a crane and a bucket that can put a firefighter eye level with a blaze, or a struggling victim, on the fifth floor.

The conditions were intended to mimic a real blaze.
The conditions were intended to mimic a real blaze.

Mr. Rose said the glaring inadequacy of the radio communication system was a particular concern. “This has been an Island wide problem for a while now,” he said. “We knew it was an issue but we didn’t realize the extent of it until today. There were times I couldn’t get commands to my men because their radios weren’t working properly. When the Rapid Intervention Team went in on a Mayday call to save a fellow firefighter, they weren’t able to communicate with him and we couldn’t hear where they were. That’s completely unacceptable.”

A firefighter feels his way into the building.
A firefighter feels his way into the building.

Mr. Rose said the exercise took months of planning between him and Edgartown fire chief Peter G. Shemeth, and Tisbury fire chief John Schilling. “It’s good to know these two departments have our backs, because if there is a fire in the downtown area, God forbid, we’re going need to act quickly. I think everybody has a much better idea of their role after today,” he said.

Mr. Rose said grant applications have been submitted to obtain funding infrastructure improvements, such as additional radio transmission towers. “One way or another, we have to do something,” he said.

“We learned a lot about placement of apparatus on Circuit Ave., particularly with Tower 1,” Chief John Schilling told The Times. “It was a challenge to put up ladders at the front of the building because of the sharp slope of the terrain. There’re also a lot of challenges managing personnel at a scene that size.”

Mr. Schilling also expressed concern about the sketchy radio communication. “We need to address our communication challenges,” he said. “We’re using a system that was designed in the 1960’s, where everything flows through one central dispatch. That doesn’t work in a mutual aid situation.”
Mr. Schilling said there will be a meeting next week with all Island fire and police chiefs and representatives from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to address the problem. “Somewhere along the line we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to transition to a new system, unfortunately it’s going to be a significant dollar figure,” Mr. Schilling said.

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A three-company exercise will prepare firefighters and EMTs for a fire in the vulnerable Oak Bluffs downtown district.

Don't be alarmed if you see smoke pouring from the windows of the Lampost on Sunday. – Photo by MIchael Cummo

The Lampost on Circuit Avenue will be engulfed in smoke early on Sunday morning, Jan. 11, and that’s just the way Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose wants it.

“It’s the first phase in preplanning a fire in our downtown area,” Chief Rose told The Times. “It’s a three-town operation; Tisbury and Edgartown will be sending over apparatus and crews to help us to make it as realistic as possible.”

Chief Rose estimates there will be 15 fire and EMS vehicles and between 50 and 60 fire and EMS personnel. The drill will commence around 8:30 am and should be concluded by noon. Chief Rose said the simulated smoke may be visible to passersby as early as 7:30. “We want to get the word out so people won’t be alarmed,” he said.

 — File photo by Mae Deary
— File photo by Mae Deary

Circuit Ave will remain open during the drill. The only road closure will be on Kennebec from Healy Way to Lake Avenue. Parking spots in front of the Lampost, the Ritz Cafe and Mocha Mott’s will be taken up by fire and EMS vehicles. “We’re trying to minimize the impact to the business community, but it’s something that we have to do,” Chief Rose said. “We have to get prepared for a big fire in that area. It’s such a challenge with the old wood buildings being so tight together. There’s so many things that make a fire down there a tricky approach.”

An added complication for firefighters is the volatile Island weather, which could quickly turn a kitchen fire into a conflagration. “You have to consider what’s your wind direction, what’s your wind speed, even the time of year and the time of day. If it’s 4th of July weekend in the middle of the day, it’s a whole different fire than if it’s December in the middle of the night,” Chief Rose said.

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Tisbury School vanquished rival Oak Bluffs on the basketball court, 67-48, on Tuesday afternoon. Led by Dylan Dyke’s incredible 36-point performance, the Tisbury Tigers could not stop scoring. Cameron Moore also chipped in 15. Jared Regan led the way for the Blazers, scoring 14, while Jeremy Regan scored 13.

If you read last week’s Oak Bluffs Column and thought it seemed familiar you were right. Because of a production error, instead of the newest and correct version being printed in the print version of the paper, the previous week’s column was printed. However, if you read the online digital copy of the Times, you were reading the correct column for December 24.  I am sorry some of the events that I wrote about have gone by already, but I am including the news that is still current.

January will be a busy month at our Oak Bluffs library. To kick off Mini Golf weekend, they will show the 1980 classic with Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and a furry gopher on  throwback Thursday Movie Night on January 8, at 6 pm. This free event also includes popcorn and trivia.

The third annual Mini Golf Extravaganza will be held on the 9th & 10th. On Friday, January 9, from 5 to 8 pm you may enjoy food, beverage, and fun and play on the 18-hole indoor course.  This event is for those 21 years and up. The cost is $18. On Saturday, January 10, the mini golf runs from 10 am to 1 pm and is for all ages and free and is great family fun.

Are you ready for lobster rolls again? Then mark your calendars for Sunday, Jan. 4 from 12 noon until 2 pm. That is when Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven will once more serve winter lobster rolls. Their prize-winning rolls, with chips and beverage, are a bargain at $17, or you may enjoy  hotdogs for  $3 and assorted pies for $4 a slice. For info or advance orders call 508-693-0332.

Congratulations to Ashley and Jared Andrews who became proud parents of a son on Wednesday, the 17th of December. Cooper Christopher Andrews arrival also made Lynn Rebello of Oak Bluffs a first-time grandmother. What a great Christmas present.

The  community suppers at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven will be held every Friday starting Friday, January 2, and run through March 26 from 5 to 6:30 pm. Everyone of all ages is welcome at these free suppers. There will be good food, a comfortable setting and a warm welcome. For info, call 508-693-0332.

Big changes at the four corners by the Fire Station in Oak Bluffs. The fire station is now surrounded by a safety fence and the demolition of the old station has already begun. It will be interesting to watch the progression of the new station.  The original station was constructed in the 1980’s. The foundation and finishing touches were put on that steel building mostly by volunteers and — you guessed it — they were  firemen, and the cost to the town was around $45,000.

We send belated birthday smiles to Roger Schilling Jr. on the 26th, Richard Tarter on the 28th. Smiles to Ava BenDavid, Anita Combra and Claudia Metell on December 31; Jen Araujo,  and  Michelle  Bettencourt on January 2, Nola Mavro, Chris Alley, and Nicole deBettencourt share the 3rd, Kate Feiffer and Jules BenDavid on the 5th, and Michael Araujo and Kelly Irene Pacheco on the 6th.

Many of us have lost dear friends and relatives this past year. Among those we hold close to our hearts and in memory are: Lester White, Gerry Davis, Scott Francis, John Potter, Ruth and Michael Davon, David Wessling, Henry Fauteux, Eddie Drew, Stacy Viera, Ann Margetson, Patricia Costa, Eddie Landers and Ann Tuccelli.

This poem by William Henry Harrison Murray says it all this season.

Ah friends, dear friends,

As years go on and heads get gray,

How fast the guests do go!

Touch hands, touch hands,

With those that stay,

Strong hands to weak,

Old hands to young, around the

Christmas board touch hands.

The false forget, the foe forgive,

For every guest will go

And every fire burn low

And cabin empty stand.

Forget, forgive,

For who may say that Christmas day

May ever come to host or guest again.

Touch hands!

However you celebrated this season, I hope that you celebrated together in peace.

Editor’s note: due to a production error, the Times printed the December 18 Oak Bluffs column in the December 24 newspaper. The correct column was published online and can be found at: mvtimes.com/2014/12/22/oak-bluffs-poem-season/.

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Citing the dramatic turnaround in town fortunes since Robert Whritenour took office, the board unanimously approved a pay hike.

Citing his exemplary performance since 2012, Oak Bluffs selectmen voted unanimously to give town administrator Robert Whritenour a raise. – File photo by Ralph Stewart

Oak Bluffs town administrator Robert Whritenour will have a little extra money to spend on Christmas presents this holiday season. Meeting in executive session following their October 28 meeting, selectmen held a performance review and followed it up with a unanimous vote to give the town administrator a three percent step increase effective immediately this fiscal year and next.

The raise was announced at Tuesday night’s regular meeting by chairman Greg Coogan. “It’s well deserved and overdue,“ he said.

Speaking with The Times earlier on Tuesday, Mr. Coogan was more expansive about the reasons for the raise. “He’s done so many things in a positive way for the town,” he said. “He’s very responsive to the board’s wishes. He’s put us in a great financial position. He’s made it an inclusive style working with the members of the finance committee, he’s making solid plans for the future with the capital improvement committee, and we’re going in a very positive direction so we can take proactive steps in improving the town infrastructure.”

Mr. Coogan also said that Mr. Whritenour has shown exemplary dedication to the town. “Bob puts himself through a lot on a daily basis with his travel,” he said, referring to Mr. Whritenour’s daily commute from Falmouth. “We know he sacrifices a lot to come to the Island and we know he’s developed a real love for Oak Bluffs, not just for the people but also for the uniqueness of Oak Bluffs.”

“We got Bob at a bargain price and he clearly earned his keep,” selectman Walter Vail told The Times on Tuesday before that night’s meeting. “It was the only fair thing to do. I hope somewhere down the road, before his contract runs out, that we can put in place a reasonable extension on it. I think the rest of the board would agree with me.”

Reached by phone, selectman Gail Barmakian had no comment on the raise.

Mr. Whritenour was named town administrator in February 2012. His current contract, which expires in 2017, called for him to receive $128,051 in FY 2014, which ends June 30, 2015.

“I’m very appreciative of the board’s action,” Mr. Whritenour told The Times on Wednesday. “I was quite moved actually. I didn’t request a raise. I’m very happy to be working for this town.”

Mr. Whritenour said a provision of his contract requires the selectmen to make an annual evaluation. While his three evaluations have been positive, Mr. Whritenour, citing hard financial times, said he had not requested or received any step increases, which according to his contract, can be roughly three percent a year with a favorable board review. “I didn’t put it in the budget because things have been so tight and the focus has been on the health of the town’s finances,” he said.

Mr. Whritenour said that selectmen based this fiscal year’s step increase on last year’s evaluation and next year’s step increase on this year’s evaluation.

Formerly Falmouth’s town manager, Mr. Whritenour was named interim town administrator in September 2011 and he’s been widely credited for bringing stability to town finances that were in disarray at the time.

Mr. Whritenour’s interim contract called for him to work for 13 weeks, at a salary of $1,731 per week, representing an annual rate of $90,000.

At the time, the town had been without an administrator since August 1 and was still reeling following a series of missteps that included a botched election and a reprimand from the state attorney general’s office over bidding and procurement practices.

Mr. Whritenour said the Oak Bluffs job was a substantial pay cut from his previous job as Falmouth town administrator, “But I didn’t come out here for the money,” he said. “I came to contribute to the community and I work hard at it and I enjoy it. I love the Island and I love the community and I want to continue to do a good job.”

Executive session explained
Mr. Coogan said there was no particular reason for the timing of the pay increase, rather a long succession of positive developments in the town. “We have had a lot of positive feedback about Bob for a long time, both when Kathy [Burton] was chair and when Walter [Vail] was chair. I believe his contract mentions looking at step increases and we hadn’t offered any in the last several years and we felt we had been a little bit late in rewarding him. It had nothing to do with anything other than he’s doing a great job  We feel this is the right thing to do.”

According to the agenda of the October 28 meeting, the reason for the executive session was  “To conduct strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations, or contract negotiations with nonunion personnel.” The minutes of the executive session have not yet been released.

“The intention was to have a frank discussion without any outside pressures. We just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page,” Mr. Coogan explained.

“When you’re talking about someone’s salary, that’s an executive session topic, or when you’re talking contracts, which we did not change,” Mr. Vail said. “Because we were beginning the work on our FY 16 budget, we wanted to make sure it did not get missed by the selectmen, because Bob wasn’t going to do it on his own, we know that.”

“Under the law, it’s standard practice to go into executive session to talk about contractual issues,” Mr. Whritenour said Wednesday. “I think that’s why the board chose to go into executive session. I really didn’t have a preference.”