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Oak Bluffs

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Tivoli Day is Saturaday. Photo by Lynn Christoffers.

The Oak Bluffs Association will hold its annual Tivoli Day celebration this Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm on Circuit Avenue. There will be live outdoor music all day, as well as food and retail vendors set up on the street, and special sales and events in nearby Oak Bluffs stores. Circuit Avenue will be closed to traffic during the event, which celebrates the end of the summer and the beginning of the Island’s shoulder season. For more information, visit oakbluffsmv.com.

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The President of the Friends Group Leo Gagnon, in front of the Council on Aging building. (Photo by Michael Cummo)

The Oak Bluffs Council on Aging (COA) board meeting held August 28 was slightly delayed. The Thursday morning exercise class in the meeting room had gone long, and it took a while for the steady stream of sweating and, for the most part smiling, endorphin-charged seniors to exit.

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Oak Bluffs town administrator Robert Whritenour, center in pink, joins community members at the monthly luncheon put on by the Council on Aging. (Photo by Michael Cummo)

As the room cleared, Leo Gagnon, president of the Friends of the Council on Aging (FCOA), a nonprofit corporation that is the fundraising arm for the COA, talked about an open house held on August 13 to mark a change in direction for the organization that had been at the center or controversy.

“I introduced it as the new senior center,” he said. “We want to get rid of the old and bring in the new. You should have seen this place. It was packed. Local merchants contributed prizes and every 15 minutes we rang a bell and gave out a door prize.”

Mr. Gagnon said the many contributions from local merchants included a 32-inch flat screen television from Crane Appliance.

“We also had live entertainment from the Princess Poo-Poo-Ly band. They’re an Island band of 16 people playing ukuleles. They were terrific. They played for over 90 minutes. A lot of people were singing along. There were four guys sitting up front, who are barely able to walk, and they were standing and stomping their feet and their canes. Sandra from the Vineyard Haven COA said, ‘This place rocks!,” Mr. Gagnon said, grinning.

Trying times

The picture Mr. Gagnon described is in marked contrast to the COA of a few months ago when the organization was rocking with a different kind of energy. The 2014 winter of discontent involved police and forensic accounting investigations, heated accusations, and divisive infighting, which culminated in the resignation of former director Roger Wey, as of June 30.  While the investigations found no criminal wrongdoing, a history of sloppy accounting and years of rancorous relations among COA staff came to light. In a six page report, town administrator Robert Whritenour wrote that the long-standing rift between associate directorRose Cogliano and Mr. Wey yielded “charges and counter charges of harassment” dating back to 2006, which divided the COA membership into opposing “camps.”

In his June 19 memo to the selectmen, Mr. Whritenour recommended a reorganization of the COA — eliminating the director and assistant director positions and creating a COA administrator and a program director, while making the board the engine that drives COA.

Moving forward

“Roger is moving on and we’re moving on and that’s the way it should be,” Walter Vail, selectman and COA board member told The Times following the August 28 board meeting.

Mr. Vail was chairman of the selectmen when on the advice of town counsel an investigation began into COA accounting practices and procedures. Although the matter could have been handled in closed executive session, Mr. Vail elected to make the proceedings public. He became a lightning rod for criticism by Mr. Wey’s supporters, who were always in full throat at selectmen’s meetings, but he stuck by his decision.

“There are only a few people who are still unhappy,” Mr. Vail said. “We had 135 people show up at the open house. Leo did a great job. Everybody had a good time. I think the message is pretty clear.”

“The board needs to be a managing partner of the COA,” Mr. Blythe said in an earlier conversation with the Times. “If you’re going to be a good board member you have to listen to both sides before you make a judgement.”

At the recent board meeting, some topics the board discussed included a new photography class starting in September, upcoming bus trips, a trip to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute without a bus, an October dental clinic, and a generous $1,500 gift from the Cottagers Association.

“They give to a lot of organizations,” Mr. Gagnon said. “The COA received the most. I never expected that kind of check.”

“I already have a call into Arthur to make sure it’s done properly with the town,” Ms. Cogliano said, adding that the money will be put in account for fuel assistance.
“People need to know they can apply,” outreach coordinator Susan Von Steiger said. “I’m sure Arthur will be very discreet.”

In other business, the board discussed the need for a new projector so movie night can become a regular event, recruiting a high school student or technologically savvy person to give computer classes, and how to acquire the new computers on which to be taught.

Although much of the current technology accessible at the COA is relatively ancient, Mr. Gagnon said the Oak Bluffs COA is the only place on Island where seniors can schedule a Skype session with a live person from the Social Security Administration. He then floated the idea for a Karaoke machine for a regular Karaoke night, to widely varying degrees of enthusiasm from the board.

Later, Mr. Gagnon spoke excitedly about a new program beginning in the fall, “A Matter of Balance,” which teaches seniors how to navigate the fear of falling through physical and mental exercise. He also said the board was looking to expand the popular line dancing classes given in the summer to a year-round activity.

Board member Abraham Seiman told the members that the bridge club was considering a move back to the COA from its self imposed exile. The club had separated from the COA in protest over Mr. Wey’s dismissal. “They left because of all the nonsense,” Mr. Gagnon said.

Following the meeting, Mr. Gagnon had high praise for Ms. Cogliano. “Rose turned this place around,” he said. “It’s been difficult, at best, but this place is much better than it used to be.  There’s no more fighting. It’s a happy place to come now.”

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Ralph Packer saved the day after heavy seas snapped the barge anchor lines hours before the show.

President Obama watched the Oak Bluffs fireworks from the North Bluff porch of Valerie Jarrett. (Photo by Max Bossman) — Photo by Max Bossman

The estimated 12,000 spectators at the annual Oak Bluffs Fireman’s Civic Association fireworks show Friday night had no idea how close the show was to being postponed.

“The was by far the most difficult show I’ve had to deal with as chief,” Oak Bluffs fire chief John Rose told The Times. “We had a stiff northeast wind blowing 20 miles an hour and six to eight-foot seas, and two anchor lines on the barge broke. We lost the first anchor around 4 pm. When the second line broke, someone from [R.M.] Packer had to go back to Vineyard Haven for two more anchors.”

The wind direction also created additional complications. “Because the wind was out of the northeast, which is unusual for this time of year, we had to reposition the barge 1,600 feet offshore instead of the usual 600 feet,” Mr. Rose said. “We also had to move the barge 400 feet to the south so the debris wouldn’t fall on spectators or on buildings in town.”
Mr. Rose said that he and state fire marshal Stephen Coan were in constant contact with the National Weather Service station in Taunton, which provided critical data that informed the final fireworks decision. “They told us winds would diminish from sustained 20 miles an hour to sustained 14 miles an hour between six and eight o’clock,” Mr. Rose said. “They called it on the money.”

After a frenetic afternoon of repairing, recalculating, and repositioning, a test shot that was fired shortly after 5:30 pm showed the barge needed to be moved further offshore.

“We were having trouble orienting the barge because of the wind and the strong currents” Warren Pearce, president of American Thunder Fireworks told The Times. “I was pretty panicked. Then I called Ralph Packer and he told me the tide was going to change in an hour and the current will switch and the wind will drop and we’d be all set. He was right. That man knows what he’s doing.”

Mr. Pearce, a 25 year veteran of the fireworks industry, said Mr. Packer makes many unseen contributions to the show every year. “Generally barges are an expensive addition to a show, but not in this case, because Ralph donates it. He also has his guys pitching in doing all kinds of things. They’re an integral part of making this work.”
Mr. Rose also gave kudos to Mr. Packer. “He was generous enough to tell the tugs to stay on the barge during the show,” Mr. Rose said. “As long I can remember, it’s the first time we had tugs holding the barge in place. Without the tugs there wouldn’t have been a show. Mr. Packer stepped up and saved the day.”

Mr. Pearce said Mr. Rose also deserved credit. “Chief Rose called me four days before the show and said he was concerned about the forecast and that wind was going to be a problem,” he said. “That informed what equipment we brought and in the end we had what we needed. We had a plan in place even before we got there and John was an integral part of it.”

Mr. Rose said the annual fireworks show requires a great deal of planning and coordination, even in ideal conditions. “Nobody realizes all the different things that go into the fireworks show,” he said. “We do a ton of pre-planning, starting right after the first of the year. Everything has to fall into place.”

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Oak Bluffs officials are adjusting parking regulations and tightening security for fireworks night, Friday, August 22. — File Photo by Susie Safford

Oak Bluffs Police plan to tighten security for the Ocean Park fireworks this Friday. Added measures will include limited access points, searches of backpacks, coolers, and bags, strict traffic and parking bans, and more police officers.

All of Ocean Ave. will be closed to traffic at 3 pm for the fireworks. Seaview Ave., from Lake Ave. to Samoset Ave., will be closed at 4 pm. There will be parking at Sunset and Waban Parks. Handicap parking will be available at the Steamship Authority staging area and around the Civil War monument.

Evening SSA ferries and the New Bedford fast ferry will be re-routed to Vineyard Haven. The 3 pm New York fast ferry to Oak Bluffs will arrive in Vineyard Haven at 8:30 pm. Expect delays. Choosing a pickup location out of the downtown area is recommended.

Shuttle bus service from Edgartown will be at the corner of Seaview and Tuckernuck Aves., at the Seaview Condominiums. The Vineyard Haven shuttle stop will be at the corner of Lake Ave. and Dukes County Ave.

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A victorious Civil War general, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the first Civil Rights Act.

President Ulysses S. Grant (seated, right) with his wife standing behind him. At left is General Babcock, his wife and niece; in center, Babcock's sister-in-law. The Bishop Haven Cottage on Clinton Ave. looks much the way it did when Grant visited, 140 years ago this summer. — Courtesy MV Museum

Martha’s Vineyard’s history is a rich narrative of people and events. In a regular series, The Times has invited the Martha’s Vineyard Museum to draw on its unique cache of contemporary photos and first-person accounts to describe interesting but often unfamiliar moments in Island history called to mind sometimes, but not always, by current dates or events. This latest installment draws from an article “When Grant Took the Island” by Arthur Railton in the Dukes County Intelligencer (vol. 29, no. 1, August 1987).

Four generations (and friends) at the Bishop Haven House, Clinton Ave., Oak Bluffs: Aven Porrini (standing, front); Aven's great grandmother, Barb Horlocker (seated, green shirt) and her friend Sue Keyser (pink shirt); standing back: neighbor Justin Rogers; Jackie Kaser (homeowner); her daughter Karley Kaser (Aven's mother); neighbor Paige O'Flaherty. The Kaser family has owned the Bishop Haven Cottage since 1954, when Karley Kaser's grandparents bought it for $3,000 and proceeded to pay the loan off in $20 monthly installments. Karley has been coming to the cottage every summer since she was born. Ms. O'Flaherty and Mr. Rogers are engaged and plan to be married on the porch of her parents' cottage — just across Clinton Ave. — on August 21.
Four generations (and friends) at the Bishop Haven House, Clinton Ave., Oak Bluffs: Aven Porrini (standing, front); Aven’s great grandmother, Barb Horlocker (seated, green shirt) and her friend Sue Keyser (pink shirt); standing back: neighbor Justin Rogers; Jackie Kaser (homeowner); her daughter Karley Kaser (Aven’s mother); neighbor Paige O’Flaherty. The Kaser family has owned the Bishop Haven Cottage since 1954, when Karley Kaser’s grandparents bought it for $3,000 and proceeded to pay the loan off in $20 monthly installments. Karley has been coming to the cottage every summer since she was born. Ms. O’Flaherty and Mr. Rogers are engaged and plan to be married on the porch of her parents’ cottage — just across Clinton Ave. — on August 21.

Well before the highly publicized visits to Martha’s Vineyard of President Barack Obama, and before him, President Bill Clinton, 140 years ago another visiting president created a wave of excitement that generated headlines across the country and put Oak Bluffs, then a little-known resort community, on the map.

Ulysses S. Grant rose from poverty and obscurity to become the commanding general of Union forces during the Civil War and secure the victories President Abraham Lincoln so desperately needed to keep the Union and his presidency intact. On March 4, 1869, Republican Grant was elected as the 18th president of the United States.

President Grant was adamant that recently freed slaves enjoy the same rights as all Americans. He used federal troops to protect “freedmen” from the Klu Klux Klan and supported the Fifteenth Amendment, which stipulated that no state shall deprive any citizen of the right to vote because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” And on March 1, 1875, he signed the Civil Rights Act, described by historian H. W. Brands (“The Man Who Saved the Union, Ulysses Grant in War and Peace,” Doubleday, 2012) as “the most ambitious affirmation of racial equality in American history until then, a distinction it would retain until the 1960s.”

One year before he signed that landmark bill, President Grant visited Martha’s Vineyard where he enjoyed a fireworks display, Illumination Night and the adoration of thousands.

“It was nothing compared to the way he took Richmond, but when President Ulysses S. Grant visited Martha’s Vineyard for three days in 1874, he did, indeed, take it over,” Arthur Railton wrote in the his account of the president’s visit for the Dukes County Intelligencer. “Crowds numbering as many as 30,000 at times put on a stunning public display of affection for a President who, in the middle of his second term, was on the brink of a series of shocking scandals …

“The trip, which seems to have been planned in secret, probably had political motivation. Grant was being urged by some supporters to ignore the no-third-term tradition and run again in 1876. He seemed tempted to do so and his wife, Julia Dent, was eager that he run, as were some of his Cabinet.”

The New York Herald, in an editorial, suggested that President Grant might be trying to win over the Methodists, who “were congregating in Wesleyan Grove on Martha’s Vineyard for their annual camp meeting that August in 1874 and the President’s pastor, Rev. Dr. O. H. Tiffany of the Metropolitan Methodist Church in Washington, was there. It was he, the newspapers wrote, who had invited his famous parishioner to join him.”

A quiet bow

Although Mr. Grant did not have the luxury of speedy travel in a helicopter, he did get around, visiting Wellfleet, Hyannis, Nantucket, and Naushon over the course of his visit.

President Grant and his party traveled on a special three-car train placed at the disposal of the President by the Old Colony Railroad, which serviced Cape Cod. They also traveled on the steamer River Queen, an Island ferry since 1871.

“The River Queen docked at the Highland Wharf, which had been built in 1871 by the Methodists so they would not have to disembark at the Oak Bluffs Wharf and pass through the temptations offered in that ‘unholy’ summer resort. A horse-drawn trolley ran from the Highland Wharf directly into the Campground, delivering the faithful unsullied.

“Awaiting the President was a gaily decorated trolley car drawn by six gleaming black horses. The Vineyard Gazette described the arrival: ‘Immediately on arriving, the party entered one of the Vineyard Grove cars, drawn by six horses and appropriately decorated for the occasion, and, followed by a numerous concourse of carriages and pedestrians, proceeded to Clinton Avenue. On reaching that point, so great was the press, notwithstanding the five or six thousand who were congregated in and about the grandstand, that there was some difficulty in extracting the party from the cars; but they finally succeeded in effecting an escape into Bishop Haven’s cottage, where they might recruit a little before appearing to the people. . . . an immense bouquet composed wholly of the most elegant rosebuds and green attracting much attention. (Aug. 28, 1874).’”

Four generations (and friends) at the Bishop Haven House, Clinton Ave., Oak Bluffs: Aven Porrini (standing, front); Aven's great grandmother, Barb Horlocker (seated, green shirt) and her friend Sue Keyser (pink shirt); standing back: neighbor Justin Rogers; Jackie Kaser (homeowner); her daughter Karley Kaser (Aven's mother); neighbor Paige O'Flaherty. The Kaser family has owned the Bishop Haven Cottage since 1954, when Karley Kaser's grandparents bought it for $3,000 and proceeded to pay the loan off in $20 monthly installments. Karley has been coming to the cottage every summer since she was born. Ms. O'Flaherty and Mr. Rogers are engaged and plan to be married on the porch of her parents' cottage — just across Clinton Ave. — on August 21.
Four generations (and friends) at the Bishop Haven House, Clinton Ave., Oak Bluffs: Aven Porrini (standing, front); Aven’s great grandmother, Barb Horlocker (seated, green shirt) and her friend Sue Keyser (pink shirt); standing back: neighbor Justin Rogers; Jackie Kaser (homeowner); her daughter Karley Kaser (Aven’s mother); neighbor Paige O’Flaherty. The Kaser family has owned the Bishop Haven Cottage since 1954, when Karley Kaser’s grandparents bought it for $3,000 and proceeded to pay the loan off in $20 monthly installments. Karley has been coming to the cottage every summer since she was born. Ms. O’Flaherty and Mr. Rogers are engaged and plan to be married on the porch of her parents’ cottage — just across Clinton Ave. — on August 21.

“The Grants were given a half hour’s respite before being escorted on foot the one hundred yards or so to the Tabernacle, then a huge canvas tent, where thousands had assembled for the occasion. The regular afternoon services had been sparsely attended as most of the faithful had witnessed the President’s arrival. The regular evening service had been cancelled. The Methodist newspaper, Zion’s Herald, described the scene this way: ‘Even calm Presiding Elder Talbot flushed a little in the face, as he mounted the stand under the canopy and introduced the President of the United States, not to worshipping, but applauding thousands.’

“Grant did not speak after his introduction, instead, ‘as usual he responded with a quiet bow.’ The Vineyard Gazette gave a few more details of the occasion: ‘. . . the space under the canopy and for rods around was one dense mass of eager humanity, such as probably was never known here before. . . Amid a perfect burst of applause, the President was presented, bowing in response to the enthusiastic salutations of the multitude. . . After the singing of “America,” the party returned to Bishop Haven’s cottage. . . [where] the President again appeared a moment on the cottage balcony and then withdrew and was seen no more till six o’clock, when he dined at the Central House.’

“The Gazette reporter may have missed a good story. The New Bedford Mercury reported that after returning to the Haven cottage, the President slipped out to make a private and relaxing visit: ‘The President called at the cottage of Alderman J. H. Collins of Cambridge on Merrill Avenue, and indulging in a quiet smoke, under the admiring gaze of some 20 spectators. . . the crowd didn’t get wind of this movement, which was effected by a neat little bit of backdoor strategy.’”

On the map

“After dining at the Central House, the President and Mrs. Grant were driven around the Campground and, outside it, along the streets of Oak Bluffs to enjoy the Illumination, that display of Japanese lanterns which is today a Campground tradition. It had been introduced six years earlier by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company outside the Campground, but in recent years, it had spread to Clinton Avenue, within the hallowed area.”

On his last night on the Vineyard, President Grant was the guest of honor at a supper hosted by J. W. Harper of the publishing house, Harper Brothers of New York. “The affair was held at the famed Sea View Hotel, the newest and finest hotel in Oak Bluffs, overlooking Nantucket Sound. It was, no doubt, an elegant affair.”

The following account reveals that in some aspects, presidential visits have not much changed.

“After the supper, another reception followed, this one given in Grant’s honor by Holder M. Brownell, manager and later owner of the Sea View Hotel. It was described vividly by the reporter from the New York Herald: ‘. . . [present were] several hundred ladies and gentlemen, the latter appearing in full dress and the fair sex in the choicest and most elegant toilets which a refined taste or a craving desire for display could possibly conceive. . . those who were not favored with cards of invitation contenting themselves by crowding the corridors and piazzas of the mammoth hotel and peeping through the windows for a glance at the Executive lion. There were thousands of these coming and going all the evening and the scenes outside were scarcely less enlivening and brilliant than those inside. The rustic policemen who were on duty found their authority was not respected and early in the evening they surrendered to the multitude. . . probably not less than a thousand ladies and gentlemen were presented to the President ….’”

Mr. Railton said that the Methodist clergy left the reception about the same time as the President because right after Grant’s departure, “the guests began what was called the ‘hop,’ with dancing going on until after midnight.

“It was, without doubt, the Sea View’s finest hour. It was much more than that: it was overwhelming proof that Oak Bluffs had made it into the big time as a summer resort. Laudatory articles appeared in the major newspapers of the country each day describing the Presidential visit and most mentioned the physical charm of the Vineyard. The weather was superb during the entire three days and the reports praised the loveliness of this delightful seaside paradise. In a year of economic depression, such publicity must have buoyed the spirits of the directors of the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company who were having some difficulty selling their building lots. The Presidential visit had put Oak Bluffs on the front pages of America and they began to dream of replacing Newport as the East Coast’s finest summer resort.”

The following day, Sunday, the Big Sunday of Camp Meeting, as the final day was traditionally called, President and Mrs. Grant attended the morning service and then boarded the Monohansett, bound for New Bedford. The President said nothing upon departing.

“He bowed slightly, waved to the crowd, and with Julia on his arm walked up the gangplank. The steamer pulled away, the crowd dispersed and life on the Vineyard returned to normal.”

 

Highlights of President Grant’s Civil Rights Efforts

Following an unrelenting spate of violence against freed slaves and Republicans, Grant explained his use of federal authority to enforce the law in the southern states and argued for Civil rights legislation:

“To the extent that Congress has conferred power upon me to prevent it, neither Ku Klux Klans, White Leagues, nor any other association using arms and violence to execute their unlawful purposes can be permitted in that way to govern any part of this country; nor can I see with indifference Union men or Republicans ostracized, persecuted, and murdered on account of their opinions, as they now are in some localities. I now earnestly ask that such action be taken by Congress as to leave my duties perfectly clear.”

President Grant commented after he signed “An Act to Enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment,” also known as the Klu Klux Klan Act:

“It is my earnest wish that peace and cheerful obedience to law may prevail throughout the land and that all traces of our late unhappy civil strife may be speedily removed. These ends can be easily reached by acquiescence in the results of the conflict, now written in our Constitution, and by the due and proper enforcement of equal, just, and impartial laws in every part of our country.”

President Grant reached out to the North and South in his first inaugural address:

“The country having just emerged from a great rebellion, many questions will come before it for settlement in the next four years which preceding administrations have never had to deal with. In meeting these it is desirable that they should be approached calmly, without prejudice, hate, or sectional pride, remembering that the greatest good to the greatest number is the object to be attained.”

As a general and president, Grant was a man of few words and used the following speech often:

I rise only to say that I do not intend to say anything. I thank you for your hearty welcomes and good cheers.”

General Grant on war:

The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”

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Illumination Night, photographed here in 2013, draws large crowds. — Susie Safford

Oak Bluffs Police plan to tighten security for Illumination Night tonight, August 20, and the Ocean Park fireworks two days later this Friday. Added measures will include limited access points, searches of backpacks, coolers, and bags, strict traffic and parking bans, and more police officers.

Illumination Night begins at 8 pm, Wednesday. The fireworks display begins at 9 pm, Friday. Rain dates for each are on the following nights. Police said there will be several areas in town where parking will be banned 72 hours in advance of both events. Violators will be ticketed and towed.

On Illumination Night, parking will be available at Sunset Park, with access from Greenleaf Ave., off of Dukes County Ave. Arrive early or expect delays, officials said.

All of Ocean Ave. will be closed to traffic at 3 pm for the fireworks. Seaview Ave., from Lake Ave. to Samoset Ave., will be closed at 4 pm. There will be parking at Sunset and Waban Parks. Handicap parking will be available at the Steamship Authority staging area and around the Civil War monument.

Evening SSA ferries and the New Bedford fast ferry will be re-routed to the Vineyard Haven terminal. The 3 pm pm New York fast ferry to Oak Bluffs will arrive in Vineyard Haven at 8:30 pm. Expect delays. Choosing a pickup location out of the downtown area is recommended.

Shuttle bus service from Edgartown will be at the corner of Seaview and Tuckernuck Aves., at the Seaview Condominiums. The Vineyard Haven shuttle stop will be at the corner of Lake Ave. and Dukes County Ave.

Megan-AlleyWelcome to August, which usually means that our lawns and flowers are starting to look a bit dried up and not so beautiful. But thanks to some timely rain showers, things are still bright and beautiful. Of course, the crowds and therefore traffic lines seem endless. Everyone says drivers and visitors behave badly during August. Perhaps by now we are all exhausted and frustrated by fighting traffic and waiting in long lines and actually trying to be nicer than we really are. That is impossible to do for more than five minutes, so the next time you are ready to explode because of someone’s rude or stupid maneuver, try saying, “Oh my goodness gracious,” and you will find it is impossible to lose your temper.

A Backyard Music Concert — a fun, music event for the whole family — will take place at our own Oak Bluffs Library. On Saturday, August 16, 6–7 pm, the Rye Brothers jug band returns. Bring a blanket, picnic, and friends for a concert on the lawn (indoors if raining). This is a family-friendly band.

Friday Morning Conversations at the Oak Bluffs Senior Center continue to bring in interesting speakers. On Friday, August 15, from 10 to 11:30 am, the guest speaker will be young Philadelphia author Jon McGoran, who will discuss his newest book, “Deadout.” “When Martha’s Vineyard’s bees begin to mysteriously die off and a biotech company plans to release genetically modified bees into the environment, a vacationing Philadelphia detective discovers that the bees aren’t the only things being modified. Things spin violently out of control as he closes in on what they are really up to, and he must race to stop them before their plot succeeds, and spreads to the mainland and the world.”

The Children’s Author storytime  at the Library on Wednesday, August 20, starts 10:30 am. Come and meet author Christie Jones-Ray, and hear about her book,  “Eliza Visits Martha’s Vineyard.”

Last weekend, accompanied by my sister, Ann Hearn, and my daughter, Mary Alley, I went north to Lebanon, N.H., for a Bagley family reunion. What a great time it was; I met cousins I knew from childhood and met many more for the first time. There were close to 80 first cousins, second cousins, spouses of relatives and all were connected to the Bagley family.  Each family had a table displaying photos, letters etc. that gave a history going back for years. I realized that the last time I went away for a vacation was seven years ago, but this one was worth the wait.

The Sullivan 5K Run Walk is on Saturday, August 23. Kids fun run starts at 8:45, walkers at 9 am, and runners start at 9:30 am, For more info log onto mvhospital.com/runwalk.

We remember Jenna  on the 17th and  send birthday smiles to Russ MacDonald on August 18, my son Dion Alley and Becky Rogers on the 19th, and Marilyn Wey on August 20th.

Enjoy your week. Peace.

Got Oak Bluffs news? Email Megan Alley here.

 

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A meeting between the town administrator and FEMA brass left a cloud of uncertainty over anticipated storm repairs.

Dredging is needed under little bridge at Sengekontacket. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The long-running campaign by Oak Bluffs officials to secure funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy remained in limbo this week. In a meeting Tuesday, FEMA officials informed town Oak Bluffs officials that the town’s applications still lack proper documentation, and that internal mistakes on FEMA’s part still need to be reconciled.

“It was a tough meeting,” Robert Grimley, FEMA disaster recovery manager for Region 1, said in a phone call with The Times on Tuesday. “I know Mr. Whritenour was frustrated, but we can’t make final decisions without the proper documentation.

“I think the positive is there’s some information, like maintenance records, that’s readily available that the applicant can retrieve. The applicant, to their defense, said they had provided all the documentation to the joint field office, but for whatever reason, we never received it or someone doesn’t have a copy of it. We just want to make sure before we approve it that we have all the paperwork in order. If it slipped by us, all five of those projects could be at risk down the road if we didn’t fix them now.”

The five projects for which the town has applied to FEMA for funding include the dredging at Little Bridge at Sengekontacket, East Chop Road and Seaview Ave. bulkhead, restoration of beaches and jetties at Pay Beach, Jetty Beach, and the Inkwell, the seawall at North Bluff, and East Chop Bluff.

“The meeting was a little disappointing,” town administrator Robert Whritenour said in a phone call with The Times on Wednesday. “They started off telling us that FEMA may have made some mistakes. They said consider this like an audit. The long and short of it, we had months of discussion with various project engineers which ended in FEMA sending their signed project worksheets which documented the town’s eligibility and the scope for each one of the five projects. To have them come back and say we’ve reviewed those and we think FEMA made some mistakes, means redoing all of the work that we’ve already done. The one good part that came out of it is they agreed to a weekly conference call so we could stay on top of this and there wouldn’t be anymore surprises.”

In addition to Mr. Whritenour, the town was also represented at the meeting by selectman Walter Vail and conservation commissioner Elizabeth Durkee.

“It was my expectation that the Sengekontacket dredging and the North Bluff project were going to receive final approval,” Mr. Whritenour said. “The next window for dredging is from September 1 to January 15. Hopefully we’ll be on track. Sengie is an ecological problem and the longer we wait, the more we jeopardize the health of the pond. I don’t see any major roadblocks, but I didn’t see any before either. North Bluff is even more frustrating. Their engineer questions extent of damage to the wall. It’s disappointing for this to come up at this late juncture. We were under the impression that was resolved.”

The channels at Big Bridge and Little Bridge connect Sengekontacket to Nantucket Sound, and provide the only flushing of the pond.

Deal or no deal

A critical misunderstanding occurred between the town and FEMA in October, 2013, when town officials apparently assumed that a FEMA sign-off on a project worksheet locked in federal funds. In his town administrator’s report on October 22, 2013, Mr. Whritenour wrote, “Oak Bluffs has received approval and signed contracts for more than $4.3 million in federal disaster assistance: $553,086 for Sengekontacket dredging; $664,588 for East Chop Road and Seaview Avenue bulkhead repair; $1,165,284 for beach and jetty restoration at the Inkwell, Pay Beach and Jetty Beach; and $1,960,845 for North Bluff seawall repair.”

“Unfortunately, the applicant believed that because they [FEMA] signed the project work sheet that it obligated the federal government to funding,” Mr. Grimley said. “What that really means is that the project specialist and the applicant are agreeing to the damages that they are measuring. It does not mean that the federal government is obligated to commit to that money.”

Speaking with The Times on Wednesday, Mr. Whritenour maintained there was no such confusion on the town’s part. “We attended training sessions, we know project worksheet approval is not a grant, but it is first key juncture,” he said. “They determine what the scope of project is. We did think they agreed to the scope.”

Help for Sengie
Mr. Grimley said he and other Region 1 FEMA officials are looking at every angle to secure funding for the town. “We’re working very hard to get them the funding,” he said. “Our lawyers are the best. They’re very creative when it comes to getting approvals and working within the laws and regulations.”

Mr. Grimley cited the Little Bridge dredging project as an example. “We’ll rewrite the project worksheet on that so instead of having it under beach replenishment, which is considered permanent work, we’ll put it under debris removal. It’s certainly eligible for that and it’s a lot easier to get approved.”

Mr. Grimley said that some FEMA decisions were imminent, although he did not specify which ones. “We’re very close to making a determination one way or another. If it’s not favorable, they have an opportunity to appeal to the regional administrator here in Boston, and if they’re still not satisfied they can make a second appeal to FEMA headquarters. We’d rather make the determination favorable right up front; that way we don’t go through more rigamarole.”

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To the Editor:

I recently received my semi-annual bill from the Oak Bluffs Water Dept. Enclosed with the bill was a notice informing me that I would be charged $200 if it were discovered that my water meter had been installed backward. The Water Department Board believes that the homeowner is responsible for seeing that the water meter is installed properly.

So, I call on my sister/fellow homeowners: raise your hand if you know how a water meter should be properly installed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this a little like my surgeon removing my gallbladder instead of my appendix, and then suing me for his/her malpractice?

Nathalie Woodruff

Oak Bluffs

Megan-AlleyI seem to be spending a great deal of time at my kitchen sink lately and it is not because I am in love with washing dishes. It is because in front of the sink window, is my new “squirrel-proof” bird feeder which is actually working: most of the time the squirrels find it too frustrating to figure out. But working well it is, bringing in all species of birds, and even the many cardinals, usually ground feeders, are able to perch happily and feast away. Watching them all sweep in like a rainbow of colors and activity and chirp away, as if relating the latest news in the neighborhood, is peaceful way to begin the day.

People have come up with some wonderful ideas for revitalizing downtown Oak Bluffs, but there was one suggestion that I would discourage. That is the idea of laying cobblestones in some areas. As someone who uses a cane, I can testify how difficult it is to walk along the streets and sidewalks, and the brick areas are especially challenging. Many of our daytrip visitors use canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, and trying to wend their way along a cobblestone surface might prove too challenging.

Both good entertainment and support for the MV Center for Living, the Island Theater Workshop will present a benefit performance of Peter Pan on Friday, August 15, at 7:30 pm at the MVRHS Performing Arts Center. Directed by Kevin Ryan, the play will benefit several Center for Living programs and services for Island seniors, The Supportive Day Program (a social day care program for elders), The Medical Taxi Program, the Emergency Food Program, and the Support Group for families coping with Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related dementia issues. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $12 for children. Call 508-939-9440 for tickets and information.

The Oak Bluffs Senior Center is hosting an open house on Wednesday, August 13, from 3 to 6 pm, when they are opening the doors for everyone who is 50 or older. There will be great food and beverages, music of the 50s and 60s to take us down Memory Lane, and Door Prizes from Oak Bluffs merchants drawn every 15 minutes. The afternoon is being sponsored by the Friends of the OBCOA.

A movie on the life of Maya Angelou will be shown at the Senior Center on August 14, starting at 1:30 pm. All are welcome.

You still have two more chances to enjoy the Sunday evening band concerts in Ocean Park. So mark the following dates: August 10, August 24. The concert will be in the Tabernacle for Illumination night and on August 24 it’s back to the Park. All concerts start at 8 pm.

Condolences to the family of Jane Maseda who died last week. Jane, who was a cousin of my husband, and her husband, Tony, were part of a small group that used to gather weekly to play cribbage, back in the early 50s. There were six of us in the group, which also included Jane’s brother Charlie Combra and his wife, Barbara. How much fun we did have on those nights. She was the mother of Antoinette and James Maseda and the grandmother of four.  Jane worked many years at the Oak Bluffs Library and will be missed by her many friends as well as family. We are so very sorry.

The Friday Conversation program at the Oak Bluffs Senior Center tomorrow, August 8, features speakers Tom Dresser, Herb Foster, and Jay Schofield who will be speaking about their new book “Martha’s Vineyard in World War II,” which is in a second printing. The program runs from 10 to 11:30 am. The book is filled with interviews of people who were teenagers during the war, accounts of military activities and descriptions of the war effort, including submarine activity offshore. All are welcome. There is no charge and there will be an opportunity for comments and questions. Their book will be available for sale for $20.

On August 12, Tuesdays at Twilight at the West Tisbury Grange Hall will present Spotlight on Youth, a concert showcasing the Vineyard’s best new talent. The concert is sponsored by the West Tisbury Library Foundation.

Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association proudly presents the 19th Annual Gingerbread Cottage Tour  on Wednesday, August 13. This is one of the most anticipated events of the summer season. The tour runs from 10 am to 3 pm with the last ticket being sold at 2 pm. Tickets are $25 and proceeds benefit the Tabernacle Restoration Fund. The tour includes visits to the interior of six gingerbread cottages, admission to the Cottage Museum, and delicious refreshments. Tickets are available in advance at mvcma.org or the day of the tour at the Tabernacle.

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is holding its annual meeting, which will be highlighted by the 2014 Martha’s Vineyard Medal award ceremony, on Monday, August 11, at 5 pm at the Federated Church in Edgartown. This year’s recipients include Renee Balter who will be introduced by Skip Finley, Dorothy Bangs (posthumously) presented by Denys Wortman, and Richard Paradise introduced by Jennifer Smith Turner. Since 1923 the Martha’s Vineyard Museum has been the “safety deposit box” for the images, stories, objects, and voices of Martha’s Vineyard. The museum introduced the Martha’s Vineyard Medal in 2009, which is awarded annually to leaders in the community in recognition of their outstanding commitment to preserving the history, arts, and culture of Martha’s Vineyard.

Remember Hula Hoops?  I do, though I don’t recall ever being too successful at it. Well our library is holding a Hoop Fest on Wednesday, August 13, at 11 am. Activities include a Hula Hoop party and games outside, weather permitting. It will be canceled if raining. All ages can attend. Then get ready for Illumination night when the Library holds two Illumination craft sessions on Tuesday, August 19, at 10:30 am. Decorate a lantern for Illumination Night. Space is limited to 50, so pre-registration is required. This session is for ages 3 to 8 years. At 4 pm the Illumination Craft for teens will start. Again, space is limited to 15 so pre-registration required. Ages 9 and up are invited to participate.

Make plans now for a trip to Foxwoods Casino on August 26 sponsored by the Oak Bluffs Council On Aging. To sign up and for additional information, call Rose at 508-693-4509, ext. 3.

We send birthday smiles Ben deBettencourt on  the 7th, Ken Debettencourt and Bob Gatchell on the 8th, John rose on the 9th,, followed  by Danielle Sedlier and Sarah Trudel on the 10th, Deb Hammett and my daughter Kati Alley on the 11th, Terry McCarthy and Richard Mello III on the 12th and Nelson Oliver and Shaun dePriest on the 13th.

Enjoy your week. Peace.