Tags Posts tagged with "Oak Bluffs"

Oak Bluffs

by -
Seasons on Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs, has been vacant for several seasons. — Nate Horwitz

Seasons, the long dormant restaurant/bar located in the heart of Circuit Avenue, is showing signs of new life. Construction crews have begun work to remove the restaurant and bar equipment and to gut the interior of the 3,000 square foot structure. Bob Murphy, proprietor of Towne and Country real estate and co-owner of the building with James Ryan, his partner in AMR Vineyard Inc., said plans for the new use of the building are still evolving. “It will not be a restaurant or a bar, those two are out,” Mr. Murphy said in a phone conversation with The Times Tuesday. “We decided to keep things simple.”

Newly cleared space awaiting renovation.
Cleared interior awaiting further renovation.

Mr. Murphy said the newly renovated building will most likely be leased to one or several retail businesses, but plans are in the very early stages and they remain fluid.
“We’re taking the time to think it through. It’s too early to know what can go in there and what will work best until the space is cleared out,” he said. “It’s such a commanding location. We’ve been deluged with offers over the years. We’ve heard a lot of great ideas. Some people wanted half the space, some people wanted a third. We’ll see.”

Mr. Murphy said that no exterior work will be done until the downtown building moratorium ends on September 15. He expects the renovation to take three to four months. Oak Bluffs architect Chuck Sullivan, who collaborated with Mr. Murphy and Mr. Ryan on the Lookout restaurant, will design the yet to be named business.

Oak Bluffs selectmen and the town finance and advisory committee (FINCOM) met on Tuesday to deliberate year-end transfers to cover department shortfalls for the 2014 fiscal year (FY14). The combined boards unanimously approved $99,868 in transfers, which will be paid from the town general fund, the town reserve fund and by inter-department transfers.

The police department ($14,342), building inspector ($23,624), and highway department ($44,755) carried the largest shortfalls. The police department deficit is due largely to military leave and sick leave and should be substantially reduced in FY15 with the recent hiring of a new full-time officer, according to town officials. The building inspector shortfall reflects a change in budgeting procedures, not a loss in revenue.

The highway department overages were due to snow removal costs from the unusually stormy winter.
“These are routine, year-end cleanup items,” town administrator Robert Whritenour said in an email to The Times. “We’re very pleased that the amounts are far smaller than in previous years, although budgets remain very tight. This shows good stewardship of funds by department heads.”

In other business, the selectmen voted unanimously to hire West Tisbury building inspector Ernest Mendenhall on a part-time basis until a new full-time inspector is hired to replace retiring Oak Bluffs inspector James Dunn. Mr. Whritenour said the search for a new inspector, which began in June, has yielded few qualified candidates and that he has asked state officials to assist with the search.

Mr. Whritenour said the move to the Island has deterred several qualified off-Island candidates. “If anyone out there is a certified building inspector or knows a certified inspector, we have full-time or part-time work available,” Mr. Whritenour said to the MVTV camera. To the agreement of the board, selectman Michael Santoro suggested that the town consider increasing the building inspector’s salary, currently around $68,000, to attract highly qualified candidates.

by -

A routine traffic stop took a dangerous turn when Leandro Miranda, 23, of Edgartown, tried to flee Oak Bluffs police by taking them on a brief, high speed chase through downtown streets, congested with holiday traffic, on the afternoon of July 4.

“It’s lucky nobody got hurt,” Oak Bluffs police Lieutenant Tim Williamson told The Times. “Any time someone flees it’s a dangerous situation. This was particularly dangerous. There were people everywhere in the downtown area where the chase ended.”

The chase began when Detective Jeffrey LaBell saw Mr. Miranda driving a car with a suspended registration on Dukes County Ave. Detective LaBell knew the car’s registration was suspended and additionally that Mr. Miranda’s license was suspended, because he had arrested Mr. Miranda for the same violations on May 1 in the same vehicle, according to the police report.

When Detective LaBell and his partner, officer Michael Cotrone, signaled Mr. Miranda to pull over, Mr. Miranda tried to flee, driving at high speeds, at times in the opposite lane, on Masonic Ave. and on Circuit Ave as he headed toward the downtown area, police said.

Police cornered Mr. Miranda when he pulled into the parking lot of Martha’s Vineyard Insurance at 97 Circuit Ave. Mr. Miranda fled on foot and was eventually tackled and handcuffed by officer Petrone.

The police report states Mr. Miranda smelled of alcohol and had two nip bottles in his possession, as well as a partially consumed 12-pack of beer in the car.

“This is the second time he’s decided to flee from police,” Lieutenant Williamson said. In February, Mr. Miranda also led Oak Bluffs police on a high speed chase and was eventually apprehended in Edgartown. “He knows he’s unlicensed and intoxicated and then he puts everybody in jeopardy,” Lieutenant Williamson said. “There’s going to be a litany of charges. We asked for high bail. He got $5,000 and posted it. We requested a dangerousness hearing, but I learned that can’t be done with a motor vehicle offense, so we made a motion to revoke his first bail. We haven’t heard from the court as yet.”

Mr. Miranda has been charged with OUI alcohol, failure to stop for police, resisting arrest, operating after license suspension, destruction of property under $250, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, operating with a suspended registration and marked lanes violation.

The owner of the car, Rogerio J. Almeida, was cited for allowing an unlicensed person to drive his vehicle. This is the third time Mr. Miranda has been arrested while driving Mr. Almeida’s car, police said.

On March 6, Mr. Miranda was arraigned in Edgartown district court on charges ofOUI-liquor or .08%, negligent operation of motor vehicle, unlicensed operation of motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, speeding, failure to stop for police, wanton destruction of property under $250.

by -

The shot heard 'round Oak Bluffs.

Marty Nadler and Charlie Nadler, resting up before the annual free-throw-for-Gio's. — Courtesy Charlie Nadler

Charlie-NadlerCharlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. Until mid-March, he lived in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he worked in the film and television industry and performed stand up comedy. He’s just relocated to New York City, where he will continue to muse about his life on and off Martha’s Vineyard in his weekly “From Afar” column.

Two important events are on my calendar for Saturday July 12th. One is a comedy show — at Alex’s Place at the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA — where I will be on stage approximately three times as long as I have ever been on stage. I am not anxious in the slightest, because the second event is far more nerve-wracking for me; the annual foul shot competition between my dad and me.

I can’t recall exactly when it started, but it was sometime in the mid 90’s. We were in our driveway in East Chop and decided to shoot a free throw. The loser had to buy a large cheese pizza at Giordano’s. The inaugural loser was my father.

Next summer we decided to repeat the competition. The loser was my father.

We entered the third summer with a clean slate, and once again my father bought me a pizza.

This yearly David and Goliath battle leaves zero upside for me. “Obviously” is the go to response at Gio’s every time we report that I triumphed, because I have gotten a free pizza every single summer…

With the exception of one tragic loss almost ten years ago, which had to be one of the best days of my dad’s life. I couldn’t believe it; the Giordano boys didn’t believe me; luckily it hasn’t happened again.

But it will. And it causes me to lose sleep. My dad has not been missing by much the last couple years. He regularly hits the back of the rim – dead center. Last year the ball rolled around the hoop – seemingly for days – before popping out. The pleasure he gets from seeing me on the verge of a panic attack has become a fun consolation prize for him.

My worry this Saturday is that my dad tells me he has now been training regularly down in Florida; working on his form, anticipating greatness, and visualizing mozzarella cheese. Meanwhile, the last time I touched a basketball was last August’s victory against him. It’s a slippery slope and I can feel my heart rate elevating and just had a flashback to that losing year that shall never be mentioned again.

We have had several derivations of rules over time and finally settled on a fair set. Since my dad will read this piece — and I need to constantly refresh his memory so he doesn’t try to slip in any sneaky variations — I now present them in official form:

1.) We flip a coin. The coin flip winner shoots first.

2.) If First Shooter makes his foul shot, Second Shooter must make his foul shot or

buy a pizza. If Second Shooter also makes his shot, reset completely and shoot      again.

3.) If First shooter misses, and Second Shooter scores, Second Shooter wins a


4.) If First shooter misses, and Second Shooter also misses, reset completely and

shoot again.

5.) After a sportsmanlike handshake, proceed to Giordano’s where Marty buys

Charlie a pizza.

The much maligned dredge spoils, stored at the Oak Bluffs town cemetery after citizen outcry led to its removal from Inkwell Beach, has apparently found a final resting place. According to highway department supervisor Richard Combra, the material will be moved to an area of shoreline along East Chop to provide soil for beach grass. Mr. Combra said property owners will pay to transport the material.

Regarding the remaining dredge spoils at the Inkwell, Mr. Combra said that most of the material has been moved and due to the heavy use of the beach during the summer, it wouldn’t be practical to close it down for any length of time to remove more sand.

by -

Oak Bluffs selectmen voted unanimously at their regular Tuesday night meeting to appoint former Tisbury police officer Jason Marathas to the Oak Bluffs Police Department. Officer Marathas, a seven-year veteran in Tisbury received the Red Cross Professional Hero Award this year for jumping into Oak Bluffs harbor to help rescue a man who had fallen into the water and was struggling in the darkness to stay afloat. The board also unanimously voted to promote Oak Bluffs police detective Nicholas Curelli to the rank of sergeant.

Mr. Curelli has been an Oak Bluffs police officer since 1999 and a detective since 2004. “He’s the best detective on Martha’s Vineyard,” Chief Erik Blake said. “The rank of sergeant is the hardest promotion to attain. An outside company said he received some of the highest scores they have ever given.” Mr. Curelli and Mr. Marathas will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday at 12:30, in the library meeting room.

The selectmen also approved expansion plans and an additional liquor license for Coop de Ville. A 17-foot by 14-foot self-contained space will be built adjacent to the current restaurant, at the site of the former hot dog stand.

Shellfish constable David Grunden announced a pilot program that will enable non-residents to obtain shellfishing permits on weekends by making the permits available for purchase at local tackle shops. The program will start sometime before the 4th of July, Mr. Grunden said.


by -

Thursday’s ribbon cutting ceremony highlighted cooperation between agencies and recreational benefits.

State and local officials joined in the ribbon cutting. From left to right: Bob Whritenour, Rep. Tim Madden, Chuck Casella, selectman Greg Coogan, DFG commissioner Mary Griffin, fishing and boating access director Jack Sheppard, Undersecretary for Environment Martin Suuberg, DMF director Paul Diodati. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Fishermen do not generally mind a little rain. So it was not surprising that Thursday morning’s light rainfall did little to diminish the enthusiasm among those gathered for the official ribbon cutting ceremony to welcome the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier.

Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, assisted on the umbrella by town administrator Bob Whritenour, said the pier was a benefit for the entire community. To his left is DMF director Paul Diodati and DFG commissioner Mary Griffin.
Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, assisted on the umbrella by town administrator Bob Whritenour, said the pier was a benefit for the entire community. To his left is DMF director Paul Diodati and DFG commissioner Mary Griffin.

A parade of state and local officials stepped to the podium to describe the cooperation among multiple agencies and the town of Oak Bluffs, and the benefits the pier would provide, now and in the future. Division of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin did her best to thank all those involved in the decade long project.

Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, thanked town leaders who had worked tirelessly over the years to support the project, and state and federal agencies that have invested heavily in the town’s coastal infrastructure.

“As a small town we don’t have the resources to address many of the challenges that face a coastal community, sometimes it’s all we can do to keep sand on the beach,” he said, drawing a laugh from those familiar with the town’s struggle to replenish the Inkwell beach.

“Through these partnerships we’ve accomplished great things. This fishing pier is a great addition to this community, and not just Oak Bluffs but the whole Island.”

Mr. Coogan said residents across the Island appreciate the many features that make Oak Bluffs accessible. He said the new pier will give “everyday citizens, young and old” direct access to a first class fishing resource, or just a spot to stroll.

Referencing future plans, Mr. Coogan said, “In an era where public access to the waterfront is often threatened, we’re expanding it. And this is only the beginning. By the fall, we expect to start construction on a new seawall, here to my right, and a pedestrian boardwalk that will protect us from storms and bring more and more people to this lovely place.”

Project construction was overseen by the Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Fishing and Boating Access with assistance from the Division of Marine Fisheries.

The new pier cost $1 million and is the largest recreational fishing pier in Massachusetts. About $188,000 of project funds came from Massachusetts recreational saltwater fishing permit sales. The $10 charge for individual permits, collected by DMF, along with donations and charter boat permit revenue accrued more than $1.2 million in Massachusetts in 2013 for fisheries research, conservation and public access projects, according to a press release.

Chuck Casella, a charter captain and chairman of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Panel, a citizen advisory group established to provide oversight over the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund, spoke about the battle to create a saltwater fishing license.

“The saltwater license was created from the ground up and it one of only three dedicated funds in the state that is truly a user pay, user benefit fund,” he said.

Referencing the pier and fisheries programs, Mr. Casella said fishermen could be confident that all the monies collected for the license fee are well spent.

Speaking on behalf of local fishermen, Bob Lane of Oak Bluffs, former president of the Surfcasters Association, thanked those who conceived of the idea of a fishing pier and persisted, undaunted by the long permitting and funding hurdles. Mr. Lane singled out Walter Lisson and David Nash of Edgartown.

The Oak Bluffs Fishing Pier will complement improvements planned for the North Bluff sea wall and boardwalk, according to a press release. Energy and Environmental Affairs awarded the town of Oak Bluffs $3.6 million in January to repair the damaged North Bluff. That grant is part of a total of $8.5 million in outside funding for Oak Bluffs, a figure that includes $1.9 million in seaport improvement money from the state Seaport Advisory Council, and $2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance.

To see a fine art slide show of the pier, by Island photographers Steve Myrick and Alison Shaw, among others, click here.

by -

The person who strikes it right scores a fun-filled evening.

The planned bowling alley in Oak Bluffs needs a name. — Courtesy Sam Dunn

What’s in a name? For the person who suggests the winning moniker for a new bowling alley to be constructed in Oak Bluffs, it could be worth dinner and a free evening of bowling for four people.

Developer and architect Sam Dunn is building a 13,500-square-foot bowling alley/entertainment center on Uncas Avenue, at the edge of the town’s business district. He and his partners, landowner Barry Reeves and real estate advisor Bob Sawyer, decided they would ask Islanders for some feedback and suggestions before they make a final decision on the bowling center’s name.

The idea was to let the community be involved in deciding this,” Mr. Dunn said. “We’re hoping it will generate some interest.”

To vote, use the link, https://apps.facebook.com/my-polls/lvwkmk or visit the Facebook page, “Bowling Center on Martha’s Vineyard,” and click on “vote for name.”

The name choices include MV Bowl, Vineyard Bowl, Bowl MV, OB Bowl, and Cottage City Bowl. If none of those strike anyone’s fancy, there is a box marked “other” where people can type in their own suggestions.

Based on the poll, Mr. Dunn said that he, Mr. Reeves, and Mr. Sawyer will pick a winner from the first group of names, and also select one from those suggested by the community.

The two final selections will be put to a final vote, again on Facebook. If the winning name is suggested by someone in the community, that person and three guests will be treated to dinner and an evening of bowling at the new center.

My personal favorite so far is OB Bowl,” Mr. Dunn said. “I think it has great alliteration and would lend itself to a really cool logo.”

But people have been coming up to me and making some fun suggestions, though, that we never thought of,” he added.

The bowling alley/entertainment center will house 10 bowling lanes, a bar, a restaurant, two golf simulators, a game room, an event room and two apartments that will qualify as affordable housing. The new facility will replace a long-vacant laundromat, demolished in May. Perhaps that will inspire a few contest participants to work the word “suds” into their entries.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved the bowling alley project in March, with conditions regarding sound and light mitigation, landscaping, and limited use of the function room. The Oak Bluffs selectmen approved Mr. Dunn’s liquor license application on March 25.

At the selectmen’s June 9 meeting, a group of abutters of the Uncas Avenue property asked that all construction be halted until September 15. As a compromise, the selectmen voted to allow construction to continue from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Thursday, during the summer months.

Mr. Dunn previously told The Times that his goal is to have the bowling alley open by the holidays.

This morning, Oak Bluffs town leaders and representatives of several state agencies, including the Office of Fishing and Boating Access and the Division of Marine Fisheries, are scheduled to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier. Islanders and visitors have already begun to make good use of the handsome structure, which expands on the town’s already inviting waterfront boardwalk and strolling opportunities.

The state picked up the cost of construction, about $1 million, using a combination of funding sources that included Mass saltwater license revenues and federal Wallop-Breaux Trust funds, money generated through excise taxes levied on sport fishing and boating equipment.

Under the terms of its agreement with the state, Oak Bluffs is responsible for day-to-day maintenance, public safety, and policing.

The idea for a fishing pier began with the rebuilding of the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal. The original idea was to incorporate a fishing platform into the pier. That plan disappeared after 9/11, due to security concerns, but not the idea.

For several years, a group of fishermen led by David Nash of Edgartown quietly pressed for a fishing pier. They found support among Oak Bluffs town leaders and in the Office of Fishing and Boating Access, led by longtime director Jack Sheppard, a man who has worked mightily over the years to provide public access to the state’s waterways for all citizens.

The fishing pier project ties in with efforts by Oak Bluffs leaders to revitalize the downtown area and generally enhance the town’s welcoming atmosphere. Work will soon begin on a multi-million dollar plan to rebuild the entire seawall and add a boardwalk at North Bluff.

In the years to come, Island fishermen will take advantage of the pier to introduce kids to the fun of catching a scup, lovers will stroll along its length in quiet conversation, and visitors will be able to sit on one of the many wooden benches and admire the view.

Today’s ceremony marks the end of a long navigation through a series of local, state, and federal permitting agencies. In all, the project took more than a decade, but the end result was well worth the effort. Oak Bluffs can take pride in the latest addition to its public projects and the entire Island will be the beneficiary.

A salute to Edson Rodgers

Islanders who attended the Flag Day concert by the members of the Navy Band Northeast from Newport, R.I., at the Tabernacle on Saturday night enjoyed quite a treat. The band performed a medley of tunes to the great delight of the audience, many of whom waved small American flags, purchased prior to the concert from entrepreneurial Boy Scouts.

American Legion Post 257 in Vineyard Haven organized the free concert as part of a celebration earlier in the day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Veterans Memorial Park. The evening began with neighbors greeting neighbors and the excited chatter of children. It was a quintessential Island event that reflected the spirit and patriotism of our small community.

Wielding a conductor’s baton and smiling broadly, Lt. Commander Carl J. Gerhard stood erect in a finely tailored, white dress jacket and led the Navy band through its paces with the precision of an aircraft carrier takeoff. But the star of the show was retired Navy chief Edson Rodgers of Edgartown, who conceived of and organized the band’s Island visit.

It was no small task, given the logistics and paperwork involved. Navy Band Northeast is attached to the Naval War College at Naval Station Newport. The group performs over 500 engagements annually in an 11-state area. Band members travel in four 15-passenger vans and carry their equipment in a 26-foot truck.

Mr. Rodgers served with the Navy Band Northeast before he retired in 1987. Lt. Cdr. Gerhard, who will retire in two months, worked with Mr. Rodgers when he was one of the senior instructors at the Naval School of Music in Virginia. His affection for his former teacher was obvious when he invited Mr. Rodgers to bring his trumpet on stage and perform with the band.

At the conclusion of the performance of “My Way” — done “The Navy way,” Edson Rodgers said —  Mr. Rodgers received a standing ovation from the crowd and a salute from his former pupil. Both were well deserved.

by -

Victims of time, the elements and technology, the Strand and Island theaters continue to deteriorate.

On Thursday, painters were busy sprucing up the Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs. — Photo by Steve Myrick

As summer rolls in, two anchor buildings in downtown Oak Bluffs, the Strand Theatre on Oak Bluffs Avenue and the Island theater on Circuit Avenue, remain in disrepair, their marquees that once heralded summer blockbusters now blank.

The Strand houses a bike and moped business. The Island is vacant. Representatives of the Hall family, owners of both buildings, said they are doing their best to address structural and cosmetic issues with both buildings but continue to encounter unforeseen problems.

The Island theater is in need of structural repairs.
The Island theater is in need of structural repairs.

For Oak Bluffs town leaders it all seems like a rerun. At the conclusion of the May 27 meeting of the selectmen, selectman Walter Vail commented on the continued inaction of Halls to address the situation.

“I don’t know of anyone in town who is not frustrated by the condition of these buildings and how long they’ve been in such a sad state,” Mr. Vail said. “I’m fed up; we’re all fed up. The selectmen have been looking at all kinds of options, but it doesn’t look like anything is going to happen soon. I’m open to any ideas anybody has.”

Paint job

An email exchange earlier in the month and obtained by The Times through a public records request provides a glimpse into the source of Mr. Vail’s frustration.

Jim Tetrealt was busy painting the Strand Theater on Wednesday afternoon.
Jim Tetrealt was busy painting the Strand Theater on Wednesday afternoon.

In an email dated May 20, Mr. Vail wrote to Ben Hall Jr., co-owner of the theaters and the family attorney, “I have not seen any work being done on the Strand theater, as you told me in March would happen this month.  Am I rushing things?”

Addressing the Island theater, Mr. Vail wrote, “It is in such awful condition that it ought to come down and be replaced by a building which could be something you (and Oak Bluffs) could be proud of and even turn a profit!”

Mr. Vail concluded, “We are getting good feedback on how everything on Circuit Ave. is being dressed up, and I am hoping you can also give me an update on your plans for the Island theater. It still looks as awful as it has for years!”
Ben Hall responded to Mr. Vail on May 21. He pointed his finger at tenants of the Strand who he said are responsible for painting and said repairs to the Island theater had been delayed due to various problems with contractors, weather delays, and a town bylaw that prohibits outdoor construction in the B-1 district during the summer.

“Nobody likes to hear excuses, and I am now more disappointed and angry than you are about these matters,” he wrote. “The tenants at the Strand promised me back in March they would have the painting at the Strand undertaken, presumably before Memorial Day weekend.”

Brian Hall, co-owner of the theaters, said in a recent conversation with The Times that the Strand is leased to a moped group managed by Jason Leone. “They’re responsible for maintenance. It’s in the lease that they signed. They keep coming to us saying we want to do this and that, we say ‘Fine, bring us a proposal.’ We have yet to see any proposal from them.”

Town administrator Robert Whritenour told The Times that he had received assurances from Mr. Leone that exterior painting and repair of the sign would take place this week and next. On Wednesday, a painter was busy applying a coat of white paint to the side of the building.

Roof work
The Island Theater’s most recent use as a movie theater was in August 2012, when the Sony Corporation leased the auditorium for a private screening and the Island premiere of the movie “Sparkle.” Almost 200 invited guests attended, including producer Debra Martin Chase, President Barack Obama’s advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Winter storm damage that year to the roof and associated water issues created a long punch list of needed repairs.

“The first thing we have to do is get the roof finished,” Brian Hall told The Times. “We started work on the truss a few days ago. That shouldn’t take that long. How fast the rest goes is out of my control.”

Chris Lowe is the contractor in charge of truss and roof repair, according to Mr. Hall.

Brian Hall said Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn has indicated they could possibly get an extension on the summer outdoor construction moratorium for the B-1 district, which began June 1. “If we have to the end of June, we can make a boatload of progress,” he said. “We can at least get the roof waterproofed, so the tarps would be gone. We’ll go as far as we can with the time we have.”

Brian Hall estimates the repairs to make the Island “leasable” will be in the neighborhood of $100,000.

Asked if the financial liability and the public relations liability that the theaters have become for the Hall family were inducement to put the the buildings on the market, he replied, “We have a lot of people ask ‘would you consider selling?’ Make an offer, we’ll listen. But we never hear a solid offer. I don’t expect a premium, but I don’t expect a low ball either.”

No tear down

In his May 21 email to selectman Vail, Ben Hall Jr. cited contractor issues as the major cause of delays on the restoration of the Island. “We are unable to count on our original contractor to complete the truss repairs and roofing work at the Island for which we finally got specifications and the go-ahead in late March, early April. As you know, we had been stalled until then because we had not found an engineer who could find a solution to the issues seen by others that suggested the building be torn down.”

John Lolley, a civil and structural engineering consultant with 41 years of experience, is the engineer that recommended demolition. Mr. Lolley was engaged by the Halls to make recommendations on repairing a rotted truss last summer.
“In my opinion, that building was never sound to begin with,” Mr. Lolley said in an interview with the Times. “At the time it was built, people knew more about masonry probably than they do now. I was suprised how the masonry wasn’t up to the standards and empirical rules that were used at that time. They built the columns and infilled the walls, which means the walls and columns are not connected.”
Mr. Lolley said the heavy wind load coming off Nantucket Sound and 99 years of Island weather have taken a heavy toll on the structure. “I think it’s dangerous enough that it if it’s not demolished, it should be addressed structurally in a significant way,” Mr. Lolley said. “Just because they inherited problems with the building doesn’t mean they’re not responsible. Something should be done. I’m surprised more hasn’t been done by the building inspector.”

Brian Hall disagrees with that assessment. “His [Mr. Lolley’s] solutions were over the top elaborate,” Mr. Hall said. “The building is not unsafe. It’s not going to be occupiable, but it’s not going to fall over either.”

Mr. Hall said a second engineers report, completed over the winter by Reid Silva of Vineyard Land Surveying and Engineering, provided the way forward.

Mr. Silva said that he made no formal design for the repair of the walls. “I had more to do with the truss repair than evaluating the building,” he said in a phone call with the Times. “There are plenty of items that need to be addressed.”

Building push

In a conversation with the Times on June 6, Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn said he spoke with Brian Hall last week. “I told him he had to get moving,” Mr. Dunn said. “If he doesn’t, I’m going to declare it unsafe and have it torn down.” Mr. Dunn indicated that he could use Mr. Lolley’s engineering report to justify the demolition.

Mr. Dunn agreed to extend the June 1 downtown building moratorium until the end of June so roof repairs could be completed. Mr. Dunn’s definition of completed means weatherproofed and shingled, not just weatherproofed, as Mr. Hall indicated in his conversation with the Times. “There’s no reason the entire job couldn’t be done in three or four days with a professional crew,” he said. “You just have to spend the money.”

Even though he is retiring at the end of the month, Mr. Dunn said he has a personal interest in seeing the situation resolved. “I love this town,” he said. “I live in this town; I want to be involved.”

An asset

In a lengthy email to The Times, Ben Hall Jr. described the history of repair projects on both theaters and the challenge faced by small movie theater operators. He defended his family’s stewardship of both buildings, and he said his family had been repeatedly victimized by news coverage.

“It’s easy to throw stones at the owners of such large places,” Mr. Hall said. “These buildings are significant economic assets and it is ridiculous to even suggest that the maintenance and repair of such buildings are being ignored by the owners.”

Mr. Hall said his family had invested close to $1 million in the past decade in the Strand but the film exhibition business is no longer viable.

As for the Island Theater, Mr. Hall said, the severe wind storms of fall and winter 2012 running on through March of 2013 damaged the roof which then damaged the interior walls of the building. Once repair work could begin, he said, engineers were brought in who questioned the structural integrity of the entire building. “As you can understand, this was a real shock,” he said.

Mr. Hall said that as much as townspeople complain, his family is certain town leaders would not permit the building to be torn down without a viable plan for its replacement.

This spring, Mr. Hall said, his family was able to retain an expert who designed “an elegant, but detailed method to knit the building together. This report was provided to the authorities who approved of the concept, and the contractor was asked to re-mobilize to undertake the needed, but more extensive, work.”

Mr. Hall said work was halted due to a town bylaw prohibiting work in the business district during the summer months. The space is unlikely to be operated as a movie theater in the future, he said. “Like other properties in the business district, the Island Theater building continues to be on the market for a long term lease to permit the prospective tenant to amortize whatever investment they may wish to make on the property with uses that would create an additional diversity of services to the residents and visitors to Oak Bluffs,” he said.