In crash aftermath selectmen consider redesign

Redesign proposals for the intersection of Old County and State Roads, the site of a three-car accident on May 19 that left two people injured, captured the attention of the West Tisbury selectmen at their weekly meeting.

Acting police chief Dan Rossi said the accident occurred when a motorist traveling up-Island failed to yield to oncoming traffic while making a left turn onto Old County. Selectmen reviewed two intersection redesign proposals submitted by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and two from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). Jennifer Rand, West Tisbury executive secretary, explained that any redesign of the intersection is probably four years away on the state DOT project schedule, because it is not considered a top priority compared to other locations in the Commonwealth.

Michael Colaneri said, “When does it become a crisis — does someone have to die?” The Rev. Bob Day said that he had also only recently avoided an accident at the intersection. “Signs should be posted so someone is not killed,” he said.

Selectmen asked Ms. Rand to schedule a public hearing on the subject, at which MVC executive director Mark London could present the MVC’s recommended design changes and take questions.

That meeting is scheduled for the June 9 selectmen’s meeting, Ms. Rand told The Times.

In other business, Richard Knabel, the newly elected chairman of the selectmen, also proposed the board consider changing the process by which selectmen make board and committee appointments.

Rather than providing automatic reappointment, Mr. Knabel said that when a position on a board or commission is about to be vacant, the appointee should be contacted by the selectmen’s office and asked if he or she wishes to be reappointed. However, Mr. Knabel said the pending opening should be advertised to solicit other potential volunteers. Then the total field of potential appointees, including the incumbent, would be reviewed and interviewed by the selectmen to fill the vacant position.

“It is only fair that we solicit applications of other people; otherwise we give the impression that it is a closed shop and that once they are appointed they have the job for life,” Mr. Knabel said. He added that the incumbent would have some advantage, because the selectmen would be evaluating the applicants based on expertise and experience.

Selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter objected. “Some boards deal with very complex matters, and it takes a year or two to learn the issues. I am in favor of re-appointing people who have served well automatically.”

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said, “I understand what you are trying to accomplish, and I think it is a good thing to put the word out.”

Ms. Mitchell suggested that in February, as appointments were beginning to near an end, a new process could be initiated rather than quickly and abruptly making a change.

Mr. Colaneri, who is an elected member of the board of assessors and an appointee to the Land Bank advisory board and the affordable housing committee, said there would have to be a reason or some kind of criteria to replace a sitting individual who is a volunteer on a board.

Mr. Knabel said, “No one is saying this is a way to clean boards and commissions of people. It is a question of transparency and accountability and that people feel they have access to these committees, boards, and commissions. If it appears that whoever got the job has the job forever, then I think that sends the message that we are running a closed shop.”

The selectmen took no action.

Selectmen agreed unanimously to approve the request of the Mill Pond committee to expand its membership from five to seven members. Selectmen reappointed Kent Healy, who had been on the committee and then resigned in a dispute over the issue of dredging. Selectmen will advertise for a seventh member.

In other business, the selectmen held a brief public hearing and then unanimously approved the transfer of the taxi license held by owner Mario DeBari of Mario’s Taxi to Lance Pope, a long-time employee. Mario’s Taxi operates three cabs from West Tisbury.

Chief Rossi asked the selectmen to designate four additional parking spots on Lambert’s Cove Road, across from the beach parking lot, for permit parking during the beach season. Chief Rossi also said that he wants to have beach attendants put out cones uphill of the new parking spots and that the radar speed sign will be used daily. In addition, Chief Rossi suggested that “Permit Parking Only” signs replace the existing “No Parking” signs.

Selectmen asked Ms. Rand to schedule interviews with potential appointees to three study committees, the cultural council, and the MVC.

Ms. Rand also announced that Bob Bellinger has been named chief of the Tri-Town Ambulance Service.