Tisbury provides bus patrons shelter from the storm

Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel officially unveiled two new bus shelters erected to shield passengers from the elements while they wait at the Vineyard Transit Authority bus stop near the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal.

The Friday afternoon ceremony played out before several curious bus patrons who looked on as Mr. Israel raised his voice against the traffic noise and addressed five public officials gathered for the noon event to cut the ribbon stretched across the openings of the plexiglass shelters.

Mr. Israel said the selectmen thought it was important to hold the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the public because the bus shelters were built with embarkation fee money that directly benefits the residents of Tisbury.

“This is a tremendous example of a cooperative effort between different entities within and outside the town,” Mr. Israel said. In addition to the selectmen, those included the Steamship Authority, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority, Bank of Martha’s Vineyard, and the Tisbury department of public works.

Looking on was Dukes County commissioner Melinda Loberg of Tisbury, town administrator John Bugbee, VTA board chairman Alice Butler, Bank of Martha’s Vineyard vice president Ann Hunt, SSA terminal manager Kathleen Parsons, and Tisbury SSA port council representative George Balco.

Earlier in the month, at the SSA monthly board meeting, Mr. Balco, former member of the town finance committee, wryly noted that the long-discussed bus shelter was one of the few examples of the legislatively imposed 50-cents per head embarkation fee on passengers “actually being spent appropriately.”

The two shelters cost $29,910 of which $23,910 was paid from Tisbury’s embarkation fee revenue. The VTA contributed $6,000.

The bus shelter celebration was more than two and a half years arriving. In February 2008, Tisbury selectmen met with SSA general manager Wayne Lamson and VTA administrator Angela Grant and agreed on the need for a shelter for the busy bus stop but hung up on the more difficult questions of size, cost, design, and permitting requirements.

At the time, the group asked Mr. Lamson if the SSA would pay a share of the still undetermined cost. Mr. Lamson said the bus shelter was the type of project that fits the intended use of embarkation fee money.

The legislatively imposed 50-cent surcharge on one-way ferry passenger tickets generates considerable money for the SSA’s port towns. The law requires that the money be used only for mitigating the impact of ferry service on the city or town. Those uses include providing harbor services, public safety protection, emergency services or infrastructure improvements.

Town officials have used the legislation’s definition to include most any emergency services spending. Embarkation funds have been used to pay for ambulance service equipment, a fire truck, to purchase and equip a police vehicle, and to upgrade training, equipment, and uniforms for seasonal employees.

At annual town meeting in April, Tisbury voters were presented with $289,994 in embarkation fee money and approved a laundry list of purchases that included $50,000 to refurbish and equip a town ambulance; $4,000 to lease a police motorcycle; $45,000 to repair or replace brick sidewalks on Water Street; $10,000 to be expended by the selectmen for the beautification of the downtown area; and $37,500 towards the purchase of a generator for the Tisbury School.