Committee appointments spark friction in Oak Bluffs


Oak Bluffs selectmen approved a long list of reappointments to town boards and committees at their Tuesday meeting, but it was the appointments they postponed that sparked friction.

Selectmen did not reappoint members of the shellfish committee, or the shellfish constable, David Grunden. The town has appointed a joint committee with Tisbury to explore merging the shellfish operations of both towns.

“The shellfish committee is going to remain status quo,” selectmen chairman Duncan Ross said. He directed his remarks at a group of about half a dozen commercial fishermen seated in the audience. The commercial fishermen who attended the meeting strongly oppose merging of shellfishing operations.

“We have a committee that is studying several town departments. We are not making any reappointments on shellfish at this time, we are awaiting the report,” Mr. Ross said.

Selectman Ron DiOrio, a member of the study committee, said the group is moving expeditiously and expects to complete its report in October or November.

Selectmen reappointed all the town’s financial personnel, including the tax collector, town administrator, finance director, principal assessor, assistant accountant, treasurer, and assistant treasurer, but for only a four-month term.

A separate town study committee is exploring ways to streamline the town’s financial departments, with the intention of presenting a new plan to voters at the next special town meeting possibly in November.

Peter Martell, who was not reappointed to emergency management director, questioned the appointment process.

“There are a number of positions that we haven’t taken up in a number of committees,” Mr. Martell told the board. “Is there some significance to that?”

“Only if you want to read into it,” replied town administrator Michael Dutton. Mr. Martell recently prevailed in a lawsuit against the town stemming from his dismissal from the fire department. The town is considering whether to appeal that ruling.

Also not reappointed were members of the community preservation committee. While the reappointments were not discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Dutton said before the meeting that he is waiting to see whether there is a petition from taxpayers to withdraw from participation in the Community Preservation Act. That act levies a three percent surcharge on local property taxes. Until last year, the state matched the surcharge dollar for dollar, but the match has been reduced, as the state struggles with its own financial troubles.

In a phone conversation with The Times Wednesday, Mr. Ross said the board did not intend to make all committee appointments at once.

“If people want to say we’re picking and choosing, they could interpret that way,” Mr. Ross said. “But there’s no malice toward them in the process we’re using.”

In other action Tuesday, the board heard a number of complaints about the behavior of people attracted by the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament Friday and Saturday.

“I’m not talking about the political correctness of the shark tournament,” selectman Gail Barmakian said. “Out of all the years, this year seems to be the worst in terms of trash and lack of organization.”

She said in the early morning hours of Friday, she counted 125 empty beer cans, numerous liquor containers, and a four-foot section of a shark’s tail on the sidewalk along the harbor. She said there was more trash, and another shark’s tail, the next morning.

Highway commissioner Richard Combra Jr. said all the trash was cleaned up by 7 am. He said shark tournament organizers are charged only for an extra dumpster for the event, not for the extra hours or trash disposal required in excess of the amount for a normal summer weekend. Mr. Ross suggested tournament organizer Steve James appear at a selectmen’s meeting before next year’s tournament.

Also Tuesday, selectmen voted unanimously to approve plans to expand Fishbones, a restaurant on the harbor. The establishment, which now seats 75, plans to add a total of eleven seats for dining in a new outdoor patio on the parking lot side of the current structure.

In his selectmen’s report, Mr. DiOrio expressed concerns about the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s office of Fishing and Boating Access plan to construct a 317-foot fishing pier between the harbor entrance and the Steamship Authority dock.

“I do not object to a fishing pier,” Mr. DiOrio said. “But again, it’s an Island-wide activity. Every fisherman and visitor on the Island is going to be using the pier in Oak Bluffs, with us picking up the tab for management and policing. No other town has stepped up to the plate and said we’ll help share in those costs.”

In his report to selectmen, Mr. Dutton told the board that Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Mark London has asked local towns to consider a one-year delay on design of the proposed roundabout to replace the four-corner intersection of Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road and Barnes Road. Mr. Dutton said the committee setting priorities for federally funded road construction on the Island is shifting priorities to consider improvements to State Road in Vineyard Haven, the scene of a bicycle accident which killed a mother of two visiting the Island for a bike excursion with her family on July 6.