Chilmark considers ambulance service pact


Chilmark selectmen, at their Tuesday meeting, discussed a draft agreement for ambulance services for the three up-Island towns and reviewed the damage caused by hurricane Irene.

Selectmen considered an agreement with West Tisbury and Aquinnah regarding the management of the Tri-Town ambulance service, drafted by West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel. The deal will need approval from selectmen in all three towns.

The draft agreement, to be the subject of a joint meeting of the three towns on September 14, designates Chilmark as the fiscal agent for Tri-Town Ambulance, responsible for paying bills and receiving payment from the partner towns.

The agreement calls for an ambulance committee, consisting of a selectman from each town, with the chief of Tri-Town and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital director of emergency services serving as ex-officio members, to oversee operations.

The agreement requires the committee to make policy decisions, conduct evaluations of the chief and deputy chief, and review and approve the annual proposed budget presented by the chief, who will be in charge of all operational decisions.

The agreement also takes note of the changes that have occurred since the first Tri-Town agreement in 1978. Since then, the service has expanded from one ambulance to three, advanced life support services have been adopted Island-wide, and the service is no longer volunteer-based.

The agreement stipulates all costs for maintenance, repairing, insuring, licensing and outfitting of the ambulances and support vehicles be shared equally by the member towns. But it also notes that Aquinnah has raised the issue of dividing the operating costs by a different formula.

Mr. Knabel sketched six different scenarios for dividing the operational costs, but emphasized they are only meant to show the impact on each town’s share. “There are many more variations on this theme, including using strictly town population ratios,” he wrote in the agreement.

According to data provided, between 2006 and 2010 there was an annual average of 35 ambulance calls to Aquinnah, 111 calls to Chilmark, and 202 calls to West Tisbury.

Selectmen on Tuesday acknowledged that the work done by Mr. Knabel was preliminary and subject to change, and their discussion of the agreement was consequently limited.

In other news, executive secretary Tim Carroll said the American Tower Company, the company building a digital antenna system (DAS) to improve wireless coverage up-Island, will start paying rent for use of utility poles on September 12.

Mr. Carroll said the company is on track to make the new system operational by January 1.

Selectmen also reviewed damage reports from hurricane Irene last weekend. Mr. Carroll said residents used the emergency shelter at the Chilmark Community Center until power was restored in parts of Aquinnah and Chilmark late Sunday night.

“All throughout the day people were stopping in the community center to use the bathroom and get updates on the weather, because their power was down,” he said.

Mr. Carroll said communications were spotty during the storm because the community center lost cable service from Comcast. Because the cable boxes went down, the center also lost phone and Internet service, he said.

Selectman Warren Doty said there was overwash at the Squibnocket Beach parking lot, and two panels of the newly constructed wave wall at the new connector pier broke loose. Mr. Doty said selectmen should look into what happened and try and recoup damages, if possible.

“We want that wave wall to last 25 to 30 years, we need an engineering solution,” Mr. Doty said. “It’s distressing that during our first storm something broke loose.”

Mr. Carroll said there was substantial damage to Lucy Vincent Beach. The beach washed over at the path near the first section of the cliff, the far side of the cliffs was eroded, and all the materials were ripped off the clay sub-strata.

The discussion brought a response from Steve Lewenberg, a commissioner on the Chilmark Pond Association, which is steward of the coastal pond through enabling legislation enacted in 1904.

Mr. Lewenberg leant his support to an article on warrant of the special town meeting later this month asking voters to appropriate $5,000 to begin the Chilmark Pond restoration plan.

Mr. Lewenberg said Irene only heightened the need for the town to come up with a long-term plan to preserve Chilmark Pond. “I am concerned, as a commissioner, about that area of clay on Lucy Vincent Beach. I don’t know if there is anything we can do about it,” he said.

“After hurricane Bob 20 years ago, we did something informal, but the rules have since become stricter,” he continued. “We need to have a professional study that location and give us an indication of what, if anything, can be done to solve the problem . . . we need a cooperation between the association and the town, both of which have a vested interest in this issue.”

Selectmen agreed to place such an question on the September 26, 11-article special town meeting warrant, which they approved.