Chilmark, flush with scallops, increases limit


Chilmark selectmen at their regular meeting on November 20 voted to change the limitations of the current shellfish season to shift fishermen’s focus to Nashaquitsa Pond where there has been a bumper crop of bay scallops this year.

Selectmen voted 2-0 (chairman Jonathan Mayhew was absent) to increase the scallop limits in Nashaquitsa Pond from two “heaping” bushels to three “struck” bushels for the shellfish season now underway.

Selectmen also agreed to close Menemsha Pond to scalloping from November 21 through December 3, and agreed to open the area outside of Chocker’s Creek from the eastern buoy to the town line starting on November 21.

Shellfish constable Isiah Scheffer said a group of fishermen showed up at a recent meeting of the shellfish committee and asked for the change.

“It was talked through, and what they basically decided to do was raise the limit to three struck [level] bushels effective tomorrow (November 21) and to close the flats down to try and get the remaining population out of Quitsa and not be left with a bunch of small scallops at the end of the season when demand goes down,” he said.

Mr. Scheffer said the shellfish season has been robust so far — commercial and recreational scallopers have harvested a total of 875 bushels. “We already passed what we did last year for the whole season,” he said.

Selectman Warren Doty praised fishermen for working together to come up with the plan on their own. “It was interesting that the fishermen themselves, led by Matt Mayhew, came up with this proposal to leave the most prolific areas closed for…a period of time as a conservation measure,” he said. “Twenty scallopers were in the room for this meeting and it was unanimous. I think that is amazing.”

In related news, selectmen voted to authorize the town shellfish department to lead a joint project with the town of West Tisbury and the Nature Conservancy to create a shell reef in the Tisbury Great Pond.

Mr. Scheffer said the Nature Conservancy is seeking funding for the shell reef that would be created by placing shells from off Island at the bottom of the pond to help gather oyster seed and oyster spat.

In other news, selectmen discussed a number of issues related to the fiscal year 2014 budget. Town officials are in the early stages of drafting next year’s budget, and budget hearings will begin after the New Year.

Executive secretary Tim Carroll said the town human resources board is recommending a 2.4 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) in next year’s budget.

Selectmen also briefly discussed the FY 2014 budget for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School that totals $17.64 million, up 5.5 percent over the current school budget.

Mr. Doty noted that the superintendent’s budget was up 8.8 percent, largely due to a shared transportation increase of 45 percent. He questioned if there were other areas of the budget that could be cut to make up for the sharp increase.

“There are the choices they have made and are recommending,” Mr. Carroll said. “We can question their choices…. The thing is, would we rather sit at the budget table on a night we do the school budget, or do you want to ask for a special meeting with the superintendent’s office and the school committee and the finance committee and thrash out the school budget before the budget season?”

Selectmen agreed to invite school officials to attend one of their meetings in the coming weeks, before the budget hearings begin.

Mr. Carroll also told selectmen to expect a number of spending articles for the annual town meeting, including one to allocate money for the fire department stabilization fund, another to purchase a new police cruiser and another to replace photocopiers in town hall.

Mr. Carroll said there would likely be an article to allocate community preservation act funds to replace windows at the Dukes County Courthouse, and one to allocate money for the town’s share of a new ambulance for Tri-Town Ambulance.

There also might be an article to allocate funding to repave and repair a number of town roads, as well as the usual articles to fund the Dukes County pest control and health care access programs.

“There are a lot of money issues that need a lot of thought – wow,” Mr. Doty said.

Mr. Carroll also gave selectmen an update on the U.S. Coast Guard’s plans for a new boathouse in Menemsha. He said project planners have reduced the height of the building from the original plans submitted to the town last year.

The old boathouse that was destroyed by a fire in July of 2010 was 28 feet at its tallest and 63 feet long. The initial plans by the Coast Guard in October showed a new boathouse with two floors, just under 35 feet at its highest and 78 feet long.

After town officials complained the new boathouse was too big, project planners went back and reduced the scale so that the building was 6 feet, 6 inches longer and two feet, 11 inches taller than the original boathouse, which was built in 1939.

Mr. Carroll last week told selectmen the Coast Guard is at the 35-45 percent design phase and plans on holding a town hall-style meeting sometime in December to unveil and discus the latest design for the new boathouse.

He said construction is expected to begin in March and continue through the busy summer season. The Coast Guard awarded the contract to the Morten Construction Company of Minnesota.

Mr. Doty said he was concerned that construction would take place in the summer when Menemsha is at its busiest.

“It’s going to be busy, we need a plan for that,” he said. “I would guess most of their building projects are not in as busy a place with such limited vehicles access as this one.”