Oak Bluffs approves shark tournament application, with a catch

The 2012 Monster Shark Tournament weigh-in attracted a crowd of onlookers. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Oak Bluffs selectmen met Tuesday and approved an application to hold the 27th Annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament in the town harbor, but they made the approval contingent on tournament organizer Steve James appearing before the board.

The harbor advisory committee had recommended that selectmen approve the application. Mr. James accepted an invitation to appear before the harbor advisory committee, but he did not appear when he missed his ferry, committee chairman John Breckenridge told selectmen.

The application process is new. At the urging of the harbor advisory committee, selectmen now require anyone using the harbor for a large event to apply for a special permit from the board of selectmen. The harbor advisory committee reviews the applications and recommends action to the board of selectmen.

In the application, Mr. James agreed to offset costs the town incurs for extra police, ambulance, and other public services.

Police chief Eric Blake, in a memo attached to the application, asked tournament organizers to pay $11,874 to cover 186 hours of overtime for Oak Bluffs police officers, 22 hours of overtime for police department administrative aides, and 44 hours of overtime for Dukes County Sheriff’s Department officers.

“I have developed an overtime schedule that will allow Oak Bluffs officers to police the event in a safe and efficient manner,” Oak Bluffs police Sargeant Michael Marchand said in a memo attached to the application. “As you know, as a result of last year’s Monster Shark Tournament the department had numerous complaints from the citizenry in Oak Bluffs over public drunkenness and minor quality of life crimes. Officers in the department felt overwhelmed and most importantly unsafe at last year’s staffing levels.”

The application also calls for extra ambulance service at a cost to the organizers of $2,520, as well as $2,902 for trash pick up, portable toilets, and street cleaning.

“I am a little disappointed that the applicant is not here and I’m personally inclined to postpone this until the applicant is here because the board might have a few questions,” chairman Kathy Burton said. “We do not want to have a fiasco this summer like we had last summer.”

The board approved the application, pending Mr. James’s appearance. They directed the harbor advisory committee to arrange a date for him to meet with the board.

A group opposed to the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament has placed a non-binding referendum question on the spring election ballot that asks the town to mandate that all shark fishing tournaments be catch and release only.

Political theater

Also Tuesday, the board discussed crafting a bylaw to require local businesses to provide a minimum level of maintenance for their buildings. The condition of the Island Theater and the Strand Theater, owned by a corporate entity controlled by the Hall family of Edgartown, prompted the discussion.

“I don’t think there is anyone in town that would not agree that the Island Theater is not attractive and needs help,” selectman Walter Vail said. “The Strand, too. I don’t like the idea of the board of selectmen telling people how their buildings should look. On the other hand, there needs to be some pride in our town.”

In a phone interview Wednesday, Ben Hall Jr. said an economic recession and the declining theater industry has contributed to the deterioration of the buildings.

“We’re aware the buildings don’t look good,” Mr. Hall said. “We look at them as much as everybody else. We’re looking at other positive, long-term, sustainable business uses for those buildings. We welcome any ideas.”

In other action, selectmen appointed Seth Harlow as a full-time police officer to fill a vacancy. Officer Harlow has worked as a special officer in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs.

The board also voted unanimously to sign a new 10-year contract with Comcast to provide cable television service.