Chilmark selectmen say yes to Tinsel Town docu-soap

— File photo by Tim Johnson

Chilmark selectmen Tuesday said yes — with conditions — to a film crew request to shoot scenes at Menemsha Beach later this spring for a new reality show. They also approved a number of override questions for the town election on April 30.

Selectmen signed off on three ballot questions authorizing overrides of Proposition 2.5; one for $300,000 to fund the FY 2014 operating budget of the Up-Island School District, one for $80,000 for repairs at the Chilmark School and another for $31,000 for a new police cruiser.

The meeting started on a somber note. Chairman Jonathan Mayhew called for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, one of whom had a Chilmark connection.

“I know we’re all a bit sad, but particularly Chilmark. A lot of Chilmarkers knew the eight-year old boy who passed away… It’s a very sad thing for all the families, but Martin Richard is a friend of ours especially,” Mr. Mayhew said.

Martin Richard, age 8, was one of three people killed in the bombings Monday. The Richard family is friends with several town residents and officials, Mr. Mayhew said.

Selectmen then moved to a hearing for an override of Prop. 2.5, the state law limiting the annual increase to a community’s tax levy to 2.5 percent. The largest question authorizes an additional $300,000 be raised for the Up-Isand School District budget.

Selectman Warren Doty said the increase in the town’s education assessment was due to a shift in the number of Chilmark students in the school system.

“Our budget can go up and down a great deal depending on how many students we have,” Mr. Doty said. “We had to absorb a $358,000 budget increase in our school assessment, and in order to do that we need an override.”

“I don’t feel that education has been targeted,” he added. “Generally the people of Chilmark have supported educations costs a lot recently… We just couldn’t stay within the 2.5 percent, we had to have growth.”

Superintendent of Schools James Weiss said he understood the need for an override. “You devised it very well. While the budget is up only 4 percent, your share is up around 16 percent because of a change in enrollment,” he said.

Selectmen unanimously approved the override question for the high school, as well as an override for $80,000 that will be used primarily to repair drainage problems at the Chilmark School.

“The roof itself is deteriorating at a steady pace,” said school business administrator Amy Tierney. “It’s pretty much [occurring] on the whole building except for a small area we did in 2008 that is under warranty.”

Selectman Bill Rossi also gave an update on the progress of the new Squibnocket Beach committee, which met last week with a coastal engineer and started to form a plan to curb continued erosion at the popular beach on the southern edge of town.

Mr. Rossi said the committee agrees that eventually the parking lot will probably have to be moved back. “We are looking at possibly leasing some beach property with some abutting property owners and possibly moving the parking lot back, which I think would be a fairly arduous conservation movement, but I think its one worth looking at,” he said.

Selectmen also reviewed an application from 25/7 Productions of North Hollywood California seeking permission to film scenes at Menemsha Beach for the upcoming docu-soap, “The Vineyard” for eight days in May and June.

Brett Blakeney, production manager for the show that will air on ABC family, said in a letter to selectmen that filming would take place between the hours of 4 and 8 pm with cast and crew not totaling more than 15 people in three vehicles.

Mr. Blakeney said filming would mostly consist of “walk and talk” shots of cast members having conversations against the backdrop of a Menemsha sunset.

Mr. Doty said the town has given permission to other film crews in the past to film before June 15. He said he did not have a problem with the reality show being filmed in Menemsha prior to that date. Mr. Rossi agreed.

Mr. Mayhew was more reluctant, but ultimately agreed. “I was involved for one day in 1975 with [the filming of the blockbuster] Jaws and that was enough for me,” he said.

Mr. Doty said assurances have been made that the show will not cast the town or Island in a bad light.

Selectmen voted 3-0 to allow filming at Menemsha Beach, but only on five days in May and two dates in June; they said that no to filming would be allowed on June 18 or 24 and stipulated that filming be limited to the right side of the main bathing area.