Martha’s Vineyard Steamship Authority member Marc Hanover defended the authority’s business operations and capital improvement plans at a meeting of the Dukes County commission, his appointing authority, last week. Mr. Hanover, an Oak Bluffs businessman, also soundly rejected a call for the boatline to roll back or suspend rate hikes that took effect on Jan. 1.
Mr. Hanover offered an annual report and responded to questions from members of the audience who presented signatures gathered on an online petition signed by more than 3,000 people, calling for repeal of recent price increases.
Referring to a Letter to the Editor published in The Times on Dec. 3, signed by Oak Bluffs businessman and former selectman Todd Rebello, Mr. Hanover said, “Statements were made that net operating income disappears, plugs holes, and there are millions in surpluses. These statements are irresponsible, ridiculous. It angers me that somebody can go out and make false statements like this; it’s ridiculous.”
Mr. Hanover dismissed some of the SSA critics as uninformed. “The petition, I would have signed it myself, if I wasn’t aware of the reality of the situation,” Mr. Hanover said. “A lot of people have signed it. A lot of people that have signed it have no idea what the Steamship Authority is. I disagree with them.”
County commissioner Tristan Israel, a Tisbury selectman, asked Mr. Hanover to consider the effect of capital projects on ticket prices.
“The Steamship Authority makes a value judgement to build a $38 million boat, and on the heels of that, they make a value judgement to build a $60 million terminal in Woods Hole,” he said. “Our rates have been going up and up over the past decade. The petition is showing people’s frustration.”
Marie Laursen of Tisbury told Mr. Hanover ratepayers need a break from increased costs.
“The point of the petition is to address the rate increases,” Ms. Laursen said. “Is there any possibility that those rate increases could be put on hold temporarily, until $100 million worth of projects in the pipeline get discussed, and how that affects our rates in the future?”
“We need a break. We travel much more often than summer visitors. We’re going back and forth a lot more,” she said.
Mr. Hanover pointed to poor Island attendance at SSA public meetings. He said he is disappointed that few people attend the two SSA monthly business meetings held each year on Martha’s Vineyard. County commissioners agreed to facilitate an informational meeting on the Island, at a time and place yet to be determined.
The first county commission meeting of the new year began with a swearing-in ceremony. County clerk Joseph Sollitto gave the oath of office to county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, to begin a new six-year term. Then he swore in re-elected county commissioners Leonard Jason Jr. of Chilmark, Leon Brathwaite and John Alley of West Tisbury, Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs, Mr. Israel of Tisbury, and David Holway of Edgartown. Also sworn in was newly elected commissioner Gretchen Tucker Underwood of Oak Bluffs.
Commissioners elected Mr. Brathwaite chairman, and Ms. Todd vice-chairman.
Mr. Sollitto also thanked retiring Martha’s Vineyard parking clerk Carol Grant for her public service. “I want to compliment, and let the commissioners know, she’s the best parking clerk I’ve worked with in my 34 years,” Mr. Sollitto said. Mr. Sollitto is the hearing officer for disputed tickets.
The commission offered its gratitude. “We’re going to miss you, and I want to thank you on behalf of the commissioners for the work you’ve done over the years,” Mr. Brathwaite said.
Ms. Grant said there will be no interruption in services, as senior financial clerk Donna Michalski assumes the duties of parking clerk.
“Thank you for your support,” Ms. Grant said. “Donna will pick up where I’m leaving off. It should be a nice smooth transition.”