Accommodate the taxpayer


With no notice or public discussion, Tisbury recently changed the office hours during which an individual may purchase a shellfish permit, taxi operator permit, or park and ride parking permit in town hall.

A resident of Tisbury who wishes to purchase a shellfish permit or any other permit under the auspices of the selectmen’s office that requires a cash transaction must now do so from 8:30 am to 10 am and from 2 pm to 4:30 pm. That assumes the would-be clammer or vehicle owner is able to find one of the few parking spaces along Spring Street not occupied the entire municipal workday by a town hall employee’s vehicle sporting an all-day parking permit.

Town administrator John “Jay” Grande said the change was made to allow Kim Lucas, who holds the title of human resources manager and administrative assistant, a block of uninterrupted time to focus on her responsibilities with regard to town employees.

Ms. Lucas occupies the office immediately to the left when one enters town hall, formerly occupied by Hillary Conklin, who for years prior to her election as town clerk had no difficulty shelling out licenses during all regular office hours.

In a telephone conversation Friday, Ms. Lucas told The Times the change was made so she could “schedule town employees to come in for whatever needs they might have and still accommodate the public when I can, so we just broke up the hours.”

She said selectmen and Mr. Grande were on board with the change. Tuesday, Melinda Loberg, chairman of the board of selectmen, said she was unaware of the details of the office-hour change, but thought it was about Ms. Lucas “trying to organize her workload.”

In a later telephone conversation Tuesday, Mr. Grande said that Ms. Lucas had asked him about defining her office hours so she would be free to focus on the human resource aspects of her job. Mr. Grande said town hall is a very busy place: “We are trying to make her time more productive.”

Well, it is a busy place, because taxpayers often need things, like shellfish and parking permits, and often can only get them at lunchtime.

It is interesting to note that in 2015, Tisbury issued a total of 657 shellfish licenses, according to the town report. The Edgartown selectmen’s administrative assistant issued 1,288 licenses. And Oak Bluffs issued 686.

Edgartown, with a one-hour break for lunch, and Oak Bluffs issue licenses during regular business hours. Only Tisbury has seen the need to curtail service.

Is the town shorthanded? Not judging by the budget. In fiscal year 2015, the selectmen’s department budget, including salaries and expenses, was $504,806. Three years later in FY 2017 it is $611,885.

Mr. Grande said that if the new hours do not work, he will reconsider the change. They do not work, at least not for the taxpayers forced to accommodate town hall.

Planning, not pasta

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) Thursday hosts an all-day conference from 9 am to 3 pm at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury titled “Martha’s Vineyard Innovative Conference: Cleaning Up our Waters.”

The event will include a discussion among local and state officials and a panel on “alternative technology and solutions.”

Later that same day, at 4 pm, the MVC will host a meeting at its Oak Bluffs office titled, “Historic Preservation on Martha’s Vineyard,” for members of town boards, the MVC, professionals, and members of the public “to discuss historic preservation on Martha’s Vineyard and opportunities to improve collaboration.”

That is a lot of planning and discussion for one day. The MVC might have done a better job of promoting and scheduling both events to cast a wider net and attract more participation — there is scant mention even on its own website. But new executive director Adam Turner is attempting to move the regional planning agency in the right direction. Short- and long-range regional planning is a much better use of the MVC’s time and resources than dithering over what time a bowler eats a burger.

Last week, Sam Dunn, co-owner of the Barn, Bowl, and Bistro bowling alley in Oak Bluffs returned to the MVC as a supplicant to ask for a change in the conditions attached to the regional permitting agency’s approval. Mr. Dunn would like to be allowed to operate the same hours as other restaurant businesses in town, make better use of his very popular upstairs function room, hobbled by the MVC, and provide live music.
“Everything we’re asking for has been requested by customers,” Mr. Dunn told the MVC.

The Bistro is a popular place. Most any night it is crowded with Islanders. The regional impact of this project was questionable when it first went to the MVC. It is less so now unless one thinks feeding a Chilmarker a late pasta dinner has a regional impact.

Only the MVC can modify its conditions. But this is an Oak Bluffs business in the center of Oak Bluffs. The requested changes may or may not be reasonable to grant, but the MVC ought to leave it to Oak Bluffs officials to decide what is best for their town.