Edgartown selectmen agree to shed light on remote lane

Dirt road to be illuminated, and Pam Dolby suggests hiring freeze.

Edgartown selectmen said they would consider installing a light at Pennywise Path. — Stacey Rupolo

At their regular Monday meeting on Oct. 24, Edgartown selectmen agreed to consider a request from resident Richard DeTucci to install a light at the entrance of Pennywise Preserve. According to Mr. DeTucci and his neighbors, 18th Street South, Pennywise Path, and a single-lane dirt road converge in an unlit area that has attracted some unsavory activity.

Mr. DeTucci sent an email to the selectmen dated Oct. 17 stating why he feels the light is necessary. He and his wife Doreen live at 87 18th Street, and they aren’t happy with a dirt road that abuts their property and isn’t maintained by the town. He called the dirt road a safety issue, as well as the cause of a drainage problem on his property.

“It is routinely used as a speedway by motorbikes and joyriders,” Mr. DeTucci wrote in an email to the selectmen. At the meeting he told the selectmen that the dirt road is “more like a path that has now become a road.”

People trying to get to the parking lot at the Pennywise Preserve often choose to use this dirt road, Mr. DeTucci said, further exacerbating the problem. He also described finding drug paraphernalia and other items at the end of the dirt road, at the preserve parking lot.

“As a healthcare professional at the Island Counseling Center, I see the activity going on,” Mr. DeTucci said. “After hours there are parked vehicles at the gate, and they’re not there to walk up the street to enjoy a book club. We know what’s going on, and we believe a light would do a lot to deter activity.”

Mr. DeTucci and his neighbor took it upon themselves to contact the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank concerning the area where 18th Street, the single-lane dirt road, and the preserve meet.

“Until my neighbor, Elton Willoughby, and I encouraged the Land Bank to install a locking gate to the Pennywise Preserve entrance,” Mr. DeTucci further wrote in his email to the selectmen, “the parking lot was routinely used in the after hours for many unwanted activities, including drug use, dealing, etc. The dirt road has been the preferred route to the lot due to it being much less conspicuous.” He told them that he and his wife and the Willoughbys voluntarily manage the gate.

Mr. Willoughby was also at Monday’s meeting, and said the number of homes on the street has grown from three or four to approximately 17. “The street now handles traffic of about 100 cars. It used to be that there were mostly elderly people there,” Mr. Willoughby said. “Now there’s children.”

The men asked that the town either block the dirt road with a gate, or install a light on a utility pole already near the entrance of Pennywise Preserve.

Selectman Margaret Serpa asked if they had met with Edgartown Police Chief David Rossi and with Stuart Fuller, director of the highway department. Chief Rossi said that he had met with Mr. DeTucci, and Mr. Fuller stated that he recently put a drainage system near the DeTucci residence.

“Putting a light up at a public entrance is a great idea,” Chief Rossi said. “I can support that, but blocking off the road, I can’t get behind that.” He told the selectmen that access might be needed if there were ever a fire or other emergency.

“I think we can start with the light,” Ms. Serpa said, “but I’m hesitant to block the road.”

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck said he’d like to hear from town counsel regarding what options the town might have. “I’d like to meet out there and take a look at it,” he said.

If the selectmen decide to put a light up, it would be included in a special town meeting next April, town administrator Pam Dolby said.

Mr. DeTucci said, “I’m just pleased to hear that. I’d love to see you folks come down and take a good look at it.”

Hiring freeze suggested

At the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, town administrator Pam Dolby reported to the selectmen that she had sent letters to the town’s department heads regarding the upcoming budget.

During a combined meeting with selectmen and the finance and personnel committees, held Oct. 12, Ms. Dolby suggested a hiring freeze for the next fiscal year. She told the committees that health insurance premiums would likely increase, and the high school and the Edgartown School assessments are not yet known. She also stated that the town employees’ salaries are currently undergoing review, and may require adjustments.

“I have no idea what the recommendations will be, and the police contract is up next year. This is going to be an expensive year,” Ms. Dolby said at the Oct. 12 combined meeting. “I’m going to suggest a hiring freeze.”

Ms. Dolby did take into account the selectmen’s support of hiring another employee for the highway department, because that department will take on maintenance of the town’s cemeteries. But she was steadfast in her determination to keep spending to a minimum. She told those at the Oct. 12 meeting: “People should think about the articles this year. We need to be really, really careful about the money we spend. I want no increases; we need level funding.”