Aquinnah looks to move away from cash

Transfer station, comm center, and town meeting discussed by selectmen.

Aquinnah selectmen chairman Jim Newman says the town needs a better way to handle cash payments. - May 2017 Photo, Rich Saltzberg

In a meeting with the Aquinnah board of health Thursday, Aquinnah selectmen raised the issue of how money is being collected at the Aquinnah transfer station, which the town still refers to as a dump on its website, and more broadly how money is collected in other parts of the town such as the beaches and the lighthouse.

“It’s not because of problems with personnel … it has to do with everything in town; no one is being singled out,” selectmen chairman Jim Newman said.

Town administrator Jeffrey Madison pointed out how he had updated the phone system in town hall, and that it was time to clean up the town and put things in order. Jim Glavin, chairman of the town’s board of health, wrote a memo to outline a plan to make dumping trash more efficient by providing a discount as an incentive for people to buy coupons. By paying for the coupons up front, less cash would be handled at the dump.

Officials talked about the need for a locked drop box to secure cash coming from town facilities, such as the lighthouse and parking fees. The discussion came up in the context of needing a way to handle cash transactions at the town transfer station.

A reference to the town’s long-past bucolic method of collecting money in a Tide detergent bottle was made. “I don’t think we’ll go back to that,” Newman joked.

In a somewhat related matter, selectmen voted unanimously to take control of the Gay Head Lighthouse visits for the upcoming 2018 season. It’s an issue that was talked about in detail at a recent meeting.

Len Butler, chairman of the Gay Head Lighthouse board, thanked members of the board of selectmen for their time and their vote in favor of managing the lighthouse. The Martha’s Vineyard Museum had been providing tours of the Aquinnah landmark.

Sheriff Ogden makes his pitch
Dukes County Sheriff Robert Ogden, who has been making the rounds on the Island seeking financial assistance to keep the county’s regional communications center running efficiently, made an appearance before the Aquinnah board.

Ogden told the board his goal is to get support for maintenance and management from each Island town. Feeling at the end of his rope with an overworked and underpaid staff, Ogden reflected on issues the office currently faces: “The problem is we’re bleeding all the time … we are the only communications system that that individual does double duty. They’re not only dispatchers, but they’re e-911 communicators.”

“Every other system,” he said referring to other county communications centers across the state, “have one person that’s the communicator and one that’s the dispatcher.”

Ogden also explained how he had to put phones in the bathrooms at the offices to make sure that the dispatcher-communicators didn’t miss a call when nature calls.

Ogden is trying to get $67,632 from the six Island towns. Aquinnah’s share would be $17,094 based on the volume of calls. Aquinnah accounted for 1,036 calls in fiscal year 2017, out of 41,008 Island-wide, according to the sheriff’s office.

The selectmen agreed to take Ogden’s request under advisement.

In other business, selectmen scheduled a special town meeting on March 6.

Selectmen will consider a warrant article to turn elected positions on the board of assessors into positions appointed by selectmen. It’s an issue that’s been a bone of contention between the two boards, and the proposal was withdrawn from town meeting last May. On Thursday, selectmen met with the board of assessors briefly and talked about the need for guidelines, though nothing was discussed in depth.

Carolyn Feltz, Aquinnah town clerk, is set to retire in the coming weeks, and has appointed Gabriella Camilleri to cover her responsibilities until the town election in May, when a new town clerk will be voted in. After careful consideration of a few applicants, Feltz settled on Camilleri.