Dentist shouts about rooftop

Airport commission says project is waiting for FAA approval.


An infuriated local dentist chastised the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission because a roofing project for her office building has been delayed for months waiting for Federal Aviation Administration review.

During the commission’s meeting Thursday, Dr. Helene Schaeffer said she told the commission about the project as a courtesy, and now she’s got a contractor on hold.

“It’s been in your hands for six months,” Dr. Schaeffer said in a raised voice. “I didn’t have to come and ask for approval.”

Commission chairman Robert Rosenbaum asked airport manager Ann Richart to explain the process, and several times she started and was interrupted by Dr. Schaeffer.

“Explain to me what has taken from the beginning of October to the beginning of May,” she asked.

Richart explained that the FAA has to be contacted for any construction on airport property for safety reasons.

“I’m sorry, it’s a disgraceful way to treat your tenants,” Dr. Schaeffer said, asking why she wasn’t told in October that the FAA approval was necessary. She said her office looks like a disgrace because the roof leaks and she uses buckets to capture the water.

“I have kept my mouth shut too long, and I’m done and now I have to go,” she said before walking out the meeting.

After she left, commissioner Clarence “Trip” Barnes suggested she just have the roof replaced. “I think she should just go do it, and if they put her in jail, I’ll bail her out,” he said.

Rosenbaum said the commission needs to look at how to fix the issue. “I understand her frustration,” he said.

Laundromat issue on hold
The commission’s attorney and the attorney for Airport Laundromat are in negotiations on how to settle a claim by the commission that the laundromat owes $140,000 in back payments.

In a letter to the laundromat’s owner, Nick Catt, he was given 21 days to either make the payment or come up with a payment plan.

That deadline expired May 3, but Rosenbaum said talks continue.

Meanwhile, the commission voted 5-0, with Barnes abstaining, to delegate its attorney David Mackey of Anderson & Kreiger to respond to a complaint by Catt that last month’s meeting of the commission violated the state’s Open Meeting Law.

At the April 12 meeting, the commission was slated to talk about the charges that Catt allegedly owes in public session, but when his lawyer threatened a lawsuit, Mackey advised the commission to discuss it in executive session. Executive sessions are allowed for litigation strategy.

Mackey, who was at Thursday’s meeting, said he believes the commission’s case is strong that no violation occurred.

Positive inspection
Airport assistant manager Geoff Freeman told the commissioners that a recent three-day inspection by the FAA of training records, firefighting, fueling, and other maintenance issues at the airport went well.

“It was one of the best inspections we’ve had in a long time,” Freeman said.

Issues that were identified were either fixed right away or can’t be addressed because of environmental issues, Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum said things didn’t go so well in 2015, when the airport was cited for some significant issues. The same inspector did the review, and came away with a different result this time.

“Three years later, it was a whole different ball game,” Rosenbaum said.

In other business, you can add Martha’s Vineyard Airport as the latest to suffer from Steamship Authority ferry issues.

Richart said some deliveries of jet fuel, which come to the Island on SSA freight ferries, were delayed by Saturday’s snafu in Woods Hole with the MV Martha’s Vineyard.

“At first I saw it as a marketing opportunity,” Richart said of the ferry problems. The airport could point out that “you’re not stuck” on the Island, she said.

But without fuel, the planes can’t fly. “This summer, if we have those issues, if we can’t jet fuel, then we really are stuck,” she said.

Sludge from the sewage treatment plant is also hauled off-Island on the ferries, she said.

Speaking of fuel, the airport commission is trying to recoup $30,000 it is owed for fuel from the Katama Airfield. Richart said there’s a new Katama manager, and they are working out the payment.

Matthew O’Brien, project engineer for McFarland and Johnson, an airport consultant, continues to work to release more land for businesses in the airport industrial park off Barnes Road.

Some contamination was found in an old metallic dump site that was used when it was a U.S. Navy base, but that property is not in the area pegged for development, O’Brien said. The contamination was found by ground-penetrating radar, and now digging will be done to determine the extent and type of contaminants.

The release of land is being delayed while the airport waits for MassDOT to sign off that there will be no traffic impacts on Edgartown–West Tisbury Road from any proposed development in the park.

JetBlue flights are scheduled to begin Friday, May 18, Richart said. The airport is also in negotiations to add OneJet, but there is nothing to announce yet in terms of schedule or destinations. When Richart said there would not be daily trips, commissioner Peter Wharton deadpanned, “Is that because they have one jet?”

The commission put on hold a request for a car wash in the business park, saying that their review of that project is hampered by not having a land-use subcommittee. The commission is waiting for three new members to be approved by the Dukes County Commission, Rosenbaum said.

Commissioners approved a solar project for the VTA, which is headquartered in the Airport Business Park. The vote was 5-0, with commissioner Rich Michelson abstaining because of a conflict.


  1. The airport is a disgrace right now. Clueless management. What is the delay on approving a roof repair ? The current manager is only looking to boost her career and hope that massport will come in and take over. She is lost and has no idea how this airport works. If she truly thinks that people will use the airport to commute off the island she is crazy. She obviously doesn’t look out her window and see how few flights leave in the off season and how many passengers come here. The commission needs to take a good hard look at how the airport is being run and make corrections before it’s too late.

  2. I agree with Patrice Daniels.

    I think if they want more traffic out of the airport, they should try to make it more affordable.

  3. given that republicans rant about over regulation and stupid rules– this story gives them some credibility–
    and it is really stupid to allow this building to leak when it is obvious it needs a new roof.
    come on — get the freaking roof fixed–

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