Vineyard Youth Tennis chairman Chris Scott met with selectmen Tuesday to modify the tennis center’s existing special permit due to the discontinued financial support of Gerry De Blois, the tennis center’s longtime donor who has invested more than $12 million in supporting youth tennis.
For the past 20 years, Vineyard Youth Tennis has been a program solely for children under the age of 18 to receive free tennis instruction. The tennis center currently serves over 200 children year-round.
Scott asked town selectmen if two provisions in the current permit could be modified to remove the age limit, to allow all community members to use the facility, and to charge a fee for instruction and court time to cover the $250,000 operating costs the tennis center accrues each year.
While the tennis center will charge a fee, Scott said it will still operate as a nonprofit. Families will be asked to pay $10 to $20 for lessons and court time, and a scholarship fund will be set up for families who cannot afford the fee, maintaining its central mission. “No player will be turned away due to hardship,” a letter from the tennis center’s board of directors said.
Chairman Gail Barmakian requested more specifics on the costs the tennis center would charge. Selectman Jason Balboni added his concern that opening up the tennis center to adults could be a “slippery slope,” and wanted to be sure the tennis center’s mission wouldn’t change its focus away from kids. “I’m sure that’s not what you’re trying to do, but without having it down on paper, it’s hard to get behind that,” Balboni said.
Scott said he would be more than happy to provide selectmen with as much information as they want, but that the tennis center is in “uncharted territory” since it lost its sole benefactor, and now had to find out how to sustain the tennis center.
Scott agreed to come back to the selectmen with a more detailed plan before they would approve the permit modifications.
New officers and a tattoo permit
Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake asked the selectmen to formally appoint the new summer special officers for one year.
Barmakian praised the efforts of the officers, saying she was happy with how they have been dealing with people. “You know you have to be thick-skinned, right?” Barmakian joked.
“We understand you have a difficult job, and people will be tugging and pulling on your sanity all summer,” selectman Greg Coogan said to the officers.
The selectmen unanimously appointed the officers.
During a separate agenda item, the selectmen had the newly minted summer officers review some of the issues from last summer, including loitering and littering by the public. Selectmen also raised issues with the officers using their phones while on duty and not spending enough time being visible outside their vehicles.
Chief Blake said officers are required to be out on their feet, and are not allowed to use social media or text while on duty. Officers do frequently use their personal phones to contact dispatch instead of tying up the radio lines.
The selectmen and Chief Blake also had an extensive conversation about the taxi situation in town. Selectman Brian Packish said out-of-town taxis are parking in the regular parking spots on Circuit Avenue when they should be parking in a designated loading zone or taxi spot. Packish also brought up Uber and its effects on the Island taxi industry.
“We’re putting our taxis under serious constraints with licensing and new regulations. They are getting slaughtered by Uber at this point,” Packish said. “If there’s any way we can manage that a little better, I think we need to support the taxi a little bit.”
In other business, tattoos are coming to the town of Oak Bluffs.
The selectmen approved two new business licenses — Cape & Island Henna and Cottage City Tattoo.
Cape & Island Henna owner Orren Vacnin said his business would offer customers temporary henna tattoos that use a fruit-based ink to stain the skin. The ink is organic, vegan, edible, and washes away in two weeks.
Cottage City Tattoo will be the only tattoo shop on the Island to offer permanent tattoos. The last tattoo shop on Island was Martha’s Vineyard Tattoo in Edgartown, which closed in 2016.
Restaurant and bar hour extensions caused a bit of confusion, as selectmen had to determine when the official hour extensions would be allowed. The selectmen approved extended hours to serve alcohol at bars and restaurants from July 4 to July 8. Selectman Michael Santoro abstained. Last call will be at 1:30 am; closing time will be 2 am.
A request to close a section of Dukes County Avenue between Masonic and Warwick Avenue for a three-hour art stroll was approved by the selectmen.
Organizer Holly Alaimo said the art stroll will feature Island artists exclusively, and go from 4 pm to 7 pm on July 7, Aug. 4, and Sept. 1.
“It’s kind of an older crowd,” Alaimo said.
“Those are the ones I worry about,” Balboni joked.
The selectmen unanimously reappointed Richard Combra Jr., Jeffrey W. LaBell, selectman Michael Santoro, and Ron Zentner to the harbor advisory committee. The selectmen also appointed Andrea L. Rogers to the zoning board of appeals for three years.