Something’s rotten at Hillside apartments

Elderly residents ask selectmen to help with drainage issues.

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Hillside Village resident Shawn Willoughby is spearheading the effort to resolve the drainage problem adjacent to his apartment.

Residents of elderly housing apartments on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road say that a drainage ditch at their complex has become more of a smelly pond that never drains and attracts rats, and they want something done about it.

At a meeting Tuesday night, three residents urged the board of selectmen to help find a solution to the standing water adjacent to their Island Elderly Housing Hillside Village apartments.

“It smells like a septic tank that overflowed,” said Betsy Fitzpatrick, who was wearing a neck brace and walked into the meeting with the assistance of a walker. “I can’t open my windows because of the stench.”

Fitzpatrick wasn’t alone in her complaints. Two other residents of the complex were also outspoken in urging the board to do something about the drainage issues.

Shawn Willoughby showed board members photographs he snapped on his smartphone.

Patricia Boyd said she got worried about flooding during a particularly heavy rainstorm. She also told the board she was bitten by a baby rat that was drawn to the water.

Simone DeSorcy, who serves on the Island Elderly Housing board, also spoke on behalf of the residents.

“I don’t want to spend money that isn’t helpful,” selectman Melinda Loberg said in asking for more concrete plans.

Town administrator Jay Grande said he and DPW director Ray Tattersall will work on short-term and long-term solutions and bring them back to the board of selectmen for consideration.

Grande and board chairman Tristan Israel both expressed frustration that the issue had not reached them sooner.

The issue had been on an agenda last month for a meeting that ended up getting canceled.

“You’ve been very patient,” Loberg said.

Beach Road and boats

In other business, the board went round and round again on the Beach Road shared-use path (SUP) proposal, and got stopped as if the drawbridge were up over Lagoon Pond.

Calling the area of her family’s business property an industrial zone, Deborah Packer said, “Putting a SUP through there would give people a false sense of security.”

Packer then asked the board to send a letter, first proposed by Israel, to the MassDOT asking for a symmetrical plan. The board members’ positions remained unchanged. Loberg wants the SUP, Israel wants to abandon it for a symmetrical design, and selectman Jim Rogers wants to see if MassDOT engineers have incorporated issues raised by the residents of Beach Road.

“Doing that SUP there, I’m not feeling it,” Israel said.

The board took no action on a donation that was offered by Richard Koehler, a boat owner looking to repair a mooring that he could then lease during the shoulder season. Koehler wanted to replace one of the elastic moorings, which is failing, with a chain, harbormaster John Crocker told the board. “He really wants to sail this fall, and this is what he’s willing to do to accomplish that,” Crocker said.

The cost of fixing the mooring is about $1,500, and Koehler would lease it for $231 through the end of November. There was a possibility Koehler would also ask for winter mooring, Crocker said.

Concerns were raised about setting a precedent, and assurance the mooring would revert back to the town.

“I think it would be a benefit to the town to have someone else pay to convert this mooring to something that the town would do … but I just feel uncomfortable,” Crocker said.

Rogers said he had no problem with the arrangement, calling it an example of “public/private partnership.”

Lynne Fraker, a boat captain, said it’s a strange arrangement allowing a private person to come in and essentially buy a mooring.

“I don’t know why taxpayers should be on the hook. It should be the boating public that rent the moorings,” Jeff Kristal, chairman of the finance committee, said of the repairs. He noted calls made to town counsel and having him draft a document for the Koehler request costs the taxpayers.

“This is too fuzzy,” Israel said after Rogers made a motion to accept the offer with Koehler submitting a letter outlining his intentions. There was no second.

Israel said it could be discussed further at the board’s Oct. 2 meeting, which is dedicated to harbor and water-related issues.

Later in the meeting, the board, after another lengthy discussion, declined to transfer $14,000 to replace elastic mooring lines with chains.

The board went into executive session to discuss the “reputation, character, physical condition, or mental health” of a town employee, but declined to name the person. The board adjourned from the meeting room and met downstairs in town hall. After about five minutes, the board returned to the meeting room without announcing any votes.

The issue of a Verizon tower expansion from 77 to 130 feet for the utility’s Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road property was discussed. Selectmen took no action, but did ask planning board and Martha’s Vineyard commissioner Ben Robinson if the project approval should be delayed while they see if the board has any jurisdiction.

The tower is not for cell phones, but instead is a microwave tower that connects the Island to the mainland, Robinson said.

By going through the commission process, the commission has some leverage for conditions, he said. The second and possibly final hearing is scheduled for 7 pm Thursday before the commission. He told the board the company isn’t considering any option to relocate the tower, because it would be too costly to move other equipment involved.

Selectmen threw a curveball to the plans for a boardwalk for the new Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Though the project has won support of the conservation commission and is a condition of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, selectmen want to see revised engineering drawings, with a guardrail featured, before supporting the licensing agreement needed for the museum to build the boardwalk.

Phil Wallis, executive director of the museum, told the board the boardwalk would be made of a honeycomb product that allows sunlight and rain to penetrate. The license agreement is needed for the museum to seek a building permit for the 88-foot structure, he said.