Rotten pilings pose safety hazard in Menemsha

Aquinnah selectmen allow Vernon Welch to proceed with repair process.

Rotten spiles at Menemsha lease lot A are creating a safety hazard for boaters and residents, and Aquinnah selectmen say they need to be repaired. — Rich Saltzberg

Aquinnah selectmen met with shellfisherman Vernon Welch Tuesday to discuss rotten pilings that he says pose a danger if they were to collapse.

Welch told selectmen he was recently reminded of the structurally unsound pilings, also known as spiles, when he was scalloping with his son in Menemsha.

Lease Lot A, where the spiles and the dock are located, is currently under litigation between Welch and Wendy Swolinsky.

Swolinsky says that the lease lot is her property, and Welch does not have the right to make alterations or improvements to property he does not own.

Welch argued that the town owns the land that the spiles are situated on, and therefore needs permission from selectmen to make any changes or repairs.

“I’ve tried for years to get these spiles fixed; they are rotting out from under the dock and need to be replaced,” Welch said.

According to Welch, the Chilmark ConCom could write the repairs up as an emergency project because of the risk it poses to residents and boaters.

He said the permitting process would take a year and a half to get state approval.

Swolinsky said Welch has had the property for five years and has never permitted the lot in his name. “It’s still under my name,” Swolinsky said. “The property is under litigation, so it should have been on hold anyway.”

“Whether or not Vern is in a place to get this done, this is a total disaster.”

Swolinsky implied Welch would use old materials to fix the spiles and not give the project the attention it deserves. “Who knows what he’ll do? There are a bunch of used pilings that he has over by the shack, he will probably just use those ratty old pilings instead of putting in new ones,” she said.

“I had to put those there, it’s my property, I can do what I want,” Welch responded.

Selectman Jim Newman said the rotten spiles are “an accident waiting to happen.”

Newman made a motion to allow Welch to begin the permitting process for the repairs.

Swolinsky said it would be illegal for Welch to perform any work on the property because it is still under her name.

Selectmen Julianne Vanderhoop chimed in, saying, “We aren’t talking about doing any work yet. We are allowing Vern to move ahead in the permitting process. When the time comes for the actual work to be done, that’s when the litigation will be discussed.”


Going green

Aquinnah selectmen reviewed a presentation by Seth Pickering and Bill Lake of Green Communities, a sustainable energy effort formed by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. Pickering and Lake proposed to selectmen a greening of Aquinnah, which would designate Aquinnah as a “Green Community,” opening up hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant opportunities for the town.

There are five conditions that need to be met in order for the town to be designated green. The first, according to Pickering, is to adopt a site where renewable energy generation, such as a large solar array, will be permitted. The town is not mandated to build a solar array, but a plot of land must be set aside for a solar array with a possible output of at least 250 kilowatts of power.

The second condition applies to the first, in that any project involved with the Green Communities must have an expedited application and permitting process (no more than 12 months).

The third is to establish an “energy baseline” for the town by assessing total power generation and daily output. The Green Communities would then work with the town to reduce the baseline by 20 percent within 5 years.

Another stipulation, which was met with support from selectmen, was for the town to purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles. This excludes police cruisers and larger municipal vehicles. “Most likely the only vehicle that would be mandated under this condition would be your town car that you use to travel off-Island,” Pickering said.

The final condition of the designation was to require new residential, commercial, and industrial construction to minimize life-cycle energy costs. Lake said Green Communities will help the town mitigate the amount of life-cycle energy costs by finding the most energy-efficient materials and appliances.