Tristan Israel, Tisbury’s chairman of the board of selectmen, went through Thursday night’s agenda like a guy with a Valentine’s date.
He took agenda items out of order, and urged brevity. “It’s Valentine’s Day, we’re trying to keep things moving along,” he said at one point.
But he was showing no love for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Israel criticized the state agency for ignoring a letter sent by selectmen asking MassDOT to abandon its plans for a shared-use path (SUP) on Beach Road in favor of a symmetrical design.
At a meeting Jan. 22, Israel promised a discussion about the letter at the board’s next meeting if the town didn’t hear from MassDOT. That meeting came and went with no mention of Beach Road, but Thursday the board voted unanimously to send another letter to the state agency, demanding a response. Interestingly, selectman Melinda Loberg, a proponent of the SUP who opposed the first letter, voted in favor of sending the follow-up.
“Whether you agree or disagree, I think the DOT should be responding to a town,” Israel said. “We exist. We are a duly set-up enterprise in the state of Massachusetts, and so I would entertain a motion we send a follow-up letter …”
The letter will be copied to state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, as well as Gov. Charlie Baker.
The state has agreed to spend $4.3 million on a SUP that would provide a connection between the downtown areas of Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs. It’s a plan supported by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
Dorothy Packer, a property owner on Beach Road who has objected to MassDOT’s plans to take land by eminent domain, read a letter she sent to selectmen into the record. According to Packer, property owners were visited Jan. 30 by a MassDOT representative discussing the eminent domain process.
“Apparently the letter from the board of selectmen has not stopped the implementation of the plan by MassDOT,” she said. She asked the board to “halt the taking of property,” noting it would take away limited commercial property for recreational purposes.
Packer also discussed the potential “disaster” of the power lines on Beach Road. The Packer family owns Menemsha Market, which was severely burned in a recent electrical fire. The building was burned “from a failed Eversource pole, snapping off, breaking the line, and causing a snake-like line of fire that whipped the market building until it caught fire and destroyed … a portion of the exterior of the building,” she said. She asked the board to picture that happening on Beach Road, with fuel tanks, restaurants, and residences located in close proximity.
Safety, including having the utilities moved underground, should be the board’s priority, Packer said: “You are our leaders. Please lead the way.”
New officer hired
Police Chief Mark Saloio recommended his first hire since taking over. William Brigham, a 19-year veteran of the Franklin Police Department, was hired by a unanimous vote of the board of selectmen. Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee and Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling were thanked for helping in the screening process.
Brigham, who has moved to West Tisbury with his family, said he’s ready for Island life.
“So Chief, I’m going to ask Officer Brigham the same question I asked you: Have you ever been here in February and March?” Selectman Jim Rogers asked. “Have you seen what Martha’s Vineyard is like in those months?”
“Many times, and I like the pace,” Brigham said.
Several members of the department were on hand for the vote. “This is a great step, and we’re excited,” Saloio said.
In other business, Dukes County manager Martina Thornton and Island Health Care CEO Cynthia Mitchell continued their six-town tour pitching the use of a county building in Tisbury for a collaborative looking to streamline regional services on the Island. Though all three selectmen expressed some hope that the initiative could benefit in reducing some overlap in nonprofit administrative costs, Rogers opposed the lease, saying that he wanted specific language that would tie the use of the building to a specific tenant.
The board also scheduled two public hearings — one to discuss waterways regulations on March 26 and the other to set mooring fees on March 12. Israel expressed some frustration that board members want to make edits to the regulations, because they had been worked on by a committee for more than a year. Among the regulations are rules for floating workshops.
“I’m 70. I have a few more years left. I’m hoping we’ll have something before I check out,” he said.
In another unanimous vote, the board created a task force that will include Rogers, Schilling, and Elaine Miller to look at what the town might use new short-term rental taxes for instead of an affordable Housing Bank that’s being proposed by petition. Loberg was supposed to be on the task force, but when it became apparent she wouldn’t be available when the Massachusetts Department of Revenue comes to the Island to explain the new law, she opted out. Two community members will also be added to the task force.
Town administrator Jay Grande said the town is disputing a bill from Bruno’s for the town’s solid waste removal. The $14,000 is for town trash that goes through the Oak Bluffs transfer station. The town’s attorney is drafting a letter based on the town’s contract, Grande said. “We don’t believe that bill is properly assessed to us, and I’ll keep you posted on how that proceeds,” Grande said.
Israel and Loberg approved a placeholder for a town meeting warrant to make Oak Hill Avenue a dead end. The proposal was made by Jeremie Rogers, son of selectman Jim Rogers, who left the room during the discussion.
Jeremie Rogers, a former Tisbury Police officer who lives on Rogers Farm Road, said cars are using Cook Road as a cut-through to get to a commercial district and avoid traffic congestion on the main roads.
“It’s increasing to a point where it’s becoming worrisome to the residents,” Rogers said.
When that discussion ended, his father returned to the room for three unanimous votes supporting license renewals for Rocco’s Pizzeria, Copper Wok, and Stop & Shop.