High school denies use of buses for music festival

Committee members say public resources should not be used for private events like Beach Road Weekend.

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The MVRHS School Committee did not want to rent its buses to Beach Road Weekend, citing the event having little to do with school children.

An off-Island company is being hired to shuttle concertgoers to and from the Beach Road Weekend music festival in Vineyard Haven, but promoters say they would have rather paid an Island entity for transportation for the Aug. 9-11 events.

The head of production for the festival, Peter Sawyer, asked the MVRHS school committee for use of the school’s buses during the three-day event, but the school didn’t think renting the buses would be appropriate because the event has little to do with schoolchildren.

Despite being supportive of the festival, and sympathetic to the need for reliable transportation, the committee voted unanimously not to allow the use of buses to shuttle passengers to and from satellite parking lots.

Adam Epstein, CEO of Innovation Arts and Entertainment, told The Times he has signed a contract with Providence bus company, First Student Charter, but wishes that he could have kept the money on-Island.

“There are dozens of off-Island companies that rent school buses, but we came to the school with the mindset of, ‘Hey guys, we don’t want to pay off-Island companies. Let’s keep the business local, let’s help fund the school,’” said Epstein, who is a seasonal resident of the Island. “But it was the locals that really turned their backs on us.”

Epstein said they are paying around $90 per hour for the use of buses, drivers, dispatchers, and mechanics.

In total, 30 buses will be travelling set routes in Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Tisbury, and at the Airport Business Park, allowing for pickups every 10 minutes.

“We’d have gladly paid the MV school system $90 for their buses instead, which would have generated a $25 per hour surplus to the schools,” Epstein wrote in a comment. “For the 32 hours the shuttle system would be in effect, that would’ve yielded a $75,000 payment from us, including a $16,000 surplus.”

For Epstein, the festival is an opportunity to benefit the Island and bring “togetherness, community, and culture” to Vineyard Haven.

“In a time when people are so fractured, we want to foster togetherness and positivity,” Epstein said.

Sawyer told the committee he has looked at other on-Island bus rental options, including the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) and M.V. Sightseeing. But he said the VTA is going to be “straight out” during the summer, with all of their buses running at full steam to accommodate the influx of seasonal visitors.

“The festival is a great place for a walkup, but it isn’t a great place for parking,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer told the committee festival organizers would pledge to return the buses to the school in as good or better condition as when they received them.

Committee member Amy Tierney said the school usually only rents buses out to events that relate to children. She said the school has charged $65 per hour for each bus in years past, but more consideration would need to be taken to determine an hourly rate.

Sawyer said Beach Road Weekend was willing to either rent the buses directly, or make a donation to the school for them to use how they see fit.

Tierney said drivers need to get paid overtime if they work on weekends, which could present an issue for the school financially.

“Drivers are working all week, and then they’re being asked to work on Saturday night, they want the overtime dollars,” Tierney said. “Everytime we allow something to happen that is not budgeted for, it takes our expense lines over budget. Are we going into the charter business or aren’t we?”

Committee member Skipper Manter said he didn’t think the school should be in the bus rental business at all, regardless of who they’re renting to.

“These buses were paid for to transport our students,” Manter said. “It’s a liability-complicated nightmare to take these public buses and use them for private events.”

As far as liability goes, Epstein said, “These types of events happen all the time, that’s what insurance is for. If something gets broken, we have vowed to fix it.”

“We have a long history of doing concerts on-Island,” Epstein said. “We are professionals in this area.”

Superintendent Matt D’Andrea said he is supportive of the festival, but said the circumstances are such that school buses might not be the most appropriate option.

“We get requests to use our buses a lot, and we understand the VTA in the summertime is out straight. It is a tricky one — you want to accommodate everyone, but this is a music festival, and there is alcohol involved,” D’Andrea said.

Sawyer said everyone who rides the buses will be screened, and if need be, there can be a monitor on every bus to make sure nothing goes awry and everyone behaves.

“We expect to have the same rules in place as when buses are used for school events. There will be a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol,” Sawyer said.

Manter said it is impossible to avoid some of the wear and tear associated with a large event such as this.

“No matter how much you promise to take care of these buses, there is bound to be some damage,” Manter said.

Although committee member Robert Lionette said he understands where Manter is coming from, he wondered whether permitting the use of buses for various Island events would fall in line with establishing the high school as a reliable community hub.

Principal Sara Dingledy agreed that the high school’s facilities and resources are unique, and could benefit the entire Island in many different ways.

She suggested establishing a fee structure regarding the use of space and resources the school has at its disposal. “It is the responsibility of the school committee to know who should be able to use our facilities and who shouldn’t,” Dingledy said.

Epstein said that the festival is not meant to just attract tourists — its purpose is to “move Islanders around” and promote local businesses.

“This is an Island operation, we really are doing it for Islanders. We are very confident in our ability to do this well, and would not be worried about putting a deposit down to be held accountable for anything that might happen,” Epstein said.

Epstein said he would be willing to negotiate with the school, and even pay more than out-of-pocket costs. “Tell us what price you would want,” he said. “We want to be generous and keep the money on-Island.”

One of the main goals of having consistent and abundant transportation to and from the festival, according to Epstein, is to provide incentives for people to avoid hopping in cars.

He mentioned how Beach Road Weekend will be reaching out to every bike shop on Martha’s Vineyard, informing them of their coupon deal.

Renters who ride their bikes to the festival get a coupon that can be used for merchandise or food during the event. Epstein said there will be a large parking area set aside specifically for bikes.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for bringing attention to the outreach we’ve attempted. I do want to clarify that when I said that the purpose is to “move Islanders around” i was referring to the transportation system we were putting together, not the festival itself. I hope that the festival “moves” people but not in the way a shuttle bus will physically move people and reduce auto traffic.

    For the record, we were looking to hire and pay more than the out-of-pocket cost to the MV school system to use island based buses during the off-season, when drivers would not be in overtime, and the bus system has unused capacity. From our perspective, this service would help islanders (taxpayers, myself included) and visitors get to and from the festival at little to no cost to festival goers, while putting some extra $ into the school system.

    Ultimately, we are out of pocket around $90 per hour for the use of and drivers for off-island buses. We’d have gladly paid the MV school system $90 for their buses instead, which would have generated a $25 per hour surplus to the schools.

    That would equate to $500 per hour over the out of pocket cost (according to the school committee). For the 32 hours the shuttle system would be in effect, that would’ve yielded a $75,000 payment from us including a $16,000 surplus.

  2. the number one expense to the towns is the high school budget. Lets see how much he pays for off island busses that we could have kept on island. I say 30 to 40,000 dollars. So short sighted of the school committee to allow this endeavor..

  3. “For Epstein, the festival is an opportunity to benefit the Island and bring “togetherness, community, and culture” to Vineyard Haven….“This is an Island operation, we really are doing it for Islanders.””

    I don’t believe for a second that a concert promoter is putting on a concert “for Islanders.” Why have it in the peak of summer when there is already gridlock in town? No, concert promoters put on concerts so that they can make money. And this one will make money for him but Islanders will pay the price.

    • I don’t begrudge anyone making money. Who cares if the concert promoter makes money/ he should. What I do think is a shame that you feel that he’s the only benefitting. I heard plenty of not for profits are benefiting from this event including organizations that don’t have to pick the pocket of taxpayers come town meeting time?

  4. I still believe the three Tisbury selectmen are directly responsible for allowing this travesty to take place, and I hope, once the smoke clears after the disaster of a weekend, that the voters will still remember the next time they go to the ballot box. As for me, you couldn’t pay me enough to leave my house that weekend, much less go to the concert (and I love John Fogerty).

  5. Is this the same island that used to host the Monster Shark Tournament? I didn’t like any of that, but since I never went, it never impacted my life one bit. You don’t like this concert? Don’t go. There are plenty of other people, islanders and visitors, who will go and will have a great time. It was stupid not to allow the PAID use of our school buses for shuttling people. Biting off your nose to spite your face is also stupid. Good luck to you, Adam Epstein, and a big thank you. Don’t mind the Negative Nancys. The island Negative Nancys also went nuts over allowing the roundabout.

  6. It’s not like islanders can just “not go” when it’s in the middle of the town at the busiest intersection at the peak of the season. I work in VH so I have no choice but to maneuver around the traffic nightmare this will cause.

  7. Traffic is a nightmare regardless of this event, now you just have some event you don’t like to blame for it.
    If it’s a cloudy non beach day in the summer all the towns experience summer heavy traffic.

  8. We all be talking of this for a very long time, my hope is that we are still speaking about the worst traffic nightmare in our collective memories when it becomes time to elect our selectman.

  9. So, let me get this straight, the school board objects to using students resources for private music events, but has no problem renting out the auditorium to the private citizens, Bill and Hillary Clinton to promote for-profit books, at which tickets to attend were sold at exorbitant prices? This wasn’t using students resources for private gain?

    • The Perormming Arts Center is a separate financial entity and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) corporation. It does not come under the financial or funding auspices of Martha;s Vineyard Regional High School.

    • And also…weren’t these the same buses that were used as a blockade at the airport when Obama was here….I guess it’s who you know or who you are.

  10. I’m surprised at the negativity shown in these posts. I hope we have beautiful weather for the event and all goes as smoothly as can be hoped for with such a complex endeavor. I’m not familiar with any of the musicians but plan to attend if I can afford it.
    In my business I run a few dually trucks. My problem with them is letting them sit during the off season, it allows rust to build on the brakes and other problems to the extent I like to pay someone to occasionally drive them around to keep them in shape.
    School buses are just vehicles, nothing magic, and running them during the off season might actually be good for them. Keeping the money on Island and helping with the school budget seems like a win win situation, I think they should quickly reconsider.

  11. So now we’ll be contending with a host of off-island buses coming over on the ferries at the peak of summer, and all the proceeds go off-island?
    That seems crazy on the part of MVRHS. The high school could have got a serious chunk of change out of this concert. Plus the drivers could have had a tip jar out, made themselves a nice midsummer bonus.
    And haven’t I heard about the high school needing money for a project or two?

  12. $90,000.00 would be really well spent toward a turf field. It’s sad people have to verbally beat up a great idea.

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