Landscaping ‘double standard’ afoot, contractor says

Nurseries open partially, Donaroma defends his business.

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Questions are being raised about why some nurseries are open on the Island and others aren't. - Rich Saltzberg

Oak Bluffs landscaping contractor Dana Mylott, owner of D.T.A.L.S. Inc., said an Island wide moratorium on landscaping work is being unevenly observed and enforced. Mylott alleged Donaroma’s and some other large landscaping companies continue to work despite Island-wide restrictions on construction and landscape work. Mylott said he’s not alone and that a lot of landscaping company owners are galled. Mylott also alleged Vineyard golf courses are fielding grounds crews and essentially landscaping greens and fairways. 

“It’s a slap in all of our faces,” he said of the landscaping companies who have stood down from work. He said it was “such a double standard” that some companies work without consequences while others like his sit idle.

Edgartown selectman Michael Donaroma, owner of Donaroma’s, bristled at what he described as an onslaught of accusations that his company has been conducting renegade operations. 

“I’m being [expletive] crucified here,” Donaroma said. He blamed disgruntled former employees and people making false assumptions.

Donaroma said his company “has not been on a landscaping job since the beginning of this thing.”

He said his nursery manager lives in Chilmark and takes a company truck home and some passersby may have thought the truck was en route to a job, especially because one day the nursery manager took some shrubs home for personal planting purposes and they may have been visible in the truck.

Donaroma said he has a fleet of 45 trucks.

“I can’t just park them all at the nursery,” he said, as space won’t allow it. Many workers take the trucks home and they can therefore be seen around the Vineyard, he said. He also said he has three farms and 18 greenhouses on the Island and those are being maintained within the bounds of the moratorium. He said his nursery adjacent to Sharky’s is the only garden center not open on the Vineyard, further proof, he pointed out, that he has been sticking to the pandemic restrictions and hasn’t reopened like several retail nurseries did Monday.

West Tisbury health agent Omar Johnson confirmed garden centers in West Tisbury have reopened for curbside pickup commerce. 

“They were given permission to open on Monday based on the guidelines that were put forth by the state.”

Johnson has recommended the garden centers use only curbside pickup and online ordering. “They have the right at this point to go beyond that,” he said. “They are allowing customers to come on site and pick up plants, something that the board of health was against.”

Asked if he’s heard from landscapers who want to get back to work, Johnson said,  “Absolutely,” but there’s little he can do right now. Such changes, he said, were “contingent on the progression of the virus.”

Mylott said he’s got payroll for 10 people every week, people who can’t work, and there’s no guarantee that money will come back through a government program. 

By sidelining his workers, Mylott said he’s doing “what’s right for our community” but he’s vexed by the other companies allegedly “out there making beaucoup bucks” during the moratorium. 

Donaroma said he’s laid off almost 30 people. He said he does have farm workers toiling within proper parameters in his farms and greenhouse workers similarly maintaining plants, but he re-emphasized his company is not doing any landscape work, nor does he have his garden center open for business. 

Donaroma said he’s been hounded by false accusations to the point the police were called to one of his greenhouses because somebody alleged his greenhouse workers weren’t maintaining social distancing.

He said he fully understands the restrictions because, as a selectman, he participated in signing them into effect in Edgartown.

Mylott said an advisory board is looking at ways to get some Island contractors back to work later this month.

Donaroma was baffled as to why, after being in business for 45 years, he wasn’t asked to be on that committee. 

On Monday, a scofflaw contractor transported bamboo to a house on Lake Tashmoo and triggered a power outage after the bamboo snagged a wire. 

 “The affected property is on Lake Street,” Tisbury building commissioner Ross Seavey emailed, “the offending contractor is on a side road nearby. They were transporting [bamboo] to their construction site that caught the overhead wires and ripped all the wires and some trim off the house. I explained to the contractor that this is one of the reasons the construction moratorium is in place. The work you decided to do now requires police officers, the fire department, the building inspector, the electrical inspector, a carpenter, and an electrician all to go out in public to ensure the safety of the affected resident and to get their power restored.”

Seavey said he believed the contractor was transplanting the bamboo from elsewhere on the Vineyard. “He got a warning and was told he needs to stay home,” Seavey wrote. “I referred the bamboo issue to the Tisbury conservation agent, Jane Varkonda, to address.” 

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. It’s infuriating to know that everywhere else in the Commonwealth landscapers are outside in the crisp spring air, busy maintaining properties and distance. At least common sense is prevailing off island.

  2. Why can’t he park all of his work trucks at his shop that is not in operation, or in any of the fields where his nursery is?? Even the pick up trucks of his have plants in them every day!

  3. All 45 trucks can fit in his retail nursery next to Sharkey’s that is not in operation. That parking lot is huge!!

  4. Excellent work, Seavey, refer the most invasive, nuisance species of plants, Bamboo, to the Conservation Agent for investigation.
    We can’t have Bamboo being transplanted in broad daylight!
    Once again the wisdom of Tisbury officials have saved the residents from themselves.

  5. not surprised by any of the above mentioned. For whatever reason, island officials find our little community to be indifferent to the provisions set forth by the state. These little people in power are useless beyond measure. We should probably start mandating IQ tests for all individuals currently on the board of selectmen in each of the island towns. Second thought, the results might be too scary to handle…hang in there Dana, I’m in the same boat as you. At the very least, our golf courses will retain their beauty lmao!!

  6. I say let them work. Landscapers can be spread out, they work in the open air, put one or two to a job site (with masks) and let them work. If a job (any job!) can be done in a way that still upholds social distancing, then why not let them do it!!! It is very expensive to live here, a huge amount of the actual island population are gig workers depending on spring and summer, and haven’t been able to collect unemployment or any help whatsoever (MA Gov has an April 30th date for the website to be finished that allows gig-workers, self-employed, subs, etc to apply for benefits based on CARES guideline). People are suffering, stop being petty, who gives a crap if the trucks can or can’t fit in the lot. There are families barely getting by, and with everything going on, there’s no clear end in sight and everyone still has tons of bills to pay, including the exorbitant island rental rates, food (which is much higher than off-island prices) utility bills, credit card bills, health insurance, car insurance, AND THE LIST GOES ONNNNN. If a job’s conditions can be made safe to work, then LET PEOPLE WORK.

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