Two up-Island towns are in the midst of planning for the inevitable influx of people traveling to the Vineyard during the summer.
Aquinnah officials are concerned with the enforcement of mask wearing and social distancing on town beaches.
During a selectmen’s meeting Wednesday, Police Chief Randhi Belain said that the maximum fine currently allowed by Massachusetts general law for not wearing a face covering is $300, but the town could come up with a fine structure for first and subsequent offenses. Belain said the board of health would have to issue guidance in order for police to take that stance.
“We are really not looking to do that. If someone refuses to wear a mask, we want to provide them with education,” Belain said.
Although town administrator Jeff Madison said an official bylaw regarding enforcement would have to be passed at town meeting and approved by the Attorney General, board of health chair Jim Glavin said the board has unique abilities that “basically sidestep” all other processes.
“I don’t think anyone wants to run around issuing tickets,” Glavin said, adding that he said he and the rest of the board would work on guidance for the police department.
Another far-reaching issue that selectmen discussed related to the public restrooms available near the Aquinnah Cliffs.
Whether or not to have an attendant at the bathrooms was of particular concern. Madison said that the bathrooms would need to be cleaned around three times a day, and there would need to be signage outside warning people to dispose of personal protective equipment properly, and use facilities at their own discretion.
“We want to limit the liability of the town if someone does go in there and is sick,” Madison said.
Highway superintendent Jay Smalley said, “It’s going to be a different type of summer,” and suggested having an attendant at the restrooms all day. “I can see gloves and stuff all over the floor,” he said.
Along with the restrooms is the issue of parking at the municipal lot, which serves as the town’s largest revenue generator.
Selectmen tentatively decided to station a parking attendant at the lot with a card reader who will sell day passes for $30 a day, and the limit would be 40 cars. The lot would be open from 9 am to 6 pm. Selectman Gary Haley was adamantly opposed to selling passes for $30, and called it “price gouging” and “highway robbery.”
Haley said a price that is too high would dissuade folks from coming to the Vineyard, which would choke the town’s finances even more.
Selectman also decided to tentatively schedule a town meeting for June 23 at the fire station, starting at noon.
What to do about summer in Chilmark?
Chilmark is also considering many logistical issues related to the arrival of summer residents and visitors, such as parking at the Menemsha lot, and how to deal with curbside pickup at food establishments.
Board of health chair Katie Carroll said she has been meeting with food establishments, and said they “are in pretty good shape” in regard to the coming months.
“The big question is crowd control. How will we manage folks standing and waiting to pick up orders? Where will cars be staged for curbside food service?” Carroll asked.
Board of health agent Matt Poole said it has become apparent to the board that orchestrating the flow of restaurant customers and traffic in Menemsha will necessitate a different approach by the town.
“The whole tradition of getting some takeout food and watching the sunset is something we should be thinking about here in May,” Poole said.
Carroll said it would be prudent to designate parking spots specifically for “live parking,” where people could park temporarily to pick up their food order.
“In regards to curbside service, if you are not comfortable picking up your order, the establishment can bring your order to you. It’s an option,” Carroll said.
Selectmen chair Warren Doty raised the issue of parking in Menemsha, especially during sunset hours.
Town administrator Tim Carroll proposed cutting the parking spaces in Menemsha in half, so instead of 74 spaces, there would be only 37.
Police Chief Jonathan Klaren said he would come up with a plan for the parking spaces that will be open, and decide which ones will be 30-minute spaces, which ones will be hour spaces, and which ones would be “live parking” for food pickup.