Oak Bluffs closes Vineyard Avenue for Halloween

Health agent expresses concern about ‘intermingling’.

Charlee Armer, 6, dressed as Batgirl while trick or treating down Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs. — Gabrielle Mannino

Vineyard Avenue will be closed off to vehicle traffic this year on Halloween night by order of the board of selectmen.

In an email to selectmen, Oak Bluffs health agent Meegan Lancaster expressed reservations about having the street closed. Lancaster wrote that closing the street would constitute an outdoor gathering, which according to state regulations has a limit of 100 people in lower-risk communities such as Oak Bluffs.

“My concern would be, Will the number of people be monitored? How will non-household groups be prevented from intermingling? How will mask usage and distancing be adhered to and enforced? And how will traditional knocking and trick-or-treating be handled?” Lancaster wrote.

Selectman Jason Balboni said he didn’t agree, since the town has closed Circuit Avenue on Sundays all summer.

“I don’t feel as though I’m going to step in and tell somebody they can or cannot trick-or-treat. That’d be like saying you can’t celebrate Christmas to me, but that’s my personal opinion,” Balboni said.

Selectmen also agreed that if the popular candy gathering route was closed, it would be safer for families who could have more space on the street to socially distance.

Joe Mikos, a Vineyard Avenue resident, said that people who don’t want trick-or-treaters should turn their lights off. Mikos and his family go “all-out” for the holiday, and said this year he will be following CDC guidelines with regard to passing out candy. “It’s got to be one of the safest things we can do for our kids to give them some sense of normalcy,” Mikos said.

In other business, selectmen approved the opening dates for the scallop season. Sengekontacket Pond and outside waters will open for recreational permit holders on Oct. 17, and for commercial permit holders on Oct. 26. Lagoon Pond will open Nov. 14 for recreational permit holders, and Nov. 16 for commercial permit holders.

Shellfish constable Chuck Fisher said the dates were set so close together to give the commercial fishermen a chance to harvest shells.

Balboni said there should be more time for recreational permit holders, similar to the practice in Edgartown, which gives its recreational permit holders a month before commercial season begins.

“We have a lot more residents that pay taxes on this stuff and pay for their permits, so I think they should be given a little bit more of a chance before the drags go out there and clean everything up,” Balboni said.

Selectmen Ryan Ruley and Brian Packish agreed, and said they’d like to see more access for the recreational permit holders.

Selectmen also began a discussion on a potential social media policy for town employees. 

Without naming a specific incident, Packish said there was a lot of content being posted, and there was a question of how relevant that content is to the town of Oak Bluffs.

“Is the town social media pages, platforms, etc. going to be used to specifically promote an agenda and a link back to a website?” Packish said. “Or are we going to continue with the way we have been, with a wide-open policy?”

Balboni said a social media policy agenda item would be placed on the selectmen’s agendas every week until they reached a decision.

Personnel at town hall have officially moved into the temporary town hall trailers at 53 School St., across from town hall and directly adjacent to the Parish Hall.

“We’re fully up and running. We want to invite folks to come by and see us. You can do your routine transactions in person,” Whritneour said.

Oak Bluffs Association executive director Christine Todd informed selectmen that due to the ongoing pandemic, there would be no tree-lighting ceremony at Healey Square this year.

Selectmen also appointed Kevin Brennan to the personnel board, selectman Ryan Ruley to the harbor committee, and Grace Guck to the zoning board of appeals. Selectmen reappointed Brian Packish to the Roads and Byways committee, and Richard Toole to the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative board and the Cape Light Compact board of directors.