Best recommended for Tisbury water committee

Grande email suggested select board was moving away from picking someone from the sewer advisory board.

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The Tisbury sewer advisory board has picked John Best to represent them on a new water resource committee, which will help create the town's comprehensive wastewater management plan. -Rich Saltzberg

The Tisbury sewer advisory board has recommended John Best as the board’s appointee to the town’s five-member water resource committee, a board that will help guide the town’s comprehensive wastewater management plan (CWMP).

In a 5-0 vote Thursday, with board members Jeff Kristal and Josh Goldstein abstaining, Best was selected as the board’s appointee to the committee. Best voted for himself after being praised by other board members for his experience.

“I think John is a good candidate because he has been involved for so long,” sewer advisory board member Nancy Gilfoy said. “He seems to be the person that whenever anybody has to remember what happened, I don’t know, 10 or 15 years ago …” 

“Twenty,” Best interjected, later qualifying that he’s been involved 26 years.
“Institutional knowledge, I think they call it,” chair Christina Colarusso added.

“I think for that alone he’s a good resource for the committee,” Gilfoy said.

Best was critical of how the town handled the firing of wastewater superintendent David Thompson, who blew the whistle on the Mansion House Inn pumping as much as 25,000 gallons per day in groundwater into the town’s wastewater treatment plant. Within weeks of alerting the town to the illegal hookup, which has since been corrected by adding a leaching field at the hotel, Thompson was terminated by the town.

Kristal was accused by former select board chair Melinda Loberg of pressuring her to keep the Mansion House issue quiet. Goldstein is a co-owner of the Vineyard Haven hotel.

Kristal has denied any coverup.

The town’s select board, of which Kristal is a member, will ultimately make the appointment to the water resource committee.

Thursday’s vote comes as town administrator Jay Grande sent an email to Colarusso advising her that the select board was moving in a different direction, and expected to appoint a member “at large” instead of from the sewer advisory board.

“It’s just what Jay Grande sent as a reply to the emails, that the town’s considering another appointee besides the sewer advisory,” Kristal said during the sewer advisory board meeting. Grande sent an email in response to an inquiry of whether the sewer advisory board should take up appointing a member to the committee.

But the committee charge, approved by the select board on Sept. 20, was to approve a water resources committee with members recommended by select board, finance committee, planning board, sewer advisory board, and board of health, Best pointed out prior to the vote. “So I suggest we make an appointment, and let the [select board] decide what they’re going to do with it,” he said. “We only have one selectman here. It’s a recommendation. If they don’t want to accept our recommendation, they can take what action they want at a [select board] meeting.”

In an email to The Times, Goldstein cited Grande’s email as his reason for abstaining. Kristal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One member of the sewer advisory board, Nancy Gilfoy, has been selected by another board — the finance committee — to serve on the water resource committee. Michael Loberg is the health board appointee.

In an email asking when the select board made that decision, and for minutes to back that up, Grande wrote, “I did let Christina and sewer advisory board know a few days ago that I thought this was something I understood might be on the table for a future meeting and discussion of the select board, so they were not caught unaware.” 

Asked how he knew that, Grande wrote, “Something I understood might be on the table for a future meeting and discussion.”

The state’s Open Meeting Law forbids boards and committees from deliberating outside of public meetings, so it’s unclear where Grande would have gotten that understanding.

Earlier in the meeting, Robert Rafferty, who works for the town’s consultant on all things wastewater Environmental Partners, told the sewer advisory board that resolving the Mansion House issue adds about 10,000 to 15,000 gallons per day in additional flow at the treatment plant, according to records kept by the plant operators.

Meanwhile, Environmental Partners is submitting a new discharge permit application for the plant, which would raise the amount of gallons per day the plant is allowed to discharge from 104,000 to 139,000. “So that would be to load the existing beds at a higher rate than they are allowed to be loaded now, under the permit,” Rafferty said. “We’ve already done the testing on that, and shown it can be done very easily.”

It’s part of an application for an expansion of the plant to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Rafferty said. That’s scheduled to be finalized by the end of June, he said.

In other business, the board began what is likely to be a long discussion over multiple meetings, dealing with sewer regulations.