Tisbury harbor patrol boat won’t fly

After rejecting an additional $24,000 for a new boat, select board supports harborfront development.


On Tuesday night, the Tisbury select board refused to accept the sole bid for a replacement harbor patrol boat because it came in $24,000 higher than what the town was willing to spend. The board blocked a request by harbormaster John Crocker to secure additional funds to acquire a replacement vessel.

A replacement vessel is needed because the town’s FEMA-funded harbor patrol boat sank in October 2019 while tied up at the Owen Park Dock. The harbor department is using a loaner vessel from the Environmental Police until it secures a replacement. Crocker told the board that voters authorized $255,000 last year to be used to secure a replacement vessel. That money came from an insurance payout for Rock Salt, the sunken boat, which was declared a total loss. Roughly $20,000 of the $255,000 has already been spent on firefighting equipment for the replacement vessel, Crocker said, leaving $235,000 available. The only bid that came in was $259,000, he said. It was from Eastern Boats of Milton, N.H. 

“In my opinion, I think that we need more money in order to finance this vessel,” Crocker said. 

Crocker told the board he was seeking a placeholder on the annual town meeting warrant for $50,000. When The Times asked about such a placeholder two weeks earlier during a meeting, town administrator Jay Grande and select board chair Jim Rogers rebuffed the question. On Tuesday night, board members essentially rejected putting the additional $50,000 before voters, and asked Crocker to work with Grande on other ways to get a boat. Crocker was even asked to consider the possibility of getting a used vessel to meet the department’s needs. 

Rogers let Crocker know precisely what amount he thought should go toward a replacement vessel. 

“The town voted $255,000 of insurance money to pay for that boat, and I think we’ve got about $255,000,” he said. 

Select board member Jeff Kristal concurred, and suggested the project be sent back out for another bid. 

“What happens if we end up with the same results?” Crocker asked.

“I don’t have an answer for you because I’m not a mariner,” Rogers said.

Kristal said he wasn’t a mariner either, but he did have an answer, which was to keep the $50,000 placeholder on the warrant, and if it winds up being needed, then the voters would make the decision to authorize it. Neither Rogers nor select board member Larry Gomez supported that idea. 

“So what I’m hearing in this meeting is that we have to get this boat in under the amount that we already have, and there’s no deviating from that,” Crocker said. “Am I correct? Am I hearing correctly?”

“Yeah,” Rogers said.

“Then we will have to go back to the drawing board and put out another invitation to bid and do our best,” Crocker said.

Crocker also discussed a series of other warrant articles, a lot less controversial, for mooring replacement, dredging, and an eelgrass survey, among other things. He’ll review them with Grande, who will ultimately recommend to the board which ones go before voters. A proposed new position of natural resources assistant will be brought before the select board on Feb. 23.

Dunn deal

The select board unanimously endorsed a proposed mixed-use development for the former Santander Bank property on Main Street by developer Sam Dunn, and agreed to send a letter of support for the project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and planning board. The property includes the former bank, a parking lot, and several other buildings.

Dunn’s plan would preserve the historic bank building, and would redevelop the rest of the property with commercial spaces on the first floor and residential housing on the second floor. An outdoor restaurant and walking paths would lure visitors to “see what surprises lurk there,” Dunn told the board.

The project, which will go before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on March 4 for a public hearing, has also won the endorsement of the town’s historic district commission. Harold Chapdelaine, that board’s chair, told the select board the one condition is that the historic commission wants the project to undergo architectural review.

Peter Stam, whose waterfront home abuts the commercial area, said Dunn has worked with the neighbors, and agreed to provide access for heavy equipment and propane tanks when needed. 

The select board was gushing in its praise of the proposed development.

“I think it’s a fantastic project,” select board member Jeff Kristal said. The project would provide tax revenue for the town. “I think this is a big thing for the town of Tisbury, honestly. You’re taking a vacant piece of property that’s been there for four years. You’re really going to make it a gem when you step off the boat … I applaud you for doing this.”

Rogers said it will enhance the entire downtown area.

“It’s a nice revitalization of that area,” select board member Larry Gomez said.

Speaking of positive additions to Vineyard Haven, the board heard a report from Martha’s Vineyard Museum executive director Heather Seger and board secretary David Grain.

Seger told the select board that after a positive 2019 with more than 25,000 visitors, the museum’s first year in its new home in Vineyard Haven, it had a $1 million revenue shortfall in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“At the museum we’re trying to think really creatively to get through the financial challenges in both the short term and the long term,” she said. To be sustainable, the museum needs to be able to generate more revenue. “I wanted to speak to you tonight to respectfully ask that you work with us,” Seger added.

Though there were no specifics discussed, board members asked Grande to work out the details of a memorandum of understanding with the museum leadership to bring back to the select board.

Grande said he would come back in a few weeks with something more definitive to present to the select board.

“This is a great opportunity to work collaboratively with the town and do some things that are good for all parties,” Grain said.

Annabelle Hunton, owner of the Nobnocket Inn in Vineyard Haven, praised the museum’s presence, particularly during the off-season. “We’re over the moon and excited to have the museum here in Vineyard Haven,” she said.

Beach Road weakened

Select board members offered another strong rebuke of the state project to add a shared-use path to Beach Road. Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) began construction on the road late in 2020, but has been stalled recently because of some engineering problems, town administrator Jay Grande said. 

One of the issues pointed out is that a water pipe is just 12 inches under the road in one area. He added that an area known as the “beach nourishment” area, across from Vineyard Scripts, has been completely eroded in recent storms, and is creating a safety hazard. After a letter was sent to MassDOT and copied to state leaders, Grande said he received a “proactive response,” and MassDOT has agreed to have its contractor make repairs to address the safety hazard.

Grande has also asked Environmental Partners, a consultant the town has on retainer, to look at engineering issues with the project.

“I’m totally opposed to this project,” Kristal said. “This is something that just … I don’t want this forced down our throats … I think this is a big pause. I don’t understand why they’re going forward. I don’t understand why they’re not rethinking the engineering on it.”

Kristal said MassDOT should be looking at raising the road because of the erosion and flooding issues.

Rogers pointed out that the town had a meeting with MassDOT in October that went nowhere.

A previous select board supported the SUP, and the project has the support of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, as a way to connect Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs with a bike path.

In other business, the board approved new dates for Beach Road Weekend. Last week, promoter Adam Epstein pulled the plug on the 2021 music festival. He asked the board Tuesday night to support his dates for 2022.

While Rogers questioned if it was too soon, Kristal said Epstein needs dates to begin booking musicians and to work with the hospitality industry. 

The board approved Beach Road Weekend 2022 for August 26-28 for Veterans Memorial Park.

Earlier in the meeting, the select board held a public hearing on new fees for building permits in town. No one from the public commented on the proposed fees, and the select board unanimously approved them as presented by building commissioner Ross Seavey. 

Seavey, in summarizing the new fee structure, said they will be based on square footage of a project, instead of based on a project’s cost. He added that for the first time, there will be a permit and fee for smaller classes of work that don’t require a lot of the inspector’s time.

The board started its evening adding John Best to the water resources committee, a town board that will work on the comprehensive wastewater management plan. While Kristal abstained from voting for Best when he was recommended as that board’s appointee to the new committee, he supported Best on Tuesday.

“I just want to thank you,” Best said to the select board. “I’m looking forward to serving and working on wastewater.”

Rogers asked Best to make sure he reports back to the board on progress of the committee, momentarily forgetting that select board member Larry Gomez is that board’s appointee to the same committee.

“I’ll report as many times as the chair wants to hear from us,” Gomez said.

A permit for Jonathan Wild to offer harbor boat tours was approved unanimously. The tours will be allowed from May 1 to Dec. 31.


  1. 1. It would be interesting to know how the purchasing process goes on in VH. Does each department put in a request for the best and the finest and then get accepted or rejected or do we have something more sophisticated where there is a person that receives the requests, then does the research for big budget items? How do they present them to the board and are there alternatives LIKE buying second hand? Also where are those water front property and boat owners that get, what appear as deals on beach replenishment and on moorings? Let’s ask them for donations to help out on the purchase of the new boat. Think Community

    2. Beach Rd. needs an SUP, even if its up to the Tisbury Market area. Friends and I have scouted out the area from photos above and along the road. Since 5 corners is a nightmare…, we became of outside the line thinking. There are areas that could be developed conscientiously, such as incorporating a bike bridge with a draw bridge over the old road to Skiff Ave. This could go from Beach Road along the water at the Tisbury Market and drop you off in front of the MVM. A prime example is at Nantucket’s’ Cliff Walk in Sconcet incorporating public/private property cooperation.
    At the same time the beach and road erosion must be looked at as Mother Nature telling us that another cut is trying to form close to one of the original openings to the Lagoon Pond. Like Katama Bay at Norton Point, such an opening would help flush out the Lagoon. The Stat should be contacting the Army Corp of engineers and FEMA to help out. Yes, eminent domain would have to come into play with the vacant lot across the street. The huge pluses are in favor of the environment and the life of the pond over the next Century. As sea rises and storm continue this land has limited life usage. As a community think of how much healthier the pond would become with the flushing of every tide.

    – These things may sound difficult, it’s the first step forward which is the hardest –

  2. As HarborMaster in vineyard Haven awhile back , I had to purchase a boat using my own funds if I wanted the job. I obtained a new 22’ open skiff with a new Johnson 55 hp motor. This boat worked out just fine. We carried pump ,stretchers , mooring gear and other misc. items when needed. Why spending this incredible amount of money for harbor boat boggles my mind. It’s just not justified. Sorry.

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