Tisbury will wait till next year to celebrate

With COVID on the rise, select board agrees it’s not the time to throw a party.

Not a banner day as Tisbury is forced to postpone its birthday party. -George Brennan

The party to celebrate Tisbury’s 350th anniversary will have to wait until next year. At a joint meeting between the select board and board of health Tuesday, the select board voted unanimously to postpone the Sept. 19 event.

With COVID-19 numbers on the Island on the rise because of the Delta variant, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley asked for the meeting to talk about the party. She said the town remains at high risk of transmission, and she doesn’t see things changing anytime soon.

“It’s not a real good time to be planning a party,” Valley said. “At what point do we say that’s not a good idea, and postpone or cancel it?” 

It didn’t take long for Valley to get support from the select board. “Our numbers are really high, and they don’t seem to be going down,’ she said.

Last week, the Island had 97 total cases of COVID-19, the fourth straight week that numbers increased.

Health board member Jeff Pratt suggested the town could face liability for hosting the event. “It being a town-sponsored event, that makes me nervous,” he said. Pratt noted that 50 percent of the people are experiencing breakthrough cases, meaning they’re fully vaccinated but are still getting the virus. 

“To me it just seems prudent that we delay this,” select board chair Jeff Kristal said. “Maybe even a year, to be honest with you. I know we’ll be celebrating the 351st, but I think the health of the town — the Island — is much more important than saying, ‘Hey, we had a party for our 350th.’ I think the prudent thing would be to put this off until next spring, depending on the numbers.”

Town administrator Jay Grande called the infection trend “disturbing.” He said the $50,000 for the party contract isn’t worth risking public health. “It’s not critical to have this event. It can be postponed,” Grande said. “I really think under the circumstances, people are going to be less inclined to enjoy the event in light of the health situation going on. I don’t know how anyone would feel comfortable going forward in three weeks’ time with the data that’s coming in.”

On the town’s actual anniversary, July 7, the Island had just one case.

Select board member Larry Gomez mentioned the controversy surrounding the birthday party held by former President Barack Obama in Edgartown earlier this month. “We heard about President Obama doing something like that, and we should be proactive and outright say, No, we’re not going to have it this year,” he said.

The select board and health boards also discussed the possibility of imposing a vaccination mandate for town employees, but took no action.

The town’s attorney, Brian Maser, said the policy would have to be negotiated with the town’s union employees. Maser said he was unaware of any towns having imposed such a mandate, even though both West Tisbury and Aquinnah have already voted to require employees be vaccinated.

Kristal suggested a public campaign to encourage vaccines, but said the board would take the issue under advisement. “I would imagine when visitors leave the Island, we’ll see our numbers drop,” he said. “I’m hoping.”

Select board member Roy Cutrer asked if there was any way to know if employees are vaccinated.

“I do believe that a high percentage of Tisbury town employees are vaccinated,” Valley said, “but there are a handful that are not.” She said during some contract tracing she learned that not every town employee is vaccinated: “That surprised me.”


Five meetings in one night

The joint meeting with the health board was one of five posted meetings by the select board. The select board also met jointly with the board of assessors, the finance committee, the planning board, and then had a separate agenda for its own business.

During its meeting, the board approved a contract to continue the services of CHA Co. (formerly Daedalus Projects) as the owner’s project manager (not to exceed $1.4 million) and Tappé as the architect (not to exceed $4 million) for the duration of the $55 million Tisbury School project. The school board has also set up a committee to review contractors who are interested in building the school. That review committee will include school board member Jen Cutrer, Principal John Custer, parent Siobhan Mullin, Andrew Flake, and Harold Chapdelaine.

Speaking of committees, in their joint meeting with the planning board, the select board approved the wording of the charge and the makeup of a seven-member Tisbury climate committee. Members with experience in energy, business, finance, public works, planning, and related fields will have preference.

During a brief joint meeting with the board of assessors, James Norton was appointed to the board of assessors. A retired math teacher and a farmer on the Island, Norton said he’s ready to get involved. “That’s why I’m here,” he said.

In another joint meeting with the finance committee, Louise Clough was appointed after telling the boards her background in healthcare management featured skills that are transferable for her role on the committee. “I show up. I’ll be prepared. I’m a good board member,” she said ahead of her appointment.

In other business, drivers will have to slow down on Daggett Avenue. The select board approved acting Police Chief Christopher Habekost’s request to reduce the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph on the busy street.

Kristal suggested that the police department get more traffic signs that show drivers how fast they’re going. Habekost said the department could use three more, at a total cost of $10,000. He got no pushback from the board, who advised he should consult with Grande to find the money.

“They work,” Kristal said.

Public works director Kirk Metell said the DPW already has the signs, and is “ready to put them up.”

After a meeting next Tuesday at 4 pm to discuss some wastewater-related issues, the select board voted unanimously to move permanently to Wednesday meetings.

Kristal said the move makes sense to align with other town boards like the finance committee, but finance committee member Nancy GIlfoy said a Wednesday select board meeting would make it difficult for her to attend select board meetings, as she preps for the finance committee meeting on the same night.

Grande requested the change from Tuesdays to Wednesdays, saying it would be easier on town staff, particularly on weeks with Monday holidays.


  1. there is one reason and one reason only why this celebration was cancelled, and we all have to wear a mask when we go into any public building.
    Donald j trump got more than 270 electoral votes in the 2016 election .

  2. BRAVO….CARE MORE FOR THE COMMUNITY THEN THE $$$$…SAD the AG Society chose not to do the right things for the safety and health of all.

    • Agreed. It was bad enough that the fair was planned without proper precautions. It’s unconscionable that they didn’t cancel once the hospital became crowded. Glad to see Tisbury doing the right thing.

  3. That’s the Vineyard community consciousness that we all love and cherish!!!

    5 STARS!!!

    Well Done!!!


  4. Puts the Ag Society, West Tisbury Board of Health, and the MV Ag Fair planners to shame.

      • I believe a lot of Fair volunteers who’ve worked hard to help run things for years and have influence in planning— all are Society members. But they do not necessarily have any final say, as Brian Athearn, president of the Ag Society does, for instance. But yes, there’s crossover of course. I separate them because they have separate social media pages publishing separate announcements and photos, all nicely cropped to make it appear fairgoers were aware of delta variant contagiousness. But the point is, no one has bothered to defend this recklessness. No one from the Fair or Society or BOH publicly thought it would be a good idea to cancel or at least require better covid restrictions— that they would actually all enforce on the Fairgrounds? It is the definition of insanity.

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