The Oak Bluffs select board ratified the town’s contract with newly appointed Police Chief Jonathan Searle in a unanimous vote at Tuesday’s meeting. Select board chair Ryan Ruley called the recent meeting with Searle and town administrator Deborah Potter regarding his contract part of “a smooth process.” Searle’s official swearing-in will take place on June 13.
Terms of the contract were not immediately released.
Additionally, after receiving much praise for her work with Potter, Carrie Blair’s appointment as town accountant was swiftly approved in a unanimous vote. “It is without any reservation that I recommend that you appoint Ms. Carrie Blair as the acting town accountant for the town of Oak Bluffs so we can continue this pathway to success and the internal ability of qualified candidates to have opportunity for promotion on a competitive basis,” Potter told the board.
Select board member Brian Packish recalled first interviewing Blair in 2018. “From that time forward, you’ve proven very clearly that you’re ready for those challenges,” he said, adding that Blair has really “risen to the occasion.” Ruley said to him, the transition “seems seamless.”
Blair, former Martha’s Vineyard Times advertising sales manager, has 15 years of marketing experience and holds a business degree, in addition to her continuation of accounting courses and serving as Potter’s assistant.
The select board also discussed recent Steamship Authority ferry cancellations caused by numerous staff showing COVID-related symptoms. Ruley said that he’s heard “rumors” that ferry operations will be affected for as long as through the upcoming weekend, although SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll told The Times the terminal reopened on Wednesday. “As you can imagine, some of our businesses are upset, and worried about this weekend [and that] there might not be a boat running in Oak Bluffs. So, not to cause panic, but for them that could be the loss of quite a bit of money,” Ruley said.
Ruley said that he intends to continue communication with Steamship representative Jim Malkin. “We’ll try to get ahold of our reps again,” he said. “Maybe try to get some answers [from the SSA], and at minimum ask them to split the trips, if this is going to be the way it is through the weekend.”
Rob Brennan, of CapeBuilt, standing in for attorney Eric Peters, appeared before the board seeking approval for the Lagoon Ridge subdivision LIP (local initiative program) agreement to be filed with the state. “It essentially lays out the hows and the wherefores of proceedings to get the four affordable units approved by the state deed-restricted in perpetuity, marketed, and sold” through a lottery process, he said.
The Lagoon Ridge construction will take place in three phases, the first being the building of “cluster C” and will consist of 17 units, four of which will be the affordable units.
Brennan said estimated completion of the first phase is expected within one year. The board approved the filing in a unanimous vote. “Housing’s waiting,” Packish said.
Brennan said that the two-bedroom, two-bath units will be larger than the “typical affordable units,” and will feature home office spaces “in light of the new post-COVID reality.”
Brennan said the four affordable units are projected to be sold for $245,000. “All of us know what the demand is, compared to the supply,” said Brennan; in consideration of the Island’s current housing crisis, “It’d truly be [like] someone hitting the lottery.”
The select board mulled over and eventually approved Kharma Finley’s request for an amplified sound permit and to hold the Martha’s Vineyard Community of Change Black Party Aug. 6 at Waban Park, which will be “highlighting organizations that contribute to antiracism and community diversity.” Finley explained that the event is a collaboration among multiple aligned organizations, and will feature music, but will not be serving alcohol or unpackaged foods, and will serve only as a community celebration. The event is open to the public. “We’re providing information and the vibe,” said Finley.
In other business, following its recent business permit approval, Knock Knock Comedy Production’s request for an entertainment permit for summerlong events at the Strand Theater was subsequently approved, as well as Rose Cogliano’s request for the acceptance of a $282 donation given to the Council on Aging by Stop & Shop.
The select board chose to table a few discussions for a later date, including requests for numerous unnamed tour/livery company and taxi 2022 licenses, in order to “make sure everyone is in compliance,” explained select board member Jason Balboni. More research needs to be done with respect to parking regulations on “the [companies] who don’t have clear permitting,” said Packish.
Also deferred to a later date was the request by J.B. Blau — presented to the board in his absence by OBA president Larkin Stallings — for approval to increase operating hours in order to serve alcohol until 1 am. Citing needs to examine current town bylaws and relaying a message from Police Lt. Nicholas Currelli stating his own concerns regarding an already understaffed department, the select board chose to take no action on the request.
Josh Saltmarsh sought approval from the board regarding a business application for Foil Camp Martha’s Vineyard, a proposal for offering hydrofoil lessons. Despite the board’s confusion as to whether they even have jurisdiction over the location proposed — near the Little Bridge and Island Spirit Kayak — multiple issues were raised.
“It’s crowded there in July and August,” said select board vice chair Gail Barmakian, adding that she is uncomfortable with “putting somebody giving lessons into the mix.” Barmakian suggested taking time to “observe the beach during July and August,” to get a better feel for the proposal’s feasibility. Potter cited a message from shellfish constable Chuck Fisher regarding the request, which took issue with the possible effect on the beach and efforts of eelgrass restoration, stating hydrofoiling has “a greater impact than kayaking.”
Assistant Town Administrator Wendy Brough reported to the board that “the harbor jetty reconstruction is kicking off,” in addition to East Chop mediation being “nearly done.”
In addition, the select board voted to approve the reappointments of Rizwan Malik and Craig Saunders to the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council and Oak Bluffs energy committee, respectively.