Aquinnah select board members announced at their Tuesday afternoon meeting that local business and establishments have been reportedly receiving less-than-favorable mail and phone calls from Americans nationwide in response to last week’s arrival and later departure of 50 Venezuelan migrants. Aquinnah town hall is receiving “not one or two calls,” said select board chair Juli Vanderhoop, but “dozens since Friday.”
On Friday, the migrants, who had been allegedly lured under false pretenses — according to recent allegations by Texas Sheriff Javier Salazar — and duped into flying to the Vineyard by parties associated with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left the Island by bus and were moved to Joint Base Cape Cod.
One such piece of correspondence, shown at the meeting by select board member Jeffrey Madison, was what looked like a makeshift postcard, made from a piece of a cardboard chocolate box with a “DeSantis/Grenell 2024” sticker slapped onto it, and was addressed to the “Mayor of Aquinnah.” The handwritten note read in part, “I love that border states are sending illegal aliens to sanctuary cities. Please take good care of them,” and was followed by a derogatory connotation concerning former U.S. President Barack Obama.
“Most of [the mail] I ignore,” said Madison, “but I can’t not answer the phone here.”
It remains unclear who is responsible for the messages and phone calls.
In other business, select board members heard from Tri-Town Ambulance Chief Ben Retmier, in response to concerns about a lengthy wait time for medical assistance after a 911 call last week. Select board member Tom Murphy said an Aquinnah family has relayed to him that they were forced to wait “45 minutes” for an ambulance. Murphy questioned if there had been any conflicts with another emergency, causing the wait, and if there was, “that was never explained to the family.” He questioned Retmier on why “such an unacceptable time frame occurred.”
Retmier said there had not been any emergencies being tended to at the time, and that the actual wait time was 29 minutes, according to recorded call times from the communication center, which he brought to the board in print. “These times don’t add up to 45 minutes from what I can see,” Retmier said. Additionally, going back to July, Retmier said, the longest wait time for emergency response has been 32 minutes.
“We all are aware that the new facility at Beetlebung Corner will shorten the response time,” Murphy said, referring to the Tri-Town headquarters currently in the works, “but a lot of people in this community think that a 45-minute response time is unacceptable, if in fact it occurred as we were told.”
Retmier agreed and said a 45-minute response time would indeed be “unacceptable.”
“We have no qualms with the personnel,” emphasized Murphy, as responders upon arrival were “professional [and] very appropriate.”
Retmier assured the board that Tri-Town has mechanisms in place to secure MedFlights in emergencies, in addition to other avenues to prevent lengthy waiting periods, such as local police being EMS certified for providing an array of onsite care.
The select board approved a request for proposals regarding the town assessor services. Aquinnah has been outsourcing the assessment of property values for the town following a long history of contention and distrust between the board of selectmen and the board of assessors, having replaced the town’s paid assessor, Angela Cywinski, with a consultant from Regional Resource Group in 2019.