It’s autumn, and while we’re enjoying the cooler, drier air, we’re also ready to harvest a few thoughts on things in the news.
First, the Steamship Authority budget for 2023 and the coinciding rate hikes that have been proposed. We respectfully ask the SSA to go back and sharpen their pencils. This is not the time to be raising rates. Not at a time when every household, particularly on the Island, is being affected by inflation. Yes, inflation also affects the SSA, but if money is that tight in the ferry service budget, how did the board justify giving the general manager an 11 percent raise?
Beyond that, the public isn’t blind. The online reservation system is a mess, and Facebook pages are filled with half-loaded vehicle decks after customers have been told that there are no reservations available.
Meanwhile, Doug Ruskin made an excellent point at one of the two forums held recently on the budget and fare hikes — too much money is spent on advertising. We know some of the advertising is obligated by the SSA’s enabling act, such as schedule changes, but there’s no need to purchase a billboard on the Southeast Expressway, or for television commercials on Boston TV to advertise Nantucket’s fast ferry. The Islands are well-known summer destinations, so we’re not sure this spending is needed, or even wanted, by the communities to attract even more visitors.
The cost overruns on the Woods Hole project and spending more than $1 million to fix a ferry that will be out of service by next summer are other nagging budget blunders.
We hope the SSA board will push back strongly on the budget, and ask the SSA administration to make some tough decisions to trim the budget rather than add to the burden of those who pay the fares.
We switch gears now to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Islands’ fire chiefs are frustrated and disappointed once again that the lone firefighter assigned by DCR to the Island is no longer here. Karen Lothrop, who had been commuting to the Island to fill the role, has taken a higher-paying position with the Sandwich Fire Department. No one blames her, but we do hope that state leaders listen to the Island fire chiefs and fill the position as quickly as possible. And that DCR pushes the legislature to act favorably on the bill filed by state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, that would allow a house on the State Forest property to be used by a state employee assigned to the forest. For a state and an Island with a housing crisis, this would seem like a no-brainer to get done immediately. All of this comes as the Island has been dealing with drought conditions, and is working on plans to do prescribed burns to prevent a devastating wildfire.
While we’re grateful that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has added flashing lights to one of the crosswalks on Beach Road, we wish that motorists would do a better job of observing them. Too often, vehicles speed through the crosswalks without stopping.
This is also an issue at Five Corners, where some drivers are so hyper-focused on the confusing intersection that they ignore pedestrians. We’d love to see some enforcement of the pedestrian laws, not necessarily to raise revenue through tickets, but to raise awareness of the rules of the road.
Speaking of Beach Road, the bike lanes are a nice addition, but they need to be better maintained. It doesn’t help to have bike lanes if the sand isn’t swept on a regular basis. Because bikes and sand don’t mix, many of the bikes are forced over the line and into the roadway, which defeats the purpose of the crosswalks.
Finally, congratulations to Danielle (“Dani”) Charbonneau on winning Teacher of the Year for Massachusetts. The MVRHS English teacher and Project Vine coordinator is well-deserving of the honor, and we look forward to her sharing her secrets of success in the coming months.