O.B. set to fix rutted pavement

The town plans to tear up and repave the hazardous four-inch bump in the road by Farland Square.

Pavement bump at Farland Square in Oak Bluffs. — Abigail Rosen

At its Tuesday meeting, the Oak Bluffs select board addressed the problematic pavement at Farland Square, after hearing numerous concerns about the safety of the area. 

Select board member Ryan Ruley said the board conducted a site visit with Highway Superintendent Richie Combra, Police Chief Jon Searle, and members of the Oak Bluffs Business Association (OBA), and learned that the existing pavement has been in place for around 20 years. 

Ruley said that it is apparent that over the years, heavy truck traffic — especially in the summer — has displaced the pavement, pushing it up. 

“It’s definitely an issue,” Ruley said, as the pavement has been heightened about four inches, and poses a risk to people crossing over it. 

Ruley said within the next few weeks, Combra and his crew are expected to begin work on around 15 to 20 feet of the road, with hopes that the new pavement will cure properly over the winter. 

The board floated a few ideas as to how to prevent people from crossing over that section of the road during the work, and after its completion. Ruley suggested removing the existing bricks, and replacing them with low-lying plants, essentially creating a curb planter along the length of the median sidewalk. 

Ideally, the area would go from “an Island of bricks to an Island of plants,” said town administrator Deborah Potter. 

The board mulled over potential fences and signs, and how the plantings would look, ultimately opting to move forward and grant permission for Combra to begin work.

In other business, the select board approved a request from town building inspector Matt Rossi to adjust residential and commercial building and permit fees. Specifically, Rossi recommended increasing inspection fees for plumbing, gas, wiring, and mechanical.

“We’re not really trying to set a precedent,” said Rossi, “we’re more or less trying to fall in line with other towns on the Island.”

Rossi said he’s reviewed how other towns manage their building and permit fees in order to make an educated suggestion on adjustments. Oak Bluffs and Tisbury have different fees for commercial and residential inspections, whereas Edgartown, West Tisbury and Chilmark have flat rates. 

Rossi said currently, the Oak Bluffs residential and commercial inspection fees are $60 and $75, respectively, the lowest rates on Island. Additionally, Rossi said, the town is experiencing a shortage of inspectors. Because of this, Rossi suggested increasing the fee for residential inspections to $75, which would align with other island building departments, along with incentivising potential employees. “If every other town is paying $75 and we’re paying $60,” Rossi said, “it’s common sense that they’re going to go work for another town.”

Also, Rossi told the board that the department is looking to begin registrations for sheds. “We have a lot of small lots in Oak Bluffs; small lots create big issues between neighbors.”

Rossi said through registering, the town would be able to regulate and “legitimize” sheds. 

The changes will go into effect Jan. 1.

The select board received an update from Rose Cogliano, Council on Aging administrator, regarding new programs. 

On the first Wednesday of each month, the Council on Aging will host members of the Oak Bluffs Police Department for “Coffee with a Cop” in order for the town’s seniors to familiarize themselves with local law enforcement. 

Similarly, Cogliano introduced “Crocheting with a Cop,” which will take place every Tuesday, and is chaired by OBPD’s newest officer, Savanna Barnes. 

Cogliano said the “super-program” aims to not only allow for interface with community liaisons but also will be producing baby hats to donate to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

“It’s been a really great program,” Barnes said, and is a smaller gathering than “Coffee with a Cop”; “they get to ask questions about concerns that they might not want to ask in a less relaxed environment.” Additionally, she said, the weekly group allows for safe socialization, which is paramount, after the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the ability for senior community events. 

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School special projects coordinator Sam Hart came before the board to request that the select board offer names of potential members for the high school’s building committee, in preparation for the massive undertaking of construction of a new high school. 

Hart said the goal is to add representatives of each town to add to the building committee’s automatic members, per Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) rubric — school superintendent, MVRHS administrator, district finance officer, and a school committee representative. 

Hart said he’s hoping to make the committee as inclusive as possible, and has reached out to other select boards, in addition to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). 

The select board ultimately voted in favor of recommending Potter, finance committee member Dion Alley, and select board member Emma Green-Beach, but emphasized that because the high school is in Oak Bluffs, it would be preferable to add more reps from the town, and reserved the right to recommend additional people. 

The board issued a reminder that Vineyard Avenue will be closed Monday from 4 to 8 pm for Halloween celebrations. Donations of wrapped candy are welcome at Town Hall until Friday.