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April 23, 2010     Vineyard Gazette
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FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 2010 VINEYARD GAZETTE, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS. SEVEN No Regrets, But No Lifeguards After Ballot Vote in Oak Bluffs From Page One The annual town meeting will con- tinue on May 4. Meanwhile, Mr. Dutton said there are lessons to be leamed. Even though the finance committee held several informational public hearings leading up to the town meeting, he said it failed to translate during the first two nights of town meeting last week. "I think we can do a better job help- ing people understand all the hard work by the finance committee that goes into budget. [Oak Bluffs] town meetings have their own personality, we can talk to people for months about budgets and spending, but when it comes town meeting time, people raise questions about many things we have already discussed at length," he said. Mr. Dutton said he plans to work with the finance committee this year to reduce the town's health care costs and approach unions about renegotiating contracts. And he dismissed comments made by some that officials had done a bad job with the budget. "We are the only town that uses the maximum amount of local receipts to offset the burden on the taxpayers. In a year when we saw massive reductions in local aid, I think everyone pulled together and put together a very sound financial plan moving forward. It's easy to sit and point fingers, it's a lot harder to come up with a solution," he said. Mimi Davisson, chairman of the fi- nance committee, said she too heard the grumbling, but she defended the work of her board. "We presented vot- ers with a balanced budget, let's not forget that. And that was the result of a lot of hard work, deep thought and public input," Ms. Davisson said. She too was not surprised when vot- ers rejected most of the override ques- tions. "All you had to do was sit there for the first 30 minutes of town meeting to get an idea of the mood people were in. We knew it was possible the over- rides could fail, so we took the attitude of: if they pass, that's fine. If they fail, we will do without" she said, adding: "As a finance committee that's the best you can do -- give people op- tions." Looking ahead, Ms, Davisson said she would like to see the town explore a payment in lieu of taxes program for large nonprofit institutions located in town such as the Matha's Vineyard Hospital. She also said the town should look seriously into joining with other towns to regionalize services and de- partments. And she agrees with Mr. Dutton that union contracts should be reopened. She said the finance committee asked selectmen this year to go to the unions and ask them togive up step increases, but selectmen declined. "And I understand their decision. You have to realize the finance com- mittee deals with nturLbers and facts, while the selectmen deal with politics. The finance committee took the budget as far they could, and it's the selectmen who have the final authority. I don't think there is any type of disconnect there," she said. Ms` Davission agreed things could get worse before they get better, and she said drastic measures may be needed to prevent budget problems next year. But this is not because of poor financial planning, she said, but can be tracked to other factors outside the town's control. "We provide more services, and we have one of the smallest tax bases in terms of property valuation on the Island. Meanwhile our state aid keeps getting cut. We are being asked to do more with less, and I think we have managed to do just that," she said. New Drawbridge Still Sticks From Page One "It's nothing major, from my under- standing. They are just working the bugs out," Mr. Panek said. Acting Tisbury police chief Daniel Hanavan said yesterday there were no major problems with traffic as a result of the bridge malfunction. Several wit- nesses said they were stuck waiting to cross the bridge for nearly an hour, but many motorists simply tumed around and headed the other way. Built by the Massachusetts De- partment of Transportation, formerly known as MasHjghway,, the !e.mpo- rai-y" draWbridge opened Jan. 1. The permanent bridge will b e completed sometime in 2013 at a cost of some $35 million. Funding will come entirely from the state. Veteran bridge operator Bob Maciel said this week he performed a test of the drawbridge onApril 5 to make sure the bascule leaf was working before the summer season started and the bridge needed to be lifted more frequently to accommodate boat traffic in and out of the Lagoon. He said the bridge at first raised up withno problems, but then became stuck about two feet off the roadway. He said it was difficult to tell if the span was being blocked by some piece of equipment, or if the state-of-the-art computer system shut things down as a safety precaution because of a me- chanical failure. Mr, Maciel admits he is still getting used to the computer system. "What I do know, is that when the thing got stuck a big siren sounded, lights started flashing and all the but- tons on the panel started lighting up like crazy. State people told me what to expect if something went wrong; they said it would be loud, but it still caught me off guard/' he said. Mr. Maciel said the bridge came crashing down a few minutes later, accompanied by a large explosion-like noise, although he still was not sure what happened. On that day the tem- peratures were warm, over 60 degrees, which he thought might have caused the metal to expand. "That was always the problem with the old bridge. The metal would swell up when it got hot, and the state would have to come out and cut a piece off [the bastille arm]," he said. He said an earlier test of the bridge in January went off without a hitch. Mr. Maciel contacted state officials, who contacted representatives for Pihl Inc., the Lawrence construction firm that built the bridge. Workmen arrived to inspect the bridge and begin re- pairs. Mr. Maciel received a request from Maciel Marine, where his son works, to lift the bndgeon Friday, April 9, so two b0ais coulci exit Lagoon Pond.As a precaution, he performed another test on April 8, and once again the bridge became stuck. "It made a big noise and it fetched up. I got on the phone and told them the thing was hung up, and they all backed away to get a better idea of what was wrong.., then as I was standing there I could feel the bridge shift a little as it hit," he said. He lowered the bridge and it slammed down with a loud crash. Engineers and work crews then went to work, remov- ing about three quarters of an inch from the movable span, similar to what had been done on the old bridge. Mr. Maciel did another test later that day and the bridge worked fine. On Wednesday morning this week, he lifted the bridge with no problems. He. said state officials were sched- uled to visit yesterday to inspect the structure and make more repairs, if necessary. Despite the problems, the longtime tender said the new bridge is a definite improvement. "With this bridge you can make ad- justments, you can prevent problems... the old bridge was hard work, you had to work a clutch and it was a real pain sometimes," he said. Meanwhile, a public hearing is set for Thursday, April 29. to hear public com- ment on the design for the permanent bridge.The hearing begins at 4:30 at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. A project handout will be avail- able at massdot.state.ma.us/highway/. Mark LoveweU TEMPORARY BRIDGE OPENED TO MOTORISTS IN JANUARY. NOAA/NEFSC Christin Khan. MMPA research permit # 775-1875 RIGHT WHALE MOTHER AND CALF NEAR ISLAND WATERS. Rare Whales Venture Near Vineyard From Page One "It is unknown how much food exists in the area or how long the animals will stay there," reads an advisory to mari- ners issued yesterday by the state Di- vision of Marine Fisheries. "However, mariners around Martha's Vineyard are advised to be on the lookout for the mother-calf pairs. Their near-surface feeding and traveling activities put them at risk for vessel collision. For the safety of both mariners and the whales, vessel operators are strongly urged to reduce speed (less than 10 knots), post lookouts, and proceed with caution to avoid colliding with this highly endan- gered whale." Mr. McKiernan noted that mother- calf pairs often inexplicably will me- ander into out-of-the-way places; they have been sighted in Cape Cod Canal and Salem harbor, he said. "Mother- calf pairs can and do go anywhere," he said, and so it is critically important for vessels to be on the lookout and for commercial fishermen not to set gear in the area. Though it is impractical to ask fisher- men to remove gear in place, they are prohibited from starting fishing opera- tions (setting or hauling gear) within 500 yards of a right whale. Mr. Mayo too stressed the need for boaters to be cautious, noting that a research vessel going too fast in Stell- wagen Bay iast year had accidentally struck an unseen right whale while looking for the creatures. Ms. Burke said studies indicated that whales could probably survive a colli- sion with a ship going 10 knots or less, but even small boats were a danger at speed. The National Marine Fisheries Ser- vice also issued a voluntary speed re- striction for large vessels in the waters around Block Island. A separate re- striction applies around Nantucket. A general restriction applies from January to May in waters further off the coast. But any sighting of a right whale triggers the imposition of a voluntary 10-knot speed limit on ships more than 65 feet long, operating within a so- called "dynamic management area" with a 36-mile radius, for 15 days from the time of the sighting. When the rules were being enacted in 2008, the Gazette reported that sav- ing just two females a year could help this species on the brink of extinction, but saving more could put the North Atlantic  Hate ulan on the road to recovery. These are among the rarest of marine mammals; they are named because they were considered the "right whale" to hunt in whaling days. They swim slowly and float when dead. A female right whale is expected to give birth to only one live calf every five years, usually during winter along the Florida or Georgia coast. Right whale calving season officially ended Thurs- day, and Florida biologists reported 19 calves were born. Last year the number was 39, the highest since counting be- gan in 1994. Mr. McKiernan said,"The good news is that since I began my career in con- servation, under threats of lawsuits, the population was about 300. Now it is generally accepted to be 450, so it bodes well for the population." Right whales are born tail first, and weigh nearly a ton at birth. They gen- erally nurse from their mother for 10 to 12 months, often swimming on her back. State educational resources note that a mother right whale may even roll over and hold her calf in her flippers. Grown North Atlantic right whales can weigh up to 70 tons, and the adults range ir/length from 45 to 55 feet. " :, !,: ' " !  ' ! .7 ;: .... ' RIGHT WHALE SIGHTINGS MAPPED BY FEDERAL FISHERIES SCIENTISTS THIS WEEK. Steamship Authority Governors Reduce Rates for Islanders With Medical Needs Island residents who need to take the ferry to the mainland on. a regular basis for special medical treatments such as chemotherapy will have a new. discounted rate, after the Steamship Authority board of governors approved the special rate at its monthly meeting on Tuesday in New Bedford. The new rate will be one half of the excursion fare. according to minutes from the meeting provided by Nan- tucket govemor F. Flint Ranney. The discount will be available to Island residents who provide the reservation department with documentation from a doctor explaining the need and showing the treatment schedule. The board put off discussion until next month on a plan to offer reduced round-trip car fares for Islanders who hold SSA parking permits in Woods Hole and Falmouth.The proposal would allow permit holders a $55 round-trip fare two times a year, only available between Sept. 15 and May 14.The board will consider a revised plan further limit- ing the special fare to off-peak trips. The Oak Bluffs terminal reconstruc- tioh is a few weeks behind schedule due to months lost when the building's foundation failed last fall, according to a report given to the governors. The boat line still expects to have an occupancy permit by the end of the first week in May and open the terminal for the sum- mer season on May 20. Separately, a Mashpee woman was charged this week in federal court with embezzling more than $100,000 from her former employer, the Woods Hole. Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, according to a United States Attorney's office state- ment. U.S. attomey Carmen M. Ortiz, spe- cial agent in charge of the Boston field division of the Federal Bureau of Inves- tigation Warren T. Bamford, and Fal- mouth police chief Anthony J. Riello announced that Armine E. Sabatini, 46, was charged with three counts of embezzlement and two counts of wire fraud. Ms. Sabatini, known to her work col- leagues as Estelle, had been an employee of the boat line since 1988 and a book- keeper since 1995. She was in charge of processing credit card charges and issuing refunds for SSA customers, It was alleged in court that in October 2001 and continuing through September 2009, Ms. Sabatini carried out her fraud by creating fictitious names of Steam- ship Authority customers and assign- ing refund credits to them. She then credited Steamship Authority funds purportedly payable to the fictitious customer names she created to credit or debit card accounts she controlled, the statement said. Over time. the attor- ney's office said, Mk Sabatini conducted approximately 382 fraudulent refund transactions, and misappropriated an ag- gregate total of approximately $148,568 in SSA funds. If convicted, Ms. Sabatini faces up to 10 years imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine on counts one through three, and up to 20 years imprisonment to be followed by three years of super- vised release, and a $250,000 fine on counts four and five. The case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Faimouth po- lice department. It is being prosecuted by assistant U.S.Attorney Ryan M. DiS- antis of Ms. Ortiz's economic crimes unit, according to the statement. S SA general manager Wayne Lamson told the Gazette last year when the fraud was first detected that no SSA custom- ers had lost any money as a result of the embezzlement, although in some cases their names had been used. Horseshoe Cr000019 Rules Tighten From Page One What this means is that if you reduce a population in one area, it will not be repopulated by migration from some- where else. Thus they are at risk of be- ing wiped out in specific locations, area by area. The regulators at the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) call it serial depletion. This makes it hard to compile data on population numbers. And, in truth, there has not been much work done on getting that data. Over the past couple of years efforts have been made at organized counts; the regular DMF trawl surveys have noted a decline in numbers over eight or nine years. But much of the evidence is anecdotal. There just don't seem to be nearly as many as there used to be. And it's clear the conch fishermen were taking enormous numbers. Susan Bowman, who directed last year's survey of crab numbers, said she had witnessed numerous com- plete "cleanings" of spawning beaches, where every single crab her volunteers counted was gathered up for bait. She now is organizing this year's crab-counting endeavor, which will in- volve 24 separate surveys during May and June. Volunteers will be trained in surveying methods this Tuesday from 10 am to noon and next Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m.Volunteers can contact Felix Neck sanctuary for more information. "This is severely threatening the fu- ture of these animals at the cost of very short=term profits," Ms. Bowman wrote in her submission to the DMF review which led to the new regulations. A lot of Island fishermen did not see it that way. In its submission, the Dukes County Martha's Vineyard Fishermen's Association opposed any tightening of the rules. "The horseshoe crab fishery has been very successful for us and is one of the mainstays of our commercial fishery. We urge you not to set new rules that will end our supply of good, fresh, local bait," the association letter said. There were regulations enough already with weekend closures, a 400-crab-per-day limit. One of the directors of the fisher- men's association,Warren Doty, elabo- rated to the Gazette, saying the organi- zation did not think there was enough evidence of depleted stocks. The fact that the changes had been implemented against the wishes of lo- cal fishermen meant they would"really have to scramble to find bait" now, he said. More would no doubt be imported to the Island, and fishermen were ex- perimenting with other baits. "Our most interesting alternative is the green crab, which we are removing from Our coastal ponds as predators;' he'sAid. "USing them iS bait in the conch fishery would kill two birds with one stone." But that is still a maybe.what is cer- tain is that the supply of bait is going to be tight. The DMF estimates some 40 per cent of the total catch last year was taken during the full and new moon periods which are now closed. Dan McKiernan, deputy director of the DMF, suggested the effect on bait supplies might not be that drastic, and that more of the horseshoe crabs which now are caught solely for bait will in- stead be used twice. First they will be bled for the pharmaceutical trade, then used for bait. To date the bait and pharmaceutical catches have largely been separate.The Massachusetts biomedical firm which uses the crabs has a system by which they are caught, bled and then released again. But even here, the recent news has not been good. A DMF study showed there was a mortality rate of up to 30 per cent in that process, around twice what the firm claims. Also, in an effort to address possible bait shortages, the state has increased the number of crabs which can be taken by trawlers, from July, outside the spawning season, from 400 to 600 .As for conch, like horseshoe crabs, they have no planktonic stage. Like horseshoe crabs, they exist in scat- tered, separate populations. And like the crabs; this makes them vulnerable to serial depletion. And that already appears to be hap- pening. The take from one of the major fish- ing areas in Massachusetts, Buzzards Bay, precipitously dropped by about 40 per cent between 2005 and 2006, and in 2007 was down more than 50 per cent from its peak. That decline, however, was more than compensated by increased fish- ing effort in Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds, where total landings went up more than 100 per cent between 2005 and 2008. "We think that the extra fishing that has taken place, fishermen are more dependent on this because of the de- cline of lobsters," said Mr. McKiernan, adding: "Conch has been the fishery of last resort. "With fishermen scrambling because of declines in other species, reductions in quotas, they'll often gravitate to the species that is wide open to them. And up until now, the conch fishery was relatively open." But perhaps no more. The DMF study into the decline in horseshoe crab numbers noted the conch fishery as a contributor and promised to work to address the sustainability of it. Until those studies are complete, the DMF has placed an indefinite freeze on all permit transfers for conch license trans- fers. "We are concemed there is a poten- tial for serial depletion of conch as of horseshoe crabs," said Mr. McKiernan. He said some Island fishermen also Were concerned, and had themselves proposed an increased minimum size for conch. "We don't think there's room for more conch fishing than we have now," he said. It's not good news for the fishery of last resort. Allen Green ANCIENT CRABS SPAWN DURING FULL MOON IN MAY, JUNE... Alexander Trowbridge AND ARE USED IN MEDICAL RESEARCH, AND AS CONCH BAIT. "": .... ...... *",, ..... :00iVI;li'00llllll00llSIIIltNIIlll00l!l00lli I:ldlltlilllIll00l|i$11llll00lll IIJ IIII/00lllNIIIIlllDlilllll000000lllllll00ll00 I1MI Ill!illNeSS'