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County Commission Minutes 12/05/01

A special meeting of the County of Dukes County Commissioners was held on Wednesday, December 5, 2001, at 5:00 p.m. in Library of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, notice of such meeting having been posted as required by law.

Commissioners Present:  Leslie H. Leland, Chairman
                                Roger Wey       
                                Leonard Jason, Jr.
                                Robert Sawyer
                                John Alley
        E. B. Collins
        Daniel Flynn
Also Present:           Carol Borer, County Manager
        Marsha Smolev, Executive Assistant
        Joseph Sollitto, Jr., Clerk of the Courts

        JB Riggs Parker
        Clarence A. Barnes
        Kathryn Roessel

        Noreen Flanders, County Treasurer
Sheriff McCormack                       Deb Goldstein, WMVY
        Stephen Berlucchi, County Engineer      Ray LaPorte
        Arthur Flathers                         Tristan Israel, Town of Tisbury
        Nelson Sigelman, MV Times               John Early, Town of West Tisbury
        Ralph Stewart, MV Times         Mev Good, Town of Tisbury
        Julia Wells, Vineyard Gazette           Denys Wortman, Town of Tisbury
        Richard Combra, Town of Oak Bluffs      Jay Wilbur, Town of Tisbury
        Todd Rebello, Town of Oak Bluffs
        Travis Tuck                             Richard Alcott, Vineyard Haven
        George Schiffer                 Jeff Kristal, Tisbury
        Bob Iadicicco                           David Kann, Wastewater Treatment Fac. Dir.
        Mark Harding                            Mary Jo Reston
        Marc Hanover                            Alex Preston, Chilmark, Boston
        Wilfred R. Giordano, Jr., Oak Bluffs    Richard Giordano, Oak Bluffs
        Josh Aronie, Oak Bluffs         Jon Blau, Oak Bluffs
        Mary Maida, Chilmark                    Paul Watts, Vineyard Haven
        Arthur Smadbeck                 Ted Morgan
        Margaret Serpa                          Pia Webster
        Thomas Sexton, New Bedford, TV  Richard Toole
        Russell Smith                           Kathy Tate
        Sam Sawyer                              other members of public who didn’t sign in

Chairman Leland called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. with a statement asking Commissioners to be mindful of prior commitments to port communities and to choose representatives with vision, time, energy and commitment.  He reviewed the format of the meeting and began with interviews for the position of Martha’s Vineyard Commission representative.

County Commissioner Roger Wey stated that he served many years on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and wanted to do so again.  He believes Island values are threatened by “inappropriate development.”  His purpose is to preserve Island values for the future.

Commissioner Alley asked, if appointed, did Commissioner Wey have the time and commitment required?  Commissioner Wey said he did.  Commissioner Jason asked what strengths Commissioner Wey would bring to the MVC?  Commissioner Wey said he’s been a Selectman for almost 13 years.  He can make judgements.  He has experience that’s been proven over the years.  Chairman Leland asked about the time factor.  Commissioner Wey said he had time.  He wouldn’t put his name in if he didn’t.  Commissioner Jason asked what are the top 3 problems facing the Vineyard.  Commissioner Wey said, “growth, growth, and growth.”

Commissioner Flynn gave his statement, saying he’s been the County’s representative since last January and he would like to continue.  He was on the Joint Transportation Committee for about 20 years.  Presently, he’s on the MVC Finance Committee, Executive Director’s Search Committee.  He’s on the Officer Nominating Committee.  He has been to all the Southern Woodlands’ DRI Hearings, as well as the site visit and walkthrough and has been active this year coming up to speed with MVC procedures.  Only he would be able to vote on the DRI, not any other appointee.  He asked to be reappointed.

Commissioner Jason asked Commissioner Flynn about his strong points.  Commissioner Flynn said his strength was in leadership.  He referred to his years with the State Police and his 8 years as a County Commissioner.  Commissioner Alley asked if he had the time and could make the commitment.  Commissioner Flynn answered yes.  Commissioner Jason asked what he saw as the Island’s top 3 problems.  He answered: housing, employment (employing Island kids), and growth.

Chairman Leland reviewed the numbers of letters of support for each candidate: 5 for Wey, 2 for Flynn.  The public was invited to comment.

Oak Bluffs Selectman Richard Combra asked that Commissioner Flynn be re-appointed.  He mentioned that he’s been attentive, that he brings expertise in transportation, that he’s participated in the most important DRI for Oak Bluffs, the Down Island Golf Course.  He added that if Commissioner Flynn was not re-appointed, the Commissioners would not be participating in that decision.

Commissioner Jason thanked Commissioner Flynn for his work and for bringing the Joint Transportation Committee back on track.  

Chairman Leland called for the vote:  Commissioners Sawyer, Wey, Collins,
and Alley voted for Commissioner Wey.  Commissioners Jason, Flynn, and
Leland voted for Commissioner Flynn.  Commissioner Wey was appointed.

Commissioner Flynn congratulated Commissioner Wey. Chairman Leland began the process of SSA representative interviews.

Clarence Barnes distributed information about his background.  He mentioned his Island history and reiterated his interest in the job.  He listed SSA problems as he sees them, including: management support for the ground and sea crew, search for a replacement to Mr. Tiberio, low morale, need for better salaries, better service, price to park, reservation system problems, same day sailing problems.  He stressed the need for better communication and for a voice for non-homeowners.  

Commissioner Flynn asked if Mr. Barnes’ business has in the past or is presently benefiting from subsidies.  Mr. Barnes said his work is moving household goods and occasional lumber. Commissioner Flynn asked about Mr. Barnes’ comments on the conditions of the vessels and how he would correct the problems.  Mr. Barnes thought grievances could be handled, that Mr. Tiberio was not a people person, and the SSA needed to get its spirit back.  Commissioner Flynn asked what Mr. Barnes would do.  He replied, he would make people happy.  Commissioner Flynn asked what role the new general manager should play?  Mr. Barnes said the Board is overworked.  Issues should be referred to committees.  He referred to Boards of Selectmen, saying they’re out of touch.  A people person is needed, a boat person, if possible.  Let the manager do the day to day.

Commissioner Jason asked if anything was right with the SSA?  Mr. Barnes said that was a good question.  The boats run, but the SSA is not a friend anymore.  Commissioner Jason asked again, what is right?  Mr. Barnes said, not a lot.  People work hard to run the boats on time, but we shouldn’t settle.  Things could be better.  Commissioner Jason asked if Mr. Barnes had the time for this job, and what was a reasonable amount of time?  Mr. Barnes said whatever’s called upon.  The SSA would be his priority.  He’d give it his all.  Commissioner Jason asked Mr. Barnes to prioritize the issues from the most important down.  Mr. Barnes said the New Bedford situation.  Commissioner Jason asked, “which is?”  Mr. Barnes said, “not happy.” Commissioner Jason said we carry Nantucket on our backs.  He asked if Mr. Barnes supported that.  Mr. Barnes said, “for a time.” Mr. Barnes said the top issues were: putting the New Bedford situation to bed, cleaning the boats, and reservations.

Commissioner Alley asked about the off season excursion rates.  Mr. Barnes said they’re ‘too cheap,’ and he’d be happy to see them go up.  They encourage too much traffic.  We need to look at the fare structure.

Commissioner Sawyer asked considering we fought hard for the SSA voting control to remain with the two Islands, how did Mr. Barnes see the present divisiveness? Mr. Barnes asked, between the Vineyard and New Bedford?  Commissioner Sawyer said no, between the Vineyard and Nantucket.  Mr. Barnes wasn’t sure.  He said Nantucket is different.  They “get more bang for their buck.”  He suggested Vineyard Haven could learn from them.   Commissioner Sawyer asked about the public face of the SSA.  Mr. Barnes said there’s little communication between upstairs and downstairs.  He said it was a shame that everyone goes home and leaves the agent in charge of making decisions.  He said this is about the Vineyard.  Let’s take care of us.

Chairman Leland asked about the financial situation, whether Mr. Barnes blamed Mr. Parker for it.  Mr. Barnes said he never blamed Mr. Parker for a thing.  Chairman Leland asked what would increase revenues?  Mr. Barnes said using freight boats like car ferries.  Look at running big boats.  He said the white buses to parking lots cost a fortune. Maintenance needs to be taken care of.  Instead of repairing ramps, put in longer ones.  He said the SSA needs boat people.

Kathryn Roessel opened by mentioning three points: She has professional qualifications and the time and energy for the job.  Whoever is appointed needs to unequivocally represent the Vineyard people.  Whoever is appointed needs the ability and desire to work collaboratively and cooperatively with other SSA governors.  She continued by reviewing her work history as a lawyer in New York defending the City against allegations of police misconduct.  She worked as an attorney also for an entertainment business. In 1996 she decided to change her life and went to live on a steel trawler.  She has an internet business.  She said the people of the Vineyard deserve someone with a real commitment.  Her first interest is to represent the people of the Vineyard, to listen to them, to hear their needs.  She said cooperation with other SSA governors was crucial, especially during the search for the new general manager.  The general manager runs the boat line.  This selection is crucial. “If governors can’t work together, we’re sunk.”  She said tension is healthy.  Keep the dialogue open, remember the core mission of the boat line to bring people and necessities to the Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  She said there are differences of opinion.  Work it out.  

Commissioner Flynn asked how many meetings Ms. Roessel had attended. Ms. Roessel answered she’d never attended a meeting of the governors, but had been to meetings and forums here and she’d read the minutes.  Commissioner Flynn asked what her expectation was for the new general manager and what role would the manager play?  Ms. Roessel said she believed professional headhunters had begun the search and that they were looking for a transportation professional.  She agreed with Mr. Barnes that the new general manager should be a good personnel manager. She said the manager had to have a financial background, but a general had to be in touch with his troops. Commissioner Flynn asked what role the Board should play.  Ms. Roessel said it should be like the Board of Directors of a major corporation, that the Board shouldn’t micromanage.  

Commissioner Alley asked about the off season excursion rate for Vineyarders.  Ms. Roessel said in theory, it was an excellent idea, but it was hurting the bottom line of the boat line and a balance should be struck.  

Commissioner Sawyer asked about the new divisiveness.  Ms. Roessel said it was extremely dangerous.  We need to mend fences with our sister island.  Commissioner Sawyer asked about the public face of the SSA. Ms. Roessel mentioned Mr. Lamson and Mrs. Tobin and suggested we listen to the employees.

Chairman Leland asked if Ms. Roessel was for or against the high-speed ferry? Ms. Roessel asked for clarification, “the” or “a”?  She said that horse already left the barn, the important thing is to decide how we will judge success?  Chairman Leland asked where Ms. Roessel stood on the $7 million cost issue between the Vineyard and Nantucket?  Ms. Roessel said that’s another horse.  The vote was taken.  She said it didn’t need to be black or white, that negotiation is important so we don’t have a permanent rift with Nantucket.  Chairman Leland asked if she’d revisit the question.  Ms. Roessel said yes.  It was important to gain the trust of other governors.

Commissioner Jason asked if Ms. Roessel supported the fast ferry pilot program?  Ms. Roessel said it was a great opportunity to do business with New Bedford, but she would have been more thoughtful about the decision.  One “wouldn’t buy a hat that hasty.” But the horse left, so see how it works out, and decide what will constitute success.  If it reduces traffic, how much is good?  If it loses money, how much?  “Know why we’re doing it.”  Commissioner Jason asked how she would evaluate it?  She replied she didn’t know.  Commissioner Jason said, given that we’ve supported Nantucket on every issue except one, how would we mend the fences that cost $7 million?  Ms. Roessel said, treat Grace Grossman with respect, like the lady she is. Commissioner Jason asked then if Ms. Roessel thought Ms. Grossman had not been treated with respect?  And added how many meetings did Ms. Roessel attend?  She reiterated she read the minutes.  Commissioner Jason asked how much time did she think the job would take.  Ms. Roessel answered, as much time as given.  She said she would get started and see how much time it takes.  Commissioner Jason asked if there was any conflict representing the Island and being from a port community?  Ms. Roessel said no.  It’s a plus and she’d listen to everyone.  

Commissioner Sawyer said the notion that Nantucket owes the Vineyard $7 million is inaccurate.  He asked if Ms. Roessel was in favor of reopening and negotiating the issue.  She replied, absolutely.

JB Riggs Parker said he appreciated the County Commissioners’ confidence when they appointed him last year, and he believed he did the job.  He said getting people to leave cars on the mainland has been a priority. He’s met with all kinds of people and groups since day one of the job.  The SSA needed fixing.  He mentioned the purchase of the Schamonchi, the unions, a realistic replacement fund.  He said this year ‘brought the lifeline out of a black box.  It’s been a reality check for a concerned Island.’ He believed the SSA is threatened and reviewed issues.  He said New Bedford is covering 50% of the deficit of the fast ferry and providing infrastructure at no cost to the SSA.  Adversaries have become allies.  He said he voted to support Nantucket, but past commitments to our Island must be honored.  Mr. Parker thought replacing the double-ended boat and developing a customer information system website were two important issues, and the chief executive’s position was the first priority.  Mr. Parker asked for reappointment, hoping to build on the gains he made this first year.

Commissioner Sawyer asked about the divisiveness between the two islands.  Mr. Parker said the Islands must maintain control of the SSA.  He stressed our responsibility to exercise control responsibly. Based on the theory that the two islands support each other, he believed he’s done that.  He said there will be no divisiveness if there’s equal rule and noted that the vote for the fast ferry was unanimous.  When asked about the public face, he said the employees, are a huge resource. They get us there, on time.  The challenge is to use the people to the best of their ability.  He said it was important to choose a CEO who will use this asset.

Commissioner Alley asked about off-season excursion rates.  Mr. Parker said 42% of the auto space is on excursion fare.  That’s 15% of revenue.  He said the fare has to go up. He added that we need a complete list of all discounts we give so we can see what the cost of the discounts is and how to allocate and spread them out.

Commissioner Flynn asked how he perceived the role of the new general manager?  Mr. Parker said the CEO is a new title.  The Board will determine policy and the CEO will carry them out.  The Board shouldn’t micromanage.  

Commissioner Jason asked how much time he was prepared to give, if he’d keep this level up?  Mr. Parker said he’s spent 50-60 hours/week under extraordinary pressures this year.  He’s willing to put the time in.
Commissioner Jason asked how to measure the success of the fast ferry?  Mr. Parker said protect the revenue.  We acquired the route.  Don’t give revenues away.  He added also with the ability to provide more space on boats.  Make room for Vineyarders on the boats.

Commissioner Jason added that Mr. Parker inherited a mess and has made the SSA a better place.  Commissioner Jason thanked Mr. Parker for his work.

Commissioner Sawyer asked what Mr. Parker meant by exploring excursion fares to see costs, that clearly, they lose money.  He asked wasn’t it better to generate more revenues?  Mr. Parker answered yes.  Commissioner Sawyer added how do we protect revenues if the fast ferry loses money?  Mr. Parker said he did not accept the basic premise that it’ll lose money, that that’s the most conservative worst case. Some ferries (Block Island, Flying Cloud) are very successful.  The business plan is to succeed.  Embrace it. If it loses, we’ll have to do something else.

Chairman Leland asked Mr. Parker’s stand on the $7 million.  Mr. Parker said Ron Rappaport and EB Collins worked this out.  EB Collins fought hard to get Nantucket to make adjustments because we were carrying them.  Ron Rappaport got it passed that the money would be recovered in 5 years.  Mr. Parker said we should each pay our way.  If Nantucket can’t afford its service, it should reduce service.

Chairman Leland said 13 letters of support were received for Mr. Parker.  Public comment was invited.  Jay Wilbur, Tisbury Harbormaster, said he had not been successful in getting in touch with Mr. Parker.  He looks forward to someone new.  Robert Iadicicco from Oak Bluffs urged support for Riggs Parker.  Arthur Flathers spoke in support of Riggs Parker.  He said the Oak Bluffs wharf needs to be updated, the Islander needs to be replaced, Nantucket owes the SSA, and that Nantucket has put nothing in the replacement fund.  The Vineyard has put $15 million in.  There needs to be traffic relief at the Bourne Bridge and Falmouth needs help. He mentioned the search for the CEO and the need for stronger staff in Woods Hole.  Mr. Flathers stressed that this was not the time to change the Vineyard member.

Ted Morgan said he sent a letter from the Edgartown Board of Selectmen supporting Riggs Parker.  He mentioned other support for Mr. Parker, and noted Mr. Parker’s accomplishment such as resolving the Ralph Packer situation.  He said Mr. Parker did everything the Selectmen’s Association wanted him to do.  It would be a travesty to curtail his work now.

Tristan Israel acknowledged Mr. Parker’s dedication, but said his style showed unwillingness to compromise.  He mentioned a confrontation with Grace Grossman and said his behavior was ‘less than even handed.’  Mr. Israel disagreed with moving the Schamonchi and how the situation was handled.  He said silence would condone these actions.  He added that excursion rates have risen and questioned if this is taking care of the Island.  Mr. Israel objected to what he called, ‘wheeling and dealing.’

Russell Smith, Legislative Liaison, asked for a change.  He said the problems were too important to worry about personalities.  Mr. Smith said the dynamics were bad, that there was little or no documented analysis of the impact of the purchase of the New Bedford run.  He said the process is a problem and favored following the RFP process.  What specifications were considered, by whom?  He said the $8 million ferry carried few people, that a cheaper ferry could carry more.  He mentioned the Ethics Commission and the issue about who could run.

Todd Rebello, Oak Bluffs’ Selectman, asked to support Riggs Parker, to let him continue with his vision and goals.  He said while issues temporarily divide, they also bring cooperation and aren’t as bad than they’re built up to be.  He referred to Riggs Parker’s record  and cooperation with All Island Selectmen, New Bedford, Falmouth, Barnstable and Nantucket.  This, he said, does not show division.

George Schiffer asked to support what Tristan Israel said.  

Bob Murphy, Financial Advisory Board Member of the SSA, said Riggs Parker has done a lot of what he was brought on the Board to do.  It can’t be done in one year. Change takes longer.  Attitudes need to change.  Riggs Parker has answers and abilities.  He answers calls, responds to questions.  Bob Murphy referred to his 23 years with the SSA and said Riggs Parker is the first man to date to deal with replacing the Islander, an issue that has been discussed for 15 years.  Mr. Murphy supported Riggs Parker whole-heartedly.

Tom Pachico, Tisbury Selectman, disagreed with what Mr. Morgan said about Mr. Parker doing what the All Island Selectmen asked.  He said they asked for a faster ferry service, and for options.  He called the way things were handled was ‘ludicrous.’ He said he was not endorsing any one candidate, but asked that people keep these things in mind.

Commissioner Flynn read a statement about the SSA being a regional transportation provider.  He said each member must represent the region.  He said we owe Riggs Parker our gratitude for his stamina and fortitude.  

Commissioner Jason said the power to appoint is the most important function.  He asked the County Commissioners to search their souls and act honestly and not behind the scenes.  He found it ironic that there was so much concern with whether or not Grace Grossman was happy.  He said remember, we may not like every decision Riggs makes, but he does it with the Island at heart.  We owe Riggs that.  There was an ovation.

        The Chair called for the vote.  Commissioners Sawyer, Wey, Collins and
        Alley voted for Kathryn Roessel.  Commissioners Jason, Flynn and Leland
        Voted for Riggs Parker.  Kathryn Roessel was appointed.

Commissioner Flynn recited from Shakespeare.  “…life is a walking shadow.  A tale told by an idiot….”

        Commissioner Jason moved that the County Commissioners send a letter
        Of thanks to Mr. Parker.  Commissioner Sawyer seconded the Motion.

Kathryn Roessel said she accepted the appointment with great humility and would do her best.

Commissioner Jason Moved that the meeting adjourn.  Commissioner
Wey Seconded the Motion.  The meeting adjourned at 7:26 PM.

Complete text of meeting is available on tape at the County Commissioner’s office.


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