A regular meeting of the County of Dukes County Commissioners was scheduled for Wednesday, May 28, 2003 at 7:30 p.m. in the conference room of the County Administration Building, notice of such meeting having been posted as required by law.
Commissioners Present: John Alley, Chairman; Leonard Jason, Jr.; Robert Sawyer; Nelson Smith; Paul Strauss; Roger Wey
Absent: Leslie Leland
Also Present: Dianne Powers, Acting County Manager; Marsha Smolev, Executive Assistant; Noreen Mavro Flanders, County Treasurer; Sheriff McCormack; Ezra Blair, MV Times; Laurie Perry; Sandra Lothrop, Associate Commissioner; Anson Krickl, Universal Access Committee; Kathryn Roessel, SSA Representative; Arthur Flathers; Joanna Jernegan; Barbara Day; TJ Hegarty, Rodent Control Officer; Andrew Langlois; Joe Forns, James Barker, Mike Glasfeld, New England Fast Ferry; Steven Sayers, SSA General Counsel; Wayne Lamson, SSA Treasurer; Fred Raskin, SSA CEO; Robert Marshall, Falmouth SSA Representative.
Chairman Alley brought the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
Minutes of May 14, 2003 were approved.
Commissioner Sawyer Moved to increase all alarm fees and startup fees that come into the Dukes County Sheriff’s Communication Center from $50.00 to $75.00 per year, effective July 1, 2003. Commissioner Strauss Seconded the Motion. The Motion Passed Unanimously.
A meeting was scheduled for Monday, June 2, 2003, at 6:00 PM to include an Executive Session with Attorney Gilman regarding Airport litigation and Budget Review.
In reference to the Commissioners’ letter to Ms. Roessel dated May 14, 2003, Ms. Roessel explained that she voted to ask management to try to negotiate details regarding the Fast Ferry proposal not because she didn’t take the Commissioners’ concerns seriously, but because she thought it was the best way to find out more about the financial implications of the proposal. She stressed that ‘it was not a done deal.’ Ms. Roessel suggested planning another public forum that would include summer residents.
Mr. Barker, Mr. Forms, Mr. Langlois, and Mr. Glasfeld gave a presentation on the New England Fast Ferry (NEFF) proposal (information attached.) Discussion followed. Commissioner Strauss asked how these ferries compared in speed to fast ferries out of New London. It was answered that those travel at a speed of 55 knots, and these 33 knots. Commissioner Strauss suggested renaming the proposal, noting that many people were opposed to the faster ferries.
Ms. Day asked about how statistics would be gathered and how NEFF would determine if they were meeting their goals. There would be planners, statisticians and people maintaining anecdotal dialogue. Falmouth Representative Marshall agreed there would be people keeping statistics. He thanked the Commissioners for devoting their meeting to this topic and for working to help relieve Falmouth’s issues.
Associate Commissioner Lothrop and Mr. Krickl asked about accessibility issues. The representatives of NEFF agreed they would deliver on their promises to make sure travelers have the assistance they need.
Mr. Hegarty questioned what the NEFF would give back to the Vineyard since, he said, it would be taking SSA riders. Mr. Raskin said the risk was that the SSA would lose good passengers but this would be taken into account in negotiations that were looking at licensing fees, docking fees, sharing parking revenues, reducing SSA costs, etc. Mr. Hegarty questioned plans for the Schamonchi. Mr. Raskin said the Schamonchi must ‘pull its own weight.’ Treasurer Flanders asked what ever happened to the commitment to Falmouth to reduce cars and trucks. What happened to the plan to move freight from New Bedford? She noted that the SSA gave up dolly freight a long time ago.
Mr. Marshall agreed that trucks were an enormous issue, but he said Falmouth was looking for relief and would be willing to start getting some this way. Mr. Forms said this was one step in the right direction. Commissioner Jason asked what was preventing the SSA from running hazardous freight trips from New Bedford. Ms. Roessel said she thought Falmouth could have freight service if they were willing to pay for it.
Ms. Day suggested that if New Bedford wanted foot traffic, they should have to take some freight too, and this should be done at the same time. Mr. Raskin agreed that getting both would be a wise component of negotiations. Mr. Marshall said that made sense and he would vote for that. He said Falmouth was willing to compromise in any way that made sense and would offer any kind of relief to accomplish their goal. He agreed they had to start somewhere.
Mr. Flathers asked if Falmouth was willing to restrict buses and permits so traffic through Falmouth would be reduced. He added that it was the Town of Falmouth that caused the traffic problem and that it was ‘out of control.’
Ms. Roessel said it was her conclusion that if she could find a way to provide service without costing Vineyarders money, then they’d be ‘ahead of the game.’ She said this plan would give Vineyard people options they don’t have and that she thought this was a prudent middle course because it was cost neutral. Commissioner Jason asked Ms. Roessel to look at Nantucket’s rates. He said the Vineyard didn’t need competition for the SSA and that we would lose revenue. Ms. Roessel said they did look at that.
Ms. Day said as NEFF took cars away from Falmouth, others would come take their places. She suggested two different vehicles, one fast ferry, one freight.
Commissioner Sawyer said there were issues and that this wasn’t necessarily the right solution. He asked that the process be slowed down and other options be studied.
Mr. Flathers said he believed one third of Vineyard freight could be barged economically. Commissioner Jason agreed. He said the need was for a deal that was best for Martha’s Vineyard, that wouldn’t encourage more cars, that was run by the SSA. He agreed freight could come by barge from New Bedford. He said the Vineyard had to change its ways to maintain its quality of life. He urged everyone to give this more
Mr. Raskin agreed with the idea of barging but said it might play a role in ten to twenty years. He said first there needed to be infrastructure. As for a traditional ferry from New Bedford to the Vineyard, Mr. Raskin said a 28 miles run would be more costly than a 6 mile run.
Commissioner Sawyer said he thought New Bedford would be will to deal with a freight boat if a fast ferry was in play.
The Commissioners took a break at 9:44 PM and returned at 9:50 PM.
Mr. Lamson reviewed SSA allocation and said each route has covered its own cost of service over the last ten years. He said cost allocation had been applied consistently over the years and he thought it was in reasonable acceptable limits. In reference to capital expenditures over the last ten years, the SSA had spent 40% on MV projects, 32% on the Nantucket route and 28% on combined use. He added that things were not out of line for one route vs. the other. In the next two to three years, Mr. Lamson added, $20 million to $25 million would be spent to renovate the Oak Bluffs terminal and replace the Islander. Commissioners Alley, Wey, Smith, and Sawyer said they felt the matter was settled. Commissioner Jason said he trusted Mr. Lamson, but he believed management had recommended a $3 million
threshold, not the present $5 million threshold and the $2 million was significant. He added that on the night of Ms. Roessel’s appointment, she had said she would try to recapture some of the money. Mr. Lamson referred to the 1% adjustment in allocating costs saying he didn’t think it was an unreasonable variance. Commissioner Jason said he just wanted the Vineyard to be treated fairly and wasn’t suggesting the Vineyard always pays more.
Mr. Flathers distributed his analysis and disagreed with the 1%. He said the figure was considerably over that. Mr. Flathers said the amount of service to Nantucket almost double in the 1990’s when traffic never exceeded a 50% increase. He said the Vineyard was economical and increased its service in the high 20% while traffic increased 30%. He added there was now a $16 million discrepancy between the two routes. He added that the investment on the Nantucket route was almost 4 times that of the investment on the Vineyard route between 1991 and 2000. Mr. Flathers noted that public utilities answer to a public utility commission and the County Commissioners should demand an outside accountant to ‘determine the extent Martha’s Vineyard has been taken to the cleaners.’ He went further
to call the numbers being used ‘fraudulent,’ and to say one member of the SSA ‘hasn’t exercised her fiduciary responsibility.’
Mr. Lamson disagreed with Mr. Flathers. He said both routes carried the cost of their service. He said starting in 1997 freight was increased to Nantucket based on shippers’ requests and that meant more vessels even though they weren’t always filled. Trucks at that time were not required to give reservation deposits.
Mr. Flathers said he was convinced the SSA could be run more efficiently with two independent routes. Ms. Roessel thanked Mr. Flathers for all his hard work and said she didn’t think the allocation system could be much better given the mission of the SSA and the enabling Legislation.
Commissioner Wey Moved to support the current practices of the SSA. Commissioner Strauss Seconded the Motion. The Motion passed with all Commissioners voting ‘aye’ except Commissioner Jason who voted ‘nay.’ He said he thought the management recommendation was better.
Commissioner Strauss left at 10:29 PM.
Commissioner Jason asked how much it had cost for the lawsuit in which the Falmouth Selectmen were sued, what the suit covered and who voted for it. Mr. Sayres and Mr. Raskin said about $104,000-$106,000. He named components, legal research, filing, etc. and said on December 9th Representatives Robbins, Grossman and O’Brien voted. There was another issue that cost about $40,000. Mr. Sayres said the amount of the first was excessive and the SSA would take it up at another time. The second suit would also be reviewed. Mr. Sayres, when questioned, noted that he was retained at no cost, but was doing the work out of a sense of duty.
Chairman Alley thanked Ms. Roessel and the others.
The meeting adjourned at 10:35 PM.
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO, JR.
CLERK OF THE COURTS