The Youth Task Force of Martha’s Vineyard has landed a $100,000 grant to continue its work combating risky behaviors among Island teenagers.
Cindy Doyle, chairman of the task force, told the Dukes County Commission at its meeting Wednesday night about the grant, which comes from the office of Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley. The task force has used the money to hire a part-time coordinator who will create a prevention program for seventh and eighth grade students and their parents. “There is an increase in substance abuse between middle school and high school,” Mrs. Doyle told the commission. In March, the group will apply for two additional grants.
“Thank you,” board chairman Leslie Leland said to Mrs. Doyle. “This is fantastic that you’re having such success.”
The task force has conducted surveys of risky behaviors among Island teens over the last several years.
In other news this week, the county commission discussed the rising cost of health insurance for county employees — an 8.3 per cent increase is expected in the coming fiscal year. The commission also discussed a proposal by commissioner Tristan Israel of Tisbury to rotate the location of commission meetings among the six Island towns. “It’s been a policy before,” said commissioner Leonard Jason Jr. of Chilmark. “We did it for an entire year in 1995.” The commission agreed to investigate the idea.
At the end of the session the commission voted to go into executive session to approve executive session minutes, to discuss litigation and review applications for the position of county manager.
After a search process that has seen fits and starts, in January of this year the commission reopened a search for the position, which has been vacant since former manager E. Winn Davis left in August. County treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders has been acting county manager since then, but has told the commission she will not continue in the position past April 1.
The deadline for the most recent round of applications was Feb. 22. According to Ms. Mavro Flanders, the commission has received nine applications. Three of the applicants are from the Vineyard, one is from Connecticut and the rest are from Massachusetts.
Before adjourning into executive session, the commission responded to a question from the Gazette about how the search process will be conducted. “We should be done before the end of March,” Mr. Jason replied.
The question prompted a response from Mr. Israel as well. “I’m not comfortable offering this job to anyone until we flesh this all out,” he said, referring to the work of the county charter study commission. The study group will present its final report in May.
Mr. Israel argued that although the money to hire a new county manager is in the commission’s budget this year, the commission was not bound to spend the money. He said the commission should consider hiring a part-time manager or a manager with a limited contract. “I don’t want to get into a big, heavy commitment with any individual at this point in time,” he said. Mr. Jason argued the commission is bound by law to hire a new, full-time manager. “That’s the only vote this Island has taken,” he said.
Commission chairman Leslie Leland also expressed concern. “We’re in a state of transition here,” he said. Ms. Mavro Flanders said any recommendations of the study group to change the current structure of county government would not go into effect until 2011, making a county manager necessary for at least the next three years. And she said the manager would have more than enough work. “As the person who’s been doing the county manager’s job since August, I can say there’s plenty to do,” she said.
Mr. Jason asked whether any action [in executive session] taken that evening would be final since three members of the commission were absent. “I only want to do this once,” he said.
In the end the commission voted to postpone the discussion until Wednesday, March 5 at 5 p.m. The commission plans to go into executive session at that time to discuss the applicants. Under the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law, the commission can enter into executive session to discuss narrowing of the field of candidates from semi-finalists to finalists. All other discussion must take place in an open, posted meeting.
Following the vote, the commission went into executive session to discuss the other matters.