The county commissioners have signed a twenty-year lease for the operation of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. The decision to do so was announced by S. C. Luce Jr., chairman of the county commissioners, at the close of a public hearing in Edgartown Monday afternoon when the overwhelming sentiment of the participants was that the long term lease be signed.
While only a dozen or so people attended the hearing, many of the speakers who favored the long term arrangement represented large sections of the Island’s population. Nelson S. Bryant, selectman of West Tisbury, M. M. Gouldey, selectman of Edgartown, Laurus E. Sutton and H. F. Bardwell of Martha’s Vineyard Improvement Association - all urged the substitution of the twenty year lease for the present revocable permit.
The sole dissenting voice at the pleasant and harmonious session was Philip J. Norton’s, whose objections were raised more in a sense of inquiry than protest, and were not formally presented. After hearing from those who approved the lease, Mr. Luce was not able to recognize a single speaker opposed to the proposal, and it was then that he announced that the commissioners would promptly sign the twenty year agreement.

Advantage of Long Term Lease

As Mr. Luce made plain at the beginning of the hearing, the advantage of the twenty year lease over the revocable permit is that only when the country commits itself to a long term operation of the airport will it be eligible to receive federal and state funds for improvement of the field. This idea was also brought forward by Burnham Litchfield, manager of the airport, who said that if the lease were adopted the federal government would pay fifty per cent of the costs of airport improvements, with the state contributing twenty-five per cent of the funds.
In the opinion of the commissioners, Mr. Luce stated, there was no doubt that the long term lease should be signed, yet they did not wish to do so without full public discussion. He pointed out that under the terms of the lease there are certain obligations which the county must assume. For one thing the county agrees to maintain the buildings and facilities which it uses, and to act as caretaker for the other structures. During the twenty year period of the lease the airport will be entirely operated by the county. If the army or navy makes use of the airbase they are to pay a proportionate share of the operating costs, and they may re-possess the airport only in times of national emergency.
Mr. Luce said that the lease was a rather ponderous document, studded with legal technicalities which he did not think pertinent to the hearing. After touching succinctly on the highlights of the agreement, he said that the lease had been studied and approved by federal and state authorities and by private counsel hired by the commissioners.
In keeping with the informal and intimate nature of the hearing, the commissioners did not occupy their usual seats on the judge’s bench at the county court house. Instead they sat at one of the desks reserved for the lawyers at regular sessions of the court. Mr. Luce, who presided at the meeting, was flanked on his left by Antone H. Alley and Frank L. Norton, his fellow commissioners, and on his right by Mr. Litchfield to whom he often turned for technical advice or opinion.