Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

We all expect that no good deed will go unpunished. That’s just the way it goes, right? But it seems reasonable to expect that those who administer the punishment will do it accurately.

The Gazette suggests that the houses at 250 State Road are estimated at $400 per square foot. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The contract price for construction is $2,605,000. Of that $409,000 is for site and infrastructure costs and $350,000 is for solar systems funded by the Cape Light Compact, making the actual house construction costs $1,846,000 for seven houses. Four of the houses are 1,200 square feet and three are 1,400 square feet, for a total of 9,000 square feet. Therefore the contract construction price for these super high-performance houses is $205 per square foot, just slightly more than half the number you printed.

Those are the plain facts.

Most importantly, the low energy use and low maintenance exteriors of these houses will save money for their occupants for generations.

The other issues raised were addressed well by Philippe Jordi of the Island Housing Trust.

But one other, also having to do with cost, did not make it into the story. Island Housing Trust paid a professional estimator to price this project to be certain our price is competitive. The estimator’s price was significantly higher than ours.

I think corrections are in order. Thank you.

John Abrams

West Tisbury

John Abrams is co-owner of South Mountain Co.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

While it seems folks working in the affordable housing field perceive any article or comment raising issues — any issues — about affordable housing to be negative or critical, nothing could be further from the truth. To wit concerns in West Tisbury about the current costs of affordable housing units being raised from folks who have been involved for many years in affordable housing should help to improve these important and necessary projects for everyone. The May 1 Gazette reported issues about the cost of construction at 250 State Road in West Tisbury, which should be fully aired and debated. The resolution and the lessons learned should continue the construction of well designed, well built, low maintenance and energy efficient units but at a more reasonable cost. This would mean more money for other projects, and ultimately, more homes for Islanders. It is also very important because a substantial portion of the costs for these units, irrespective of where the sources of funding emanate, are ultimately borne by you and me.

All of us who have been involved in affordable housing have been delighted to learn about new opportunities for affordable housing units for deserving Islanders. A serendipitous bonus has been that most have been carefully designed, beautifully built, energy efficient and constructed for low maintenance. I’ve had the privilege of visiting several such as the South Mountain Company houses at Jenney Lane, and they are wonderful. Unfortunately what has been less delightful is the steep (and rising) cost of affordable units. It has been painful for many of us who live in some form of affordable housing, that is, affordable to us even if not officially designated as such, to experience over the past couple of years the sharp increases in our real estate taxes, insurance costs and other carrying costs associated with home ownership. These realities have been particularly painful for a large segment of the population that is living modestly, and earning considerably less annually than the income guidelines for affordable housing assistance. So it is exquisitely painful to know that the units at 250 State Road will be platinum certified for energy efficiency (or something similar) and a model for the rest of America while most of us can’t afford to make basic improvements, or can’t find meaningful assistance with the costs to achieve anything like the same goal.

My own modestly sized, somewhat elderly house now costs more in annual payments for real estate tax, insurance, and a few other small fees, all before operating expenses or mortgage payments, than my parents paid for the property (albeit a somewhat smaller house) in 1951. Recently I’ve been undertaking retrofitting and upgrading to make the house (a real energy squanderer; I’d be glad to share the results of the blower door test) with insulation in the basement, crawl space and attic crawl space, plus other improvements such as solar panels for domestic hot water and an energy efficient boiler to replace a 1959 unit. This should help to trim operating expenses and there is no question that upgrading is the right thing to do for all sorts of reasons, but it is very expensive. And for this house it only achieves an unofficial brass, or maybe zinc, status on the certification scale, far below the silver/gold/platinum range that some of the affordable housing projects are attaining.

So here is a modest proposal and a challenge: rather than pouring money into the showcase projects (admirable as they may be), the affordable housing groups need to be seriously considering how to make serious money available to Islanders who already have existing homes and who need assistance with updating for low maintenance or energy efficiency. Apparently Community Preservation Act funding may not be legally used for these purposes, although morally and ethically it should be, and actual grant money, rather than tax credits may be hard to come by. So why don’t the affordable housing groups start aggressively fund raising for just these sorts of purposes, and, using local contractors — via some sort of public bidding process — assist Islanders with existing houses. It could cover a lot of bases: help Islanders with green technology and energy efficiency projects, help Islanders upgrade to decent and more affordable homes, and it could provide employment for a lot of folks. And it would probably serve as a model for other communities. This could, and should be, a very effective process, serving a lot more Islanders at a reasonable cost. What could be more simple . . . think about it.

Virginia Crowell Jones

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

There is a new and exciting permanent landmark on the Island which personifies the Vineyard at its best. A 40-foot mural depicting scenes from the six Island towns has been permanently placed on the wall of the Stop and Shop in Vineyard Haven, and like Plymouth Rock, will be seen by every passenger setting foot on the Vineyard, many for the first time. The design artists, Anne Grandin and Thomas Larson, opened up this mammoth project in January 2008 to local artists and art students at the regional high school under the supervision of high school director Paul Brissette. I applaud the Tisbury selectmen, who in their wisdom gave their blessing to a citizen’s proposal to paint the mural. Local artists were notified to submit design entries which were displayed at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, and the winners were selected there. Students at the regional high school building trades program, who built the panels, worked closely with students from the art department, and the design artists worked alongside the team for over a year.

They should feel extremely proud of their extraordinary effort, and I urge all of you to view this outstanding mural.

Anne Gallagher

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The family of Helen Miller, who died on April 19, is grateful for the compassionate care she received over the years from the dedicated staff at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, including Drs. Bigby, Donnelly, Fudem, Guiney, Kendall, McMahon and Pil, case manager Gail Poggi, and innumerable nurses, physical and occupational therapists and support staff. We are also deeply thankful for the loving and long-term efforts of our mother’s in-home caregivers, Judy Dimond and Mary Hart. A special thanks to the On Time crew who for nearly 50 years safely ferried her between Chappy and Edgartown. Mom was so fortunate in her choice of the community she called home.

Barrie Gollinger


Kathy Scogna

Roseville, Calif.

Char Miller

Claremont, Calif.

Niki Miller

Oley, Pa.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Over the last month I have spent many hours learning about the recent proposal by American Tower Company to install a distributed antennae system (DAS) in the three up-Island towns. I will not waste time and space outlining their proposal, or the perceived benefits and detriments of it, because the proposal keeps changing and is very much a moving target. However, I will point out that the system as currently configured, with 11 new mini cell towers (and possibly more under a revised plan) on our roadsides in West Tisbury would largely duplicate existing cell phone coverage in our town.

As a voter and a taxpayer in West Tisbury, I am extremely frustrated by the complete lack of any opportunity to have a true public dialogue on this issue. At a sparsely attended special town meeting in June 2007, voters in West Tisbury approved a warrant article authorizing the expenditure of $2,500 to develop a request for proposals for DAS. In response to my questions at that time, I was told that there would be ample opportunity for public comment and to get more information. The next posted public meeting devoted to this topic was the public hearing on April 6 with the presentation by American Tower. Due to the configuration of the agenda, with West Tisbury’s public meeting the last of the evening after Chilmark and Aquinnah, those of us still remaining from West Tisbury were not able to speak or ask questions until after 11 p.m.

This is not about whether I own a cell phone (I do not) or what I think about cell phones (not much) or whether I am some kind of Luddite (I kind of am but I am typing this letter on a computer, albeit a very old one). It’s about when do we as a community get to have the conversation about whether we need or want this system? We already have three cell towers in West Tisbury, with ample coverage across the town. I encourage everyone to learn more about the proposal and what it will actually do.

Attend our selectmen’s meetings (held Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. at the Howes House) to learn about this issue, express your opinions and request that our selectmen hold a public meeting on this issue as soon as possible.

Prudence Burt

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Beach access issues seem to be raised each spring, and rightly so. The Island has created a scenario that excludes many of its residents from access to the most of its up-Island shoreline. This is not right. Maybe, as a compromise, the up-Island towns could allow parking for up to 10 non-town resident vehicles each day at their private beaches, at first limited to Island year-round residents, and on a first-come basis each day, and maybe 25 walk-on nonresidents. We have created an exclusionary society which promotes snobbery when we exclude our neighboring residents in entirety from nature’s treasures. This is not a lesson I want our children to learn.

Paul Adler

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Dukes County is asking for public support of the new community-based Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard that will be opening on May 1. Donations may be made out to Dukes County, with the memorandum Animal Shelter to P.O. Box 3764, Edgartown, MA. All donations are tax-deductible.

Or you can click for a cause, for those with paws, by going to the Web site


Click on the purple button that says: “click here to give — it’s free,” which actually donates free dog food to shelters. That will bring up another Web page where you can click on “vote now.” That will take you to the Animal Rescue Site $100,000 Shelter Challenge. In the middle of the page you can vote for your favorite animal shelter. Type in state (MA), town (Edgartown) and the MSPCA of Martha’s Vineyard comes up. Vote for this shelter. After the vote you will be asked to confirm your vote.

You can vote once every day until July 29.

We were unable to add or change the name to the new Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard, but Carter Luke, the president and chief executive officer of the MSPCA, said he does not have a problem with that and any money that is collected from this contest would go to the new Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard, regardless of the name.

This could bring in some much-needed money to the new shelter. The grand prize is $20,000. All we need is enough people to participate.

Please join us to make the difference.

Russell Smith

Vineyard Haven

Russell Smith is county manager.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Several years ago all six Island towns signed a draft resolution pledging to work toward the Island-wide goal of becoming an energy independent renewable energy Island.

All six towns resolved to: support the development and implementation of a clear, comprehensive energy plan for the Island; encourage increased energy efficiency, conservation and improved management of energy resources in existing buildings, transportation and new construction; emphasize energy initiatives that enhance local business opportunities; encourage the generation of clean energy for heating, electricity and transportation; promote energy-efficiency and use of renewable energy sources through the careful revision of zoning bylaws, Martha’s Vineyard Commission regulations and possible building codes; promote education about this critical issue; and, recognize that individual actions can make a difference and encouraged fellow citizens to undertake renewable energy projects on their own initiative.

The MVC, towns, and individuals have committed themselves to achieving these goals, but more is needed.

Currently, the Vineyard’s summer peak demand for electricity is about 50 megawatts. In addition to its every day electrical needs, the Vineyard will need more electricity to fuel plug-in hybrids and all electric vehicles, pushing the need for electricity to between 70 and 80 megawatts.

The only plausible renewable source of fuel for producing significant quantities of this electricity is offshore wind. Wind is unique as fuel. Higher wind speeds can, in and of themselves, produce larger quantities of cheaper electricity from the same power plant — the wind turbine. The power available from wind is proportional to the cube of the speed of the wind. Wind at 20 mph provides eight times the power of wind at 10 mph for generating electricity. Offshore wind, on average, is 60 to 80 percent steadier and stronger than land-based wind. The Vineyard’s best shot at becoming an energy independent renewable energy Island is to tap into its most abundant renewable fuel, offshore wind, for meeting its electrical needs.

Peter Cabana

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am a middle school student who is allergic to wheat and peanuts. I used to be allergic only to peanuts, and that was hard enough. Though I could not eat peanuts, I was still able to get a delicious meal at almost any restaurant. But I recently discovered another food allergy, this time to wheat and gluten. I have learned that these are common food allergies. I am finding that many Island restaurants don’t have that many options for me on their menus. The other night, all I could order was a plate of lettuce.

I recently visited several chain restaurants off-island, such as Uno’s Pizzeria and Outback Steakhouse. Both restaurants conveniently had wheat-free, gluten-free menus. At Uno’s, they even had a wheat-free, gluten-free pizza. The staff at the restaurants seemed to know a lot about their menu and what was and wasn’t gluten-free. This got me thinking. I realized that it isn’t that hard to find wheat-free, gluten-free products, even flour. At Whole Foods Market, there is a variety of different kinds of wheat-free, gluten-free flours, which are most often made up of potato, corn, or rice. They actually taste very similar to regular flour.

I think that it would be great, not just for me, but for many other people with food allergies like mine, to open an allergy-free restaurant, meaning one that serves wheat-free foods, gluten-free foods, nut-free foods, and foods without other common allergy-causing ingredients. I recently went to a restaurant in another part of Massachusetts that had a menu that contained wheat-free, gluten-free foods, including bread, vegetarian foods, vegan foods, and even pointed out healthy foods. A restaurant like this on the Island would make it so that I, and other people with food allergies like mine, could eat out on Island and be able to order more than a plate of lettuce.

Sam Permar

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

When Dale Robinson had to face lung cancer for the second time, he knew that this would be the end. His main concern was for his dog Fraulein to have a happy and good home. His neighbors Matt and Brenda Sudarsky not only gave her a home, they saw to it that she would visit Dale every day in the hospital when he knew he could not stay home anymore. With the help of Drs. Kendall and Tsai, difficult and fast decisions had to be made.

It was such a comfort to me to know that anytime Dale or I needed them, Hospice and the Vineyard Nursing Association would be there to answer any questions, and help in making decisions for Dale’s comfort. Hospice would run errands for meds if we were going to be home too late on the ferry, and do everything they could to see to his comfort at home, then during his last days in the hospital.

The Revs. Cathlin Baker and Roger Spinney made several visits to Dale which brought him great comfort, and Reverend Baker held a lovely service for Dale’s funeral. On Dale’s last day we were told that he would hear us but not respond. That’s the way it was until the Rev. Bob Hallquist prayed over Dale. He was able to raise his eyebrows up and down twice.

The hospital staff not only saw to Dale’s comfort but to ours. They even saw to it that Fraulein had food and water. Anytime I mention this to someone, they all say “on this Island we always find this kindness and support.” Support from our on-Island family was so wonderful. Especially since they had lost their mother a few short days before Dale. As Dale would say, as he tipped the brim of his hat, “I thank you kindly.”

Diane Leonard

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Martha’s Vineyard Boys’ and Girls’ Club would like to thank everyone that made the 2009 National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Ride The Vineyard such a huge success. The club is proud to partner with the National MS Society, central New England chapter, to facilitate this event and to continue the search for a cure. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. The $450,000-plus raised though this year’s ride will help to fund treatments and research, which are giving new hope to people affected by the disease.

Thank you to the 640-plus cyclists who peddled distances of 25, 50 and 100 kilometers to raise money and awareness for the cause; and thank you to the thousands of people that donated and pledged money to support the riders’ efforts.

Thank you to the 100-plus dedicated volunteers for all their hard work. Volunteers from both on and off-Island manned rest stops, helped with setup and cleanup, provided medical support, and cheered the riders on. The most popular volunteers were undoubtedly those that fed the masses at the annual post ride cookout, serving hot soup and flipping over 650 burgers and bunning over 500 hot dogs. Thank you to Vineyard Cash & Carry for donating all the burgers and dogs, and to Peter Koines for his wonderful soup.

Thank you for the Mediterranean Restaurant for hosting the kickoff celebration the night before the ride. Everyone had a great time and they are looking forward to coming back next year.

Thank you to all of those that made this day safe for the cyclists: the police and EMS personnel of the towns of Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury, the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and all the motorists that took caution along the ride routes.

Thank you to Edgartown Bicycles, the Chilmark Store and Hosteling International-Martha’s Vineyard for the use of your properties for rest stops, and to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for serving as home base for the ride’s start, finish, and post-ride festivities.

We are looking forward to another successful ride next year, and invite everyone to get involved. For more information on how you can join the movement in the fight against MS, please visit nationalmssociety.org/chapters/MAM/index.aspx.

Peter Lambos


Peter Lambos is executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Boys’ & Girls’ Club.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following is my strongly held opinion regarding the word torture and its relation to the “enhanced interrogation techniques” as apparently practiced by some who were authorized to do so during their investigation of suspected terrorists.

Everyone snickers when you mention a dirty word. The word torture is not a dirty word. It is a terrible word. It is a word that bespeaks the utmost in human depravity toward a fellow human being. It is a word that conjures up the very worst of what happened in the holocaust. It is a word that should be forever banned from the lexicon of world languages. Those who practice physical or emotional torture should be themselves tortured but those who order others to torture are one degree worse. Their names should be marked forever for scorn and shame that their acts may never be repeated.

A full and open investigation with complete and public conclusions must be made and if laws have been broken, responsibility must be made clear. Under the circumstances penalties should be only the publicity of those names which have flouted the law and American morality.

Thomas Hale

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

It has been reported that the Steamship Authority boat traffic, both passengers and vehicles, has continued to drop sharply. Why that is amazing!

Fuel costs have dropped and yet the expenses have risen. If the Steamship Authority continues to allow the workers to shuffle off their higher health costs to customers and allow the unions to insist on having roughly 50 per cent more workers on the ships than is required by the Coast Guard, then it is easy to see why the operation deficit continues in an upward direction. Not only does it cost more to travel to the Vineyard, but it adds cost to all of the merchandise brought to the Island. It is no wonder that merchandise sold on the Island is priced way out of line when compared to the prices on the Internet.

If the Steamship Authority wants to increase traffic and we want more realistic retail prices on the Vineyard, then run the operation as a business rather than an outlet for rewarding political favors.

Michael Bader

Oak Bluffs


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

Happy Birthday Pete.

Betty Burton

Vineyard Haven