As discussion continues about cleanup and a still-incomplete investigation into the July 12 Menemsha fire, the Chilmark selectmen are set to meet with spokesmen for the U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday evening.
The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.
Selectmen reported this week that the Coast Guard has completed interviews with first responders to the fire that destroyed the Coast Guard boathouse and surrounding town pier. Board chairman Warren Doty said he had been told that the Coast Guard is now ready to begin demolition of the charred remains of the boathouse structure.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is conducting the investigation into the cause of the fire, which prompted the evacuation of Menemsha and called out volunteer firefighters and emergency responders from all six Island towns and Cape Cod. The Coast Guard and the state fire marshal are assisting in the investigation. Despite a projected completion date of mid-August, the investigation remains ongoing.
A Coast Guard spokesman said several weeks ago that the fire may not have started in the boathouse, but beyond that no further details have been released.
At their last meeting the selectmen suggested that the Coast Guard response in the aftermath of the fire had been inadequate. But this week selectmen struck a more positive tone. “It seemed to me that during the past 10 days, that [Coast Guard Captain Verne] Gifford and [Commander Paul] Lattanzi have been responsive,” said Mr. Doty. “We’re ready to demolish the old building, which is good news,” he added.
Meanwhile, the town is moving forward with its own repair plans, including the reconstruction of a carway leading out to the West Dock, which was also destroyed in the fire. Upwards of $200,000 has already been spent by the town for the initial plans and emergency repairs, and the town estimates that remaining repairs will carry a price tag of more than $1.5 million. Mr. Doty said they are looking to finalize those plans by Tuesday’s meeting, when the warrant for a Sept. 27 special town meeting will be completed.
Selectmen agreed that the town should move forward with repair plans as quickly as possible, if voters approve the spending at town meeting. “I’d like to see this thing go out to bid by the middle of October at the latest,” said selectmen Frank M. Fenner Jr., referring to the bid process for the dock repair project.
But town executive secretary Tim Carroll said it might take longer, depending on how long it takes to develop specifications for the bid package. Mr. Fenner said that work will have to be done quickly if the town hopes to have the repair project completed by next April, before the onset of the next summer season.
Also this week the selectmen discussed a project to make renovations and repairs at Tea Lane Farm, which is jointly owned by the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank. The board had previously discussed asking the town to approve $160,000 in Community Preservation Act money for the project. But selectman Jonathan Mayhew and Mr. Fenner said that in order to make long-term repairs, the town will have to ask for more.
“It’s a town asset,” said Mr. Fenner. “Let’s go in there once and fix the job.”
Mr. Doty said that while he was not against a more ambitious renovation and repair plan, he believed that the CPA funds, some of which are earmarked for restoration projects just like the one at Tea Lane Farm, should be enough to get started. “My idea was we have $160,000 available to us; let’s spend $160,000 and see where that gets us,” Mr. Doty said.
After more discussion selectmen finally agreed to request $300,000 for the project at the special town meeting, including the CPA money, and an additional $90,000 from free cash and $50,000 from the town stabilization fund, which would require a two-thirds vote.