With a growing commercial aquaculture industry and a new project growing oysters in Sengekontacket Pond, the Edgartown selectmen this week approved a request from the shellfish committee to add personnel hours, though they balked at adding an entirely new employee to the department.
Shellfish constable Paul Bagnall has proposed raising the hours of a shellfish deputy constable from 32 hours a week to 40 hours a week and adding one new 30-hour-a-week constable position to his staff.
Earlier this year, Edgartown and Oak Bluffs embarked on a project to grow about a million oysters in Sengekontacket. The oysters are growing in upwellers and cages and will be planted for harvest next summer. Mr. Bagnall said the increased staff would not only work on the Sengekontacket oyster farm, but also on additional quahaugs purchased by the town and added enforcement in the summer.
Shellfish committee member Jack Blake said the Sengekontacket oyster project is proving more labor intensive than they thought it would be.
“I really see the need for an extra guy,” he said,
“You have to realize the size and scope of the project we’re doing [on Sengekontacket],” shellfish committee member Donald Benefit said. “It’s a massive amount of oysters for that pond.” He added that he thought it is also one of the better projects the committee has brought forward.
Edgartown resident Gregory Palermo spoke in favor of the proposal, and the oyster project on Sengekontacket. “I think it’s good for the economy . . . good for the general quality of life and good for the environment,” he said. Sengekontacket has been found to have high levels of nitrogen, which oysters filter out of the water.
The selectmen easily approved the increase in hours, but balked at adding another employee, noting the expense of a benefits package.
Selectman Arthur Smadbeck asked the shellfish committee to look into making the job a contract position, and the selectmen agreed to take the issue under consideration. “It’s a great thing that’s happening,” selectman Michael Donaroma said. “We certainly don’t want to say no.”
In other business the board discussed the confusing issue of what to do about Lattanzi’s Restaurant’s year-round liquor license. Albert and Cathy Lattanzi sold the restaurant two weeks ago, and the plan was for Lattanzi’s to transfer the liquor license to the person who leases the restaurant space from the new owners. But though the restaurant has been sold, the new lessee is not yet in place. The town is trying to figure out how to allow for the transfer of the liquor license without making Mr. Lattanzi or the town liable for damages.
Town administrator Pamela Dolby said one plan calls for closing the restaurant from Dec. 1 to Jan. 31, allowing time for the new business to be in place.
Ms. Dolby said the situation is confusing and said she would ask town attorney Ronald H. Rappaport to look into the issue and how best to deal with the in-between time. She said there are two year-round liquor licenses available in the town, but the preferred route is a transfer. The matter was continued to next week’s meeting.
The selectmen also voted to reappoint James Joyce as Edgartown’s representative to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.