Striking a far more conciliatory tone, the Tisbury selectmen stood their ground this week in opposing a set of proposed Steamship Authority schedule changes for next year, also calling on boat line leaders to play a role in creating a better traffic layout at the Vineyard Haven terminal.
The selectmen expressed their concerns at a meeting with SSA senior management last Friday afternoon at the Vineyard Haven terminal, and repeated them again at their board meeting on Tuesday night. Both times the selectmen urged the SSA to leave one of three ferry trips proposed to be switched from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs, and they again questioned the job performance of Vineyard SSA governor Marc Hanover.
All of this comes one week before the SSA board of governors is scheduled to vote on the schedule changes as well as proposed fare increases at its October meeting on the Vineyard. The meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven.
Boat line governors are scheduled to meet in Hyannis today for a working session to discuss how to allocate fare increases for the coming year.
After weeks of sharp words between the selectmen and Mr. Hanover over their decision to not use money from the ferry embarkation fee to pay for traffic control at the Vineyard Haven terminal, selectmen met face to face with SSA general manager Wayne Lamson on Friday afternoon. However, discussion of the embarkation fee money was intentionally left off the agenda. Instead, Mr. Lamson said he was there to talk about the proposed scheduling changes, along with what could be done to improve traffic flow around the terminal.
Mr. Hanover did not attend the meeting.
The selectmen appealed to Mr. Lamson to reconsider proposed changes to next year's schedule. Boat line management, in an effort to ease the impact of traffic that pours into the Vineyard Haven terminal, has recommended sending three ferries into Oak Bluffs that currently sail into Vineyard Haven - two of them freight boats.
Speaking partly on behalf of Vineyard Haven business owners, selectmen told Mr. Lamson they would prefer to keep the 7:30 p.m. boat coming into Vineyard Haven and trade it for another freight boat that arrives 15 minutes later.
Two weeks ago, Vineyard Haven business owners circulated a flyer protesting the schedule changes, saying the loss of the 7:30 p.m. ferry would hurt Main street businesses. Selectmen also originally reacted angrily to the proposal, and suggested favoritism as a motivating factor in Mr. Hanover's suggestion to move the boats to Oak Bluffs. Mr. Hanover owns a business on Circuit avenue.
"That is the trip that outraged us," said selectman and board chairman Ray LaPorte. "It has been talked about a lot in town."
But Mr. Lamson said sending the 7:45 p.m. freight boat to Oak Bluffs instead of Vineyard Haven was unlikely because SSA policy does not allow the last boat leaving Oak Bluffs to be a freight boat. Despite the selectmen's protests, Mr. Lamson made no indication that the SSA would agree to the switch.
The layout of the terminal in Vineyard Haven was also a point of discussion, including potential ways to make the loading and unloading of boats a more efficient operation.
Henry Stevenson, a member of the Tisbury planning board, brought several plans with him that outlined possible changes to the terminal's parking and staging lots.
Mr. Lamson said the town could expect changes in the current layout of the parking and staging areas. He also said the SSA would participate in a traffic planning study that will be administered in part by the Martha's Vineyard Commission.
All who attended the meeting agreed that traffic is a regional problem.
"Twenty-five years ago traffic was half of what it is now," Mr. LaPorte said. "What is the next 25 years going to be like?"
On Tuesday, selectman Tristan Israel said the Friday meeting had been positive, and he reiterated his view that there needs to be better communication between the town and the boat line.
"I think it's important for the SSA to come to us and get our input," Mr. Israel said. "And I think we need to move forward and not look behind."