Tisbury Selectmen Take Firm Stance Against Two Fast Ferry Service Plans

BY JOSHUA SABATINI

Tisbury selectmen this week agreed the Steamship Authority should postpone further action on fast ferry service until the concerns of the town are satisfied and alternative possibilities are studied.

At their meeting Tuesday night, the selectmen spoke against the outcome of a summit in New Bedford organized by that city's mayor, Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. At the Oct. 27 meeting, Mr. Kalisz urged the SSA to hold a special session to revisit the issue of fast ferry service from New Bedford to the Island.

Even though the SSA board of governors voted 2-1 against a fast ferry proposal four weeks ago, some officials from Martha's Vineyard, New Bedford and Falmouth are pushing for a reconsideration of the vote.

Selectman Tristan Israel said that Vineyard SSA governor J.B. Riggs Parker, who was vocal in opposing his fellow board members' vote, "has had a hard time dealing with the process."

"I think the vote of the board of governors should be respected," Mr. Israel said. "That is the process, and it should be abided by."

Selectman Raymond LaPorte agreed. He said the issue of fast ferry service "should be tabled" for the time being.

The people involved in the issue are going to change, he said. The Island's SSA representative will either be reappointed or replaced in about a month's time, Mr. LaPointe said, and the SSA will hire a new general manager within the next three months.

He also cited financial concerns. After the Sept. 11 tragedy, Mr. LaPorte said, times are too uncertain to make sound financial decisions.

"We are in a recession, and travel habits are going to change," he said. "The SSA is in a financial deficit as is.

"The town's highest priority is relief from traffic and congestion in the town," he added.

To relieve traffic, Mr. LaPorte said, the SSA must upgrade the Oak Bluffs terminal so it can handle freight boats. "Everything else is secondary," he said.

While the selectmen oppose reconsidering fast ferry service at this time, Mr. Israel said they are still concerned with New Bedford and Falmouth's SSA-related problems and want to continue to work with the towns.

But he was wary about New Bedford's hasty push for a re-vote.

Some people have a "fear of New Bedford," Mr. Israel said. "I am not driven by fear. I am driven by the concerns of our town. I am concerned about the pressure being put on people."

Mr. LaPorte emphasized the need for the SSA to develop a service model for the future, not just for a fast ferry.

Selectman Tom Pachico agreed. Noting that proponents had suggested the initial proposal for fast ferry service was uniquely advantageous, he asked how not one but four purportedly better proposals were developed only one week after the first was voted down.

Mr. Pachico said the board is working on a statement, due sometime next week, in opposition to the fast ferry issue.

"We are not in favor of endorsing a fast ferry at this time," Mr. Pachico said. "There is a need to explore other alternatives and put them on the table. There is no reason why we have to act on the fast ferry proposal this year."