Tisbury Police Cut Back at Steamship Terminal

By ALEXIS TONTI

The Tisbury police department has scaled back its police detail at the boat line terminal in Vineyard Haven.

The impact this will have on arriving and departing passengers is unclear; but the move comes as police face budget constraints in the new fiscal year without the guarantee of a longtime Steamship Authority reimbursement.

Several months ago Tisbury police chief Theodore (Ted) Saulnier forecast the change, warning Tisbury selectmen that without funding from the SSA the department budget for fiscal year 2005 would not support the former level of police assistance and traffic control.

Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel last night confirmed that the recent reduction in services was due to the SSA decision to withdraw its annual reimbursement - a move the board of selectmen has adamantly objected to since it was announced by SSA chief executive officer Fred C. Raskin in April.

The selectmen plan to attend next Thursday's monthly boat line meeting in Hyannis to ask the governors to overturn Mr. Raskin's ruling.

"The SSA certainly has options. They can reconsider working with the town, or they can address the problem by hiring their own detail. We are not trying to be strident or belligerent, but the fact is they stopped giving us money for the police and a change had to be made," said Mr. Israel.

"We are still taking care of business. We are not abrogating our responsibility to the community, to pedestrians or to public safety," he said, adding that there will still be ample police presence on Water street. "It may take longer for people to get off the property, I'm sure we'll hear about that, but we are not jeopardizing public safety in any way."

Reimbursing the Island's port towns for police assistance and traffic control has been a well-established practice at the boat line. But Mr. Raskin now says that with other revenue coming from a newly enacted embarkation fee - which state legislation says is earmarked for public safety, harbor services and port infrastructure improvements - the boat line is no longer obligated to help out local security forces as it has in the past.

In recent years Oak Bluffs has received $19,000 annually and Tisbury more than $30,000 annually.

"This decision came from the CEO, and it is something that deserved to be aired before the entire board and voted on by them," said Mr. Israel, concluding:

"The fact is the legislation was drafted to help the communities mitigate the economic impact of state cuts. In making this decision, the Steamship Authority is trying to dictate how we spend the money [from the embarkation fee]; that is for Tisbury to decide."