The Oak Bluffs selectmen had strong words of criticism for the Steamship Authority Tuesday after learning that the boat line terminal in their town might not be ready to open in time for summer due to needed repairs on the wooden wharf.

“This is egregious, and I think we need to send a very firm letter and put as much pressure as we can on them. I think it’s important for us as a board to make a strong statement,” selectman Gail Barmakian said.

The remarks came at a meeting Tuesday, one day after Vineyard SSA governor James Malkin and general manager Robert Davis suddenly found themselves in hot water for quietly floating the possibility of delaying or not reopening the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority wharf and terminal this summer.

An exchange of emails showed that a conference call was held Friday that included Mr. Malkin, Mr. Davis, Oak Bluffs selectman Michael Santoro and town administrator Robert Whritenour.

The subject was the Oak Bluffs terminal, and recent engineering work apparently showing that the wooden pier would need major work, including some 35 pilings to be repaired or replaced. The summer terminal ordinarily opens in mid-May.

Speaking to the Gazette by phone Monday, Mr. Malkin said they had made it clear in the phone call that nothing had been decided, and that the boat line is committed to re-opening the terminal when it is safe.

But in a series of emails that followed the Friday conference call, Oak Bluffs selectman and board chairman Brian Packish lashed out at the boat line, among other things calling for Mr. Davis to be removed.

“I firmly believe the ship has run aground and it is past time for Mr. Davis to be escorted off the vessel,” Mr. Packish wrote to Mr. Malkin.

In his own email to Mr. Packish, Mr. Malkin outlined the dire financial situation facing the SSA, noting the possibility of a $50 million deficit as a result of the pandemic.

“While the SSA is closing runs, reducing staff, cancelling projects, etc, no one knows . . . where this Covid mess is heading and what it’s impact will be. Except we all know that it’s already terrible and will worsen as we go into our seasonal economy,” Mr. Malkin wrote in part. He also wrote:

“As with everything we are all dealing with, we seem to be in the midst of the perfect storm. It’s coming at all of us and all of our people and businesses from all directions.”

Mr. Packish fired back:

“The SSA has been calling their gross mismanagement a perfect storm for a long time and the excuse no longer holds water. The public has bent over backwards to endure the hardships placed on them repeatedly by the SSA. The lack of leadership that has now further jeopardized the safety of our residents and economy Islandwide that is now being blamed on Covid-19 is beyond acceptable.”

The heated exchange underscored the tensions now threading the Vineyard, with most businesses shut down due to the pandemic and widespread concerns about the coming summer season.

Mr. Malkin said he expects the Oak Bluffs pier repairs and engineering report to be a full topic for discussion at the monthly SSA meeting on April 21.

He said he found out about the engineering report on April 9, and immediately requested a phone call with Oak Bluffs officials.

“We got a report. I saw that. And I said we can’t wait for a meeting,” Mr. Malkin said. “We have a meeting on April 21 when this is going to get further examined, but we need to be proactive and reach out to the town where the pier is and tell them this is a serious issue.”

But Mr. Packish rejected the notion that the pandemic is a factor in completing repairs to the pier.

“They are trying to hide behind Covid-19,” he said. “They don’t think they can get the pier repaired in time. Listen, that’s your own mismanagement. If you had done your work, prepared and managed appropriately, it would be a different conversation.”

At the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, the lambasting of the boat line by town officials continued.

Town administrator Robert Whritenour updated the board on the Friday telephone conference.

“We had no idea why that work has not been completed already, but they indicated they still had a lot of work to complete,” Mr. Whritenour said.

“Right now, we’re still in the phase of trying to evaluate if that’s going to impact the operation of that facility this season. We certainly hope that’s not going to be the case,” he said. “The Steamship Authority has indicated they’re going to do everything in their power to identify what emergency measures can be taken to keep that facility operating during the upcoming summer period. They need to do a little more engineering work and get back to us, but I’ll tell you, in dealing with all of the issues with COVID-19 and all the emergency things, it really pains me to see something that should not be an emergency sort of lumped in there that could’ve easily been completed by now.

“We’re hoping that they’re able to make the adjustments that they need to do to get it open and operating.”

Ms. Barmakian and others added their pique.

“Going forward, this kind of communication where they go undercover, then say, oh by the way, is not going to happen. It’s more than this instance,” she said.

Mr. Packish concurred. “It stresses the importance that the Island representative to the Steamship Authority should be based in a port town,” he said. “Quite honestly, it highlights a lot of things.”

Aaron Wilson contributed reporting.