New office needed for Harbors Dept.

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 5:15pm
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September always provides an opportunity for a look-back at the summer season, and the Harbors Committee did just that at its meeting last week.

Harbormaster Steve Land said: “It was a great season,” and although there were a few nights when some town rental moorings were empty, he estimated that in total, “it seems about even with last year.” He hastened to add that the mooring service provider “did an outstanding job.” 

On the negative side, Land said: “We do need an office, desperately,” and reiterated the need for showers and bathrooms for visiting boaters. The Harbormaster office used to be located on a barge at the Boat Basin, but that was closed last year. Shellfishing licenses and other permits are currently being sold out of the Harbormaster office at Town Hall.

On the positive side, Land said that the new public dinghy dock by Dead Eye Dick’s restaurant in New Harbor was “working great” and that people were still using it. When the dock is pulled for the winter, the floats will be stored along the boat ramp. “I don’t think it’s going to be hard to haul them out.”

Committee member Bob Littlefield suggested having bathrooms and showers also located by the boat ramp, but others felt that would impede the ability of trucks hauling boats to negotiate the area. He also asked: “Did you ever think about a floating office?”

Land said it would be “one more thing to think about if a storm was coming.”

One of the primary uses of the Harbor’s Department office on the Great Salt Pond is for the issuing of shellfish licenses and Land said that this year, when licenses were sold out of Town Hall, he realized that more people were “coming by land than by boat to get shellfish licenses.” He estimated that 80 percent of people seeking licenses were coming by automobile. 

“So you’re in the hunt for an office space,” asked Committee member Pat Evans.

“Yup,” said Land.

Later in the meeting, under the agenda item “Discuss moving forward to develop the Ball O’Brien property for all or part of the New Harbor Welcome Center” member Carl Kaufman reminded the committee that Town Manager Ed Roberge had said that there would be a look at the entire area and the needs and uses around New Harbor with the goal of developing a long-range plan.

Dredging of sand in Old Harbor will be performed in the spring, according to Land. “The dredging material will probably be used in the West Beach revetment project.”

“We could also use sand at Scotch Beach,” said Harbors Chair Denny Heinz.

Land said the sand on the east side was different than the sand “coming out of the ledge,” because the ledge sand was “stinky” and not desirable for dumping on a beach.

Harbors Assistant Kate McConville who also serves as clerk to both the Harbors Committee and the Shellfish Commission, apprised the committee of changes proposed to the annual contract between the Town of New Shoreham and oyster farmers utilizing Cormorant Cove to grow out their product during the summer months. (The Shellfish Commission took up the changes just two days before.)

Changes to the contract came at the request of oyster farmer Chris Warfel, who holds a lease in Cormorant Cove, and involve two key changes. One is that instead of having to remove all of the equipment on the lease area, that he be allowed to leave the buoys marking the corners of the lease in place over the winter. The second change is to extend the period of the lease to include an additional week in both the spring and the fall in order to get equipment in and out of the area.

Warfel requested that the fall extension be until the Saturday after Columbus Day, but the Shellfish Commission decided to extend the deadline even further, until the third Saturday of October. This would give more leeway in the event of bad weather. 

The leases also require that the oyster farmers notify the harbormaster when they are going out to the lease area in order to collect oysters. In a third change, Warfel has requested that the notification period be “at least 24 hours prior,” instead of immediately before.

Both the Harbors Committee and the Shellfish Commission discussed previous violations of the contract. Land told the Shellfish Commission that: “He admitted that he didn’t comply,” with removing all of his equipment, and that leftover gear was a safety issue.

Land admitted that he didn’t always enforce the terms of the contract. “The idea is we want them to be successful, but we don’t want it to turn into a garbage dump.” 

Members of the Shellfish Commission discussed whether Warfel should be “on probation,” but when it came to approving the changes, Shellfish Chair Joe Fallon said: “I don’t mind – if Warfel needs a little help…it’s beneficial for the community.”

Both committees approved the changes, which will now be sent to Roberge for review.