The June 26 meeting of the Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board found Harbormaster Jill Simmons reporting on the ongoing fresh water leak problems that are drenching the wharves, making the structures unstable and causing usage fees to soar. Simmons reported to the board that she had recently met with the water commissioners to ask for an abatement of the $13,000 water bill that shocked her upon receipt. She said that the average bills for the last several years have been around $1200, so when she received the stunning bill for several thousands of dollars, she was aghast.
Simmons said it took some doing to even find out where the water meters were located for the wharves. Members of the water and sewer department helped and showed her the location of the meters in a locked cabinet. She said she hadn’t been aware of their location or whose responsibility they were.
As for the leaks, they continue. One leak has been isolated on Mello Wharf. That will be repaired. But she said that at a rate of between 100 and 150 gallons per hour, water continues to leak from somewhere.
It has been one thing after another as the new harbormaster faces structural and infra-structure issues at the town wharves. Simmons recently discovered an electrical problem that could easily have killed someone on Mello Wharf. She had the electricity shut off. Electrical repair work is expected to be completed by June 28. The water pipe repairs are to follow, but at what cost?
This brought the meeting round to the waterfront enterprise deficit and confusion over the exact revenue stream that feeds into its balance sheet. Chairman Alan Gillis had sent town administrator Mike Gagne an e-mail on June 26 which reads in part ”… at the May meeting … it was brought to the attention of the Board that only 50% of the boat excise tax is provided to the Waterfront Enterprise Fund … the Board requests 100%, if, in fact that is the case.” Gillis received a reply from Gagne that reads: “Please be advised that for the past four years the Town has allocated more than 100% of the Boat Excise to the Waterfront Expenses, when the town accountant returns from vacation she and I will make a list of funds for the past four years that were put to the waterfront from the Boat Excise and General Fund. As I have said to the Harbormaster Mattapoisett charges for boat related items for those using the Waterfront and Waters of Mattapoisett are significantly under the average of like ports. I have asked the Harbormaster to compile the data, present to me, the MAB and Selectmen by September. MAB’s input into this data findings and recommendation is sought.”
After the reading of Gagne’s reply, board members reacted by stating that they have already provided the fees data requested by Gagne, with the result showing that Mattapoisett was charging an average between those towns which were much higher and others much lower. Board member Carlos DeSousa said, “We still have a deficit issue to be dealt with.” Members concurred they needed to know everything that went into the waterfront enterprise fund to determine not only what needs to be raised, but what they might be missing.
The board also discussed their ongoing edits to the Rules and Regulations. They have completed most of that work with “Fees” remaining. However, until the issues about revenue sources are clarified, that piece will remain incomplete.
Simmons returned to the problems she faced in collecting all the information needed to fully understand the enterprise business and work through financial woes. She said, “The wharves are the main feature of the town … we need to get them fixed.”
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board is July 31 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room.
By Marilou Newell