To the Editor:
I understand from reading the September 27 The Wanderer report that, in the context of updating all job descriptions, Mattapoisett Selectmen are planning to change the current job description for Mattapoisett Harbormaster from part time to full time. This is a substantial change. I would like to caution all residents of Mattapoisett that a full-time Harbormaster is not needed now or in the near future. After further research, I learned the proposed change includes combining Shellfish Warden and Harbormaster into one full-time position. There are many reasons not to do this, but my main point is that a full-time Harbormaster will add cost to boaters’ fees and result in no service improvements. Two years ago, the Selectmen asked the Marine Advisory Committee to make a recommendation on this issue. A full-time harbormaster’s position was not recommended then, and, even with the recent harbor improvements and expanded mooring count, it is still not needed.
In 2010 (a year prior to the resignation of longtime Harbormaster Steve Mach) the Marine Advisory Board completed a study about this exact issue. A survey showed that Mattapoisett boaters enjoy the lowest fees of all towns from Westport to Wareham. Why? All of our employees are part time. It is important to note that, in the past two years, the part-time staff has been reduced by almost 50 percent. This is a further indicator that a full-time Harbormaster is not needed for Mattapoisett. If there is a problem with service, the Maine Advisory Board should be informed. The Selectmen need more justification than bureaucratic “updates” for proposing this change.
The Waterfront Enterprise Fund pays the salary of the Harbormaster and assistants. The fund is revenue neutral, as are all other town Enterprise Funds. In other words, fees from boaters — not the General Fund — pay all costs associated with the harbor. The cost to boaters, who pay the waterfront costs, should be kept at an absolute minimum so that all of our residents can afford to have a boat in this beautiful harbor. Employee costs are a significant part of the budget. The cost of a full-time harbormaster will more than double the general salary amount for the position due to the increased salary, benefits (including health insurance) and vehicle.
The Selectmen appear to justify a full-time position by consolidating the Shellfish Warden and Harbormaster in the same position. This may be the case in other communities, but it does not make sense in Mattapoisett. The responsibilities and duties are not at all similar and should remain separate. The knowledge of shellfish and the shellfish environment is much different than the requirements for boat safety, navigation, docks or emergency responses. It doesn’t make sense that the Harbormaster is in charge of both, given the different expertise required.
Mattapoisett has benefited greatly from the regridding of the harbor and the dinghy dock project. Countless volunteer hours on the part of Marine Advisory Board members and others, with substantial oversight by the past and present harbormasters, are the reason the improvements were achieved while maintaining the lowest boater fees in the area. A full-time harbormaster that is also responsible for enforcing shellfish beds and regulations would not have had the expertise to achieve that work. More likely, there would be more consultant fees. The town, and especially the boating community, needs to understand what services it will gain at what cost before agreeing to a change. It is important that we keep the staff and Harbormaster part-time in our town and keep the costs affordable.
Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board Member
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