Conflicting Narratives End in Revocation of Aquaculture License

            By the time the revocation of Shea Doonan’s aquaculture license got to the Marion Board of Selectmen at its September 8 meeting at the Music Hall, the license had been suspended for three weeks and nothing the selectmen decided was likely to override a decision that had essentially already been made at the state level.

            Nonetheless, a heated debate ensued when Harbormaster Isaac Perry and Assistant Harbormaster Adam Murphy officially recommended the selectmen revoke Doonan’s license in two locations, Ram Island and Mittons Flats. According to Perry, the two, half-acre sites became the subject of five documented issues and nine instances where gear washed away from the site.

            “That’s a big problem for us,” said Perry, noting that the other oyster growers in town have had “zero issues.” He said there have been ongoing problems since Doonan took over the site, “from winter to midsummer, pretty much non-stop.”

            With board approval, the action to revoke would require Doonan to clean up the sites within 60 days.

            Doonan was given an opportunity to speak and said, “The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.” He acknowledged two mistakes and said he accepts responsibility for those mistakes, including not keeping his log on his person while at the site, and accepted he would have to pay a fine. The rest of it, he said, is personal against him. “These guys, they don’t like me, I don’t like them. That’s the way it is.”

            Perry said that the nature of Doonan’s violations, especially with oysters being culled at market size, were being left out in the open and could potentially cause harm to consumers if marketed. Furthermore, he said that, should any fish farmer in Marion waters be the cause of a health hazard in a restaurant, all the farmers in town waters would have to be shut down.

            Doonan insisted he has not acted in bad faith.

            He said he invested $150,000 on the whole site and barely made a dollar. “This is going to be complete financial ruin. How can one incident after I gain approval be a death sentence? There’s no room between paying a fine and a complete death penalty,” protested Doonan. “This is my life. I put everything into this. I’m sorry, I made a mistake.”

            Perry said he hopes for a new applicant(s) to take over the sites.

            “Marion cannot legally remove product from the site so it’s a problem. The gear is in the water,” said Perry, who said there is a procedure moving forward should the gear not be transplanted to a new owner. After the 60 days, the town charges the owner $25 per day per person to remove it.

            He called the problem minor in the short term, “but the longer we wait the more gear comes off the site.”

            After the selectmen voted unanimously to revoke Doonan’s license, the latter repeated his assertion that the process “is a joke” and stormed out of the Music Hall.

            Town Administrator Jay McGrail asked Perry if he wanted Chief of Police John Garcia’s assistance, but Perry said he and Murphy would handle it.

            In a 4:10 pm appointment, Tangi Thomas and Alison Noyce appeared on behalf of Tritown Against Racism, and spoke as mothers of black children in the tri-towns.

            Thomas, who grew up in Marion, has two children, a son in the second grade and a daughter in the eighth grade. Noyce, a mother of four from Rochester including two teenage sons of color, said she is trying to create some change in the tri-towns.

            Under the banner “Tangi’s Drive for Diverse Books,” Thomas has collected hundreds of books to diversify and create new libraries focusing on black history.

            Both Thomas and Noyce told stories of racially motivated conflicts at school, some involving their own children. After a Facebook group was formed following a racially offensive social-media post by an ORR student during the 2019-20 school year, it became apparent to Noyce and Thomas that the time to actively pursue systemic change was now. They alluded to members of the black and brown community sharing painful stories.

            Thomas participated in the group’s meeting with the Old Rochester Regional Joint School Committee, where she expounded on ways to make real and lasting change and said that 155 people attended the Zoom meeting.

            Tritown Against Racism’s goal, they explained, is to create an anti-racist tri-town, and the representatives noted how ORR Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson has committed to partnering with the group including a representative at each school committee meeting. He has also committed to bi-monthly meetings with Tritown Against Racism.

            The group is also working with Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School and with Tabor Academy.

            Over 1,000 people are in Tritown Against Racism’s Facebook group and more members who are not on social media.

            “Although we believe black lives matter, we are not a Black Lives Matter organization,” said Noyce, calling Tritown Against Racism “a grassroots organization” with a mission statement to identify and change systemic and/or institutional racism and dismantle it in the tri-towns while enhancing education and celebrating diversity.

            Selectman John Waterman asked, “How will you measure success a year from now?” Noyce answered, “We’d like to come back here in a year if we can.” “I think you should, too,” said Waterman.

            In a 4:20 pm appointment, the selectmen voted to accept a donation of up to $250,000 from the Sippican Historical Society to fund renovations to the front entrance to the Town House. They also voted to approve an arrangement to oversee the project that will include landscaping, a wheelchair ramp and will bring the building back to its 19th century grandeur. Will Tifft, the president, past president Frank McNamee and David Croll represented the donors.

            Among the other action items, the board approved the appointment of David Wilson as Special Police Officer for one-year probationary period. Wilson, as Garcia explained, is the town’s assistant harbormaster, in addition to being a 2014 Mass Maritime Academy graduate.

            “This helps us in a number of scenarios … Mr. Wilson has done a fantastic job for the town,” said McGrail.

            Also approved was a change prohibiting overnight parking at several locations listed at Parking overnight at Island Wharf is still allowed with a permit.

            Already below desired membership levels, the Zoning Board of Appeals is going through a personnel emergency after the passing of a member last week, the withdrawal of two aspiring members, and the intended resignation of another. The selectmen approved the addition of Jim Ryba, a retired prosecutor now living back in Marion after a career in New Hampshire, and Dr. Ed Hoffer, the chairperson of the Marion Board of Health.

            Ryba was interviewed during the meeting, but Hoffer was not present and resident Barry Gaffey said he would like to ask Hoffer a couple of questions. Gaffey disapproved of Hoffer’s role in condemning a home in town. Hills, who works with Hoffer regularly, vouched for his capabilities and fairness. The selectmen considered Gaffey’s debate to be hypothetical in nature and, once the discussion had been aired out, approved both appointments.

            The selectmen approved the Energy Management Committee’s addition of three new members, Tom Friedman, Alanna Nelson and Alex Roy, and approved the addition of an alternate, non-voting position so that member Jennifer Francis could volunteer to become the committee’s alternate member.

            In a brief Town Administrator’s Report, McGrail said Marion anticipates receiving $71,153.57 on Thursday through Plymouth County’s administration of CARES Act reimbursement funding. It is the first of four rounds of Marion’s $655,000 allowance in COVID-related, non-budgeted reimbursement requests. Marion’s second-round request, said McGrail, will top $250,000.

            The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectman is scheduled for Tuesday, September 22, at 4:00 pm at the Music Hall.

Marion Board of Selectmen

By Mick Colageo

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