Final SEC Grant No Slam Dunk

The plan to finance construction of Marion’s new Marine Center at Island Wharf was predicated on two $1,000,000 grants from the state’s Seaport Economic Council, which first granted Marion $300,000 before adding the first of the aforementioned $1,000,000 grants.

            “I don’t have high hopes for the final installment,” said Harbormaster Isaac Perry, who said he will send in the final grant application, “but … I’ll believe it when I see it.”

            All three harbormasters, Perry, Adam Murphy and David Wilson, were on deck for Monday night’s public meeting of the Marine Resources Commission at the Music Hall.

            Boat maintenance will be expensive this year, as Perry noted problems with the lower unit on the Harbormaster Department patrol boat. Having budgeted $10,000 for maintenance and repair, Perry said $11,000 has already been spoken for, and all three department boats still need to be winterized.

            Until Marion’s facilities are completed, boats like town vehicles have no sheltered storage. Perry said he will take funds from Marine Supply budget and told the commission the department has a spare 300 horsepower motor if something goes wrong.

            A motor for the town’s pump-out boat was ordered on September 1, 2021; Perry anticipates its delivery in January. “The Clean Vessel Act hopefully will cover some of those expenses,” he said. There are 1,600 hours on the current motor.

            Overall, Fiscal Year 2022 revenue is just shy of $467,000 against expenses coming in slightly over $466,000, so the Harbormaster Department is putting away approximately $10,000 into the Waterways Account.

            Perry’s perusal of social media indicates a lot more boaters are using the Bird Island dock, which was designed for center-console (smaller) vessels, but large ones are also docking there. That has prompted Perry to get that float out of the water earlier in the season than in the past. In October, the Harbormaster Department will remove many of the channel speed markers.

            The extra efforts put forth by the department thanks in large part to Perry’s experienced and knowledgeable staff will require some serious reinvention should the town not figure out a way to fiscally manage the effects of the national Police Reform Act of 2020.

            According to Perry, Chief of Police Richard Nighelli was scheduled to meet on Tuesday with other area police chiefs. “We’ll have a lot better idea of what that will entail … next couple of months we’ll know more,” he said.

            Centralized, standardized training will, on one hand, authorize the Harbormaster Department to act more confidently knowing it will have union backing in the wake of incidents or arrests, but the reconfiguration of leadership will come with financial leverages.

            “Day-to-day operations will run the same way,” said Perry, noting the added level of oversight. “The overriding concern is, if we don’t do this, the law-enforcement duties will fall to the Police Department rather than us. There are a lot of costs associated with that. … This police reform has been shaky at best … there are many, many questions. If we can get ourselves under the Police Department, then the Harbormaster Department continues as known … but if not, it changes drastically.”

            Core responsibilities would remain the same, stressed Perry.

            MRC member Scott Cowell asked the three harbormasters if they think that they should go under the Police Reform Bill. “Too many questions out there for the town to just accept it,” he said.

            “Absolutely,” answered Perry, noting that their training is right in line with police officers. “We have to maintain this for our certification to remain law-enforcement officers. … There is no other training.”

            What concerns Perry is, should the Harbormaster Department not become part of the Police Department, the resulting effects will have harbormasters seeking “better opportunities out there.

            “I’m not worried about civil service. I’m worried about the operations that I run. We need to get through this and get on with it.”

            According to Perry, police reform has far-reaching economic effects beyond harbormasters to campus police, hospital police, sheriffs, etc.

            MRC Chairman Vin Malkoski said, “If a town decides to go it alone, I don’t see the incentive. The town does all the problem solving.”

            “It’s a huge expense. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” agreed Perry. “Remember, we’re employees at will. (Once harbormasters become part of the Police Department), we will be afforded the protection of the union.”

            Murphy looks forward to the change and to be equipped with a body camera.

            “The Cape and Islands and North Shore are so far apart,” he said. “The North Shore is all going police … the Cape is holding strong at the bridge … ‘We’re not cops, we’re harbormasters.’ But now with police reform and no reserve academy … it’s going to go that way, it’s just a matter of time. We’re always going to do what Marion does and that’s the right thing.”

            A growing concern of entitlement among boaters has Marion’s Harbormaster Department looking forward to all the tools and protection of the Police Department.

            Finally, Malkoski noted that the Select Board has received the MRC’s recommendations and is interviewing candidates for commission membership.

            The MRC set its next meeting for Monday, October 17, at 7:00 pm, at the Music Hall.

Marion Marine Resources Commission

By Mick Colageo

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