Harbormaster Defends Staffing

            Given the floor in Monday night’s Zoom meeting of the Marion Marine Resources Commission, Harbormaster Isaac Perry made a point amidst a lengthy report of refuting a comment made by Dr. Edward Hoffer, who characterized three full-time, year-round department staffers as “overkill” during a meeting last week with assembled press to announce his candidacy for the Select Board seat that John Waterman will vacate in May.

            Hoffer spoke to several issues facing the town, but Perry told the MRC that he has “been bombarded with calls” about his remark vis-a-vis harbormaster department staffing.

            The department is already reeling due to the reclassification of Associate Harbormaster/Shellfish Officer Adam Murphy’s job, which will result in an increased departmental budget for FY23. Police-reform measures have also trickled down to the Harbormaster Department, resulting in greater expense.

            “I would have to outsource things,” said Perry if his staff were to be cut and said that would result in greater expense to the town. “I don’t think this is the time to put on the brakes and go into cruise control in managing the harbor.”

            In response to Select Board member John Waterman’s request for a revenue and expense report, Perry told the MRC on Monday that the department has collected an all-time-high $478,000 in revenue. A fee increase in 2019 netted an additional $35,000.

            Increased costs in maintenance and overtime due to the reclassification of employees raised expenses to approximately $468,000, leaving the department only $10,000 ahead.

            Perry told the MRC that he would meet with Town Administrator Jay McGrail on Tuesday and would forward to the MRC a FY15-21 revenues and expenses report that will highlight two dozen main responsibilities that fall on the Harbormaster Department. “It answers a lot of the questions as to what you guys do in the offseason,” said Perry.

            Perry estimates that revenue increased by $115,000 via the “hands-on management of the big picture that has gotten us to this point. We don’t pat ourselves on the back a lot, but that’s an impressive number,” he said, crediting town office staff for helping the department reach this point.

            Moorings and boats, said Perry, make up the primary revenue source to the town’s Waterways account. The current transition to a smaller office space and records being kept in a separate location has slowed the process of printing out 2022 invoices, he said.

            Since the town sold its Atlantis Drive property, storage has been at a premium and according to Perry, became “painfully obvious during repairs from the storm.” He said a capital project from a few years ago to replace channel markers has them sitting outside for lack of indoor storage.

            Following the lead of the Council on Aging, plans are in place for two 20-foot containers at Island Wharf for equipment storage. The showers under the current harbormaster’s office are being used for paints, batteries and tools.

            “Ultimately, the plan is to take over what (will by then be) the former DPW site,)” said Perry, projecting out a couple of years.

            MRC Chairman Vin Malkoski applauded Perry’s effort.

            Perry also reported that commercial mooring transfer regulations, approved by the MRC in November and eventually the Select Board, have been updated and are now online. Since then, Perry said no requests for license applications have been made. “Much like the aquaculture regulations, we’re not looking to advertise this stuff, just want to have something in writing for past practice,” he said.

            The only change in the regulation was the addition of a sentence indicating that the town allows the transfer of commercial moorings to marine-related businesses, something Perry acknowledged has been a past practice, only now it is codified. He estimates Marion has 1,400 moorings on the books with a little over 1,300 of them active. “I credit a lot of it to that mooring database,” he said.

            In his report, Murphy told the commission that senior biologist Greg Sawyer is retiring and called him “a great resource for us. We’re really going to miss Greg; he was always there when we needed him.”

            Malkoski noted that he has prior experience working with Matt Camisa, Sawyer’s replacement who was running surveys for the state’s Marine Fisheries department.

            Marion is waiting on the availability of a 200-horsepower, outboard motor replacement for its pump-out boat. In 2021, the town pumped out 876 boats or 16,000 gallons of waste. The town has a 300-horsepower, outboard motor in storage but would not chance its installation on the pump-out boat. “It would be fun for a couple of minutes, though, I’m sure,” said Perry.

            MRC member Peter Borsari asked about the smaller boats Marion used to have. “We’ve certainly looked at that. Adam has let the harbor use his personal boat,” noted Perry, who said that the town used to have a 13-foot Carolina skiff. “Now smallest they make is 18-foot.”

            Perry said they could rig a smaller engine to the pump-out boat but would not be sufficiently equipped to leave the harbor.

            Regarding the Maritime Center, Marion’s next grant application into the Seaport Economic Council must be delivered by May 1. The working plan is to begin construction on the Maritime Center in 2023, said Perry with any work to update the bathrooms and storage space to be done after completion of the main facility.

            Parking, said Perry, is something that the town plans to address on a village-wide scale. Perry credited Murphy for donating equipment for short-term parking solutions.

            MRC member Greg Houdelette asked about the drainage swales at Island Wharf. Perry said that an arborist visited the site, and that since only “a handful of things” could be saved the plan is to clear-cut the area, plant grass and other plantings that won’t completely overrun. “The key there is maintenance,” said Perry, noting that the area has not been touched for several years.

            Malkoski said that once in-person meetings are back in swing, the MRC will try to get its meetings back into the Music Hall.

            The next MRC meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 28, at 7:00 pm.

Marion Marine Resources Commission

By Mick Colageo

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