Harbormaster Highlights Long List of Duties

            In a matter of days if not hours, anyone can access a PowerPoint presentation at marionma.gov and find out exactly what a harbormaster does 24-7-365.

            The Marion Select Board was treated on Tuesday night to a comprehensive overview of the duties and responsibilities performed regularly and situationally by the town’s Harbormaster Department.

            Despite criticism of the new Marine Center construction coming to Island Wharf, there was no hint of defensiveness in Marion Harbormaster Isaac Perry’s presentation to the board. More so, it was a matter-of-fact breakdown of what goes on under his management and that of Deputy Harbormaster/Shellfish Officer Adam Murphy, Assistant Harbormaster David Wilson and a few seasonal, part-time employees and a shared administrative assistant.

            The number of the areas within Perry’s purview was staggering, as many maintenance duties that theoretically could be subcontracted are handled in-house. Those include but are not limited to maintenance issues relating to the current headquarters and the maintenance of department boats and vehicles.

            Management is a key skill because it applies to all kinds of areas in a department small enough to run like a small business.

            It begins with training and recertifications under the requirements set forth for police officers by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

            The required recruit officer training course lasts 21 weeks or 840 hours and is only the prelude to more training required to be a harbormaster or shellfish officer. There are also the annual and biannual trainings such as what is required to carry a hoisting license.

            At the heart of what the harbormaster does is law enforcement between April and November inclusive. In 2021, Marion’s Harbormaster Department fielded 44 distress calls and 226 other nondistress calls.

            “We’re not big on writing citations,” said Perry, who reported having issued 12 violations in 2021. He prefers to stress the educational component.

            Each season has its emphasis, but there is little of the job that doesn’t occur at any time. Parking and littering issues at shoreline access points have been a major headache in May and June when recreational fishing increases.

            Marion’s pump-out service generates an annual $17,500 in maximum reimbursement funding, out of which seasonal, part-time employees are paid. It also funds maintenance on a basis of 75 percent funded with a 25 percent match.

            With service available from May to October, pumping out 900 boats per year puts 16,000 gallons of sewage into the town system; Perry says that typically it is the same boats being serviced.

            The educational component resurfaces with boating-safety classes to help people meet license requirements for different age groups. Separate classes are held for Fire Department personnel at a maximum of 25 students per class. The two-day classes are held free of charge.

            As an administrator, Perry oversees the management of approximately 1,800 individual permits per year relating to moorings, boats, slips, racks, etc., along with furnishing an excise tax list for the Assessor’s office.

            Perry credits Select Board administrative assistant Donna Hemphill for creating a mooring database that he considers “a real game changer.” Putting the database online makes it available on boats and in the harbormaster’s office, which is geographically separated from administrative assistance out of the Town House.

            Then there is grant funding procurement. In addition to the grants awarded the new Marine Center by the state’s Seaport Economic Council, the Clean Vessels Act (CVA) funds Marion’s pump-out service. Annual reports are filed, and regulations are reviewed and updated.

            Marion currently has eight commercial fishing permits in town, along with 365 recreational permits and four aquaculture permits. The town itself grows its own shellfish; this year 150,000 oysters are growing off Island Wharf.

            Where the Harbormaster Department saves Marion money is in spending $10,000 for offseason maintenance of 35 floats measuring at least 6×30 feet and weighing approximately 4,000 pounds. The department built 28 of the 35. To subcontract the maintenance work would cost the town an annual $30,000 to $35,000. The replacement value of the floats is $250,000.

            Markers aka PATONS number 35 in total and like the lifesaving gear and public bathrooms in Memorial Park, need maintenance during the launching season from late March into early June.

            With 70 individual moorings, there is 7,000 feet of chain. If not maintained in house, it would cost the town $300 per float adding up to $24,000 per year (not including any storm event – a hurricane would double the number if the maintenance were subcontracted.)

            The department’s arm extends to assist other programs such as the town’s Community Sailing Program and Marion Recreation and Natural History Museum. The department offers a safety boat, radio help and sets race markers for regattas hosted by the Beverly Yacht Club and visiting clubs. It instructs lifeguards and installs swim markers.

            The fireworks to be held on Friday, July 1, will be policed by the Harbormaster Department, which executed the permit on behalf of the town with the U.S. Coast Guard and will keep 200 or more vessels outside the 1,000-foot security zone around the barge.

            In other business, the Select Board held off from approving the Beverly Yacht Club’s request for street closures for its 150th anniversary gala on July 23 pending notification of impacted properties.

            In his Town Administrator’s Report, Jay McGrail told the board that the town will host an Employee Appreciation Cookout on Wednesday, June 29, at the Cushing Community Center Pavilion at 12:00 pm.

            McGrail highlighted FY22 goals and said he will present FY23 goals at the board’s next meeting.

            Marion’s Independence Day Parade will begin at 9:00 am on July 4.

            Volunteers are still needed for the Town Party scheduled for August 27 at Silvershell Beach.

            Select Board Chairman Randy Parker agreed to join McGrail for a meeting requested by the state Department of Environmental Protection regarding denitrification in septic systems. Marion has a regulation, and the state is planning one of its own, but McGrail was told that will be a “lengthy process.”

            On July 20 and 21, Marion’s Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan will come into focus as cost is realized in meetings with the Buzzards Bay Coalition and Weston & Sampson. A public meeting will be scheduled for July 20 at 4:00 pm at the Music Hall.

            The Tri-Town Against Racism Little Free Library will soon be relocated from Old Landing.

            The board approved the appointment of Michael Moore from alternate to full member of the Marine Resources Commission. Moore will fill Select Board member Toby Burr’s term, which is set to expire on June 30, 2023.

            The board approved McGrail’s plan to stagger three-year terms on town boards and committees so they don’t all end the same year. This will extend expiring terms to the Select Board’s next meeting.

            Despite a vote last year to approve, Juneteenth was not added to the town’s Personnel Policy. On Tuesday, the board approved its addition.

            The board (minus Parker who recused himself) approved of Sippican Lands Trust’s application for a one-day liquor license at the Marion Art Center for its Birds and Bourbon event on July 10 from 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

            The board also approved the Marion Social Club’s applications for three one-day liquor licenses that will authorize the Chicken Bake on June 10 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm, the Senior Chicken Bake on August 21 from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm and the Town Party on August 27 from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

            The board voted to approve water-sewer commitments final readings of $992.06 (June 3), $1,102.28 (June 8) and $1,305.99 (June 9.)

            Because Matt Schultz was unavailable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, the board held off on his appointment to the role of associate member with the Conservation Commission. Schultz comes with an enthusiastic recommendation from the ConCom membership.

            The next meeting of the Marion Select Board is scheduled for Tuesday, July 12, at 6:00 pm under the Cushing Community Center Pavilion.

Marion Select Board

By Mick Colageo

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