Harbormaster Tells Of Storm Damage

It should come as no surprise that Mattapoisett’s treasured and historic wharves suffered during the 2017-2018 storm season. Mattapoisett Harbormaster Jill Simmons shared highlights of the damage inflicted by storms during her presentation to the Mattapoisett Finance Committee on March 28.

Going back, Simmons says an early seasonal storm moved the ramp at Barstow wharf adjacent to the town beach, pushing it onto the fireboat tied up at the floating dock. Thankfully, there was no serious damage to the boat, said Simmons.

Then another storm on October 29, later reclassified as a hurricane, “…caused very significant damage to private boats and town property.” She reported that three floating dock ramps were damaged, with one being completely destroyed. Also, many dinghy docks need repairing or rebuilding along with the floating dock at Barstow that was ripped apart. Simmons said that same storm caused three groundings.

As Simmons moved the discussion to “present needs,” she said the dinghy dock system is “…woefully inadequate for the number of boats in the harbor.” She said, with approximately 1,000 moorings placed in the inner harbor, there was only space for 70 dinghies. A plan to add dingy space to the Barstow wharf area is currently under review, she said, but with evidence of new eelgrass beds, more study was necessary.

Adding to the difficulties boaters face, Simmons said launch services were insufficient due to long wait times and that launch service shuts down when Mattapoisett Boat Yard closes for the season, yet the season extended well into September.

Of work needed on the wharves themselves, Simmons said repair and replacement of pilings on the timber pier and Long Wharf was imperative.

The harbormaster boat sustained major damage during one of the storms, Simmons said, with repairs estimated at $2,000. She then repeated a position she has held for some time: the harbormaster boat is not the right type of craft for the job.

Calling it a “recreational” boat, she said it wasn’t suitable for public safety activities, noting that it takes three onboard personnel to pull in one petite-sized person in the event of a water rescue or recovery. She said she was currently researching decommissioned military and government watercraft.

Simmons also said the department would greatly benefit from a shallow draft craft that would allow greater flexibility for work inshore due to ease of maneuvering around the mooring field and coves.

Of the budget itself, Simmons presented a worksheet showing an increase of $28,722 over fiscal year 2018 – from $230,000 to $258,722.

Also coming before the Finance Committee was John DeCosta, chairman of the Community Preservation Act committee.

The committee has received three grant requests. The first is from the Town of Mattapoisett for repairs to the building located at the former Holy Ghost grounds on Park Street in the sum of $174,000.

Next, Freemin Bauer submitted a request for $75,000 for a new dog park to be located on land adjacent to the police station for $75,000.

Lastly, the VFW Florence Eastman Post requested $10,000 to study the current structural integrity of the historic Legion Hall.

Funding of the CPA program currently stands at $193,615, DeCosta said, including anticipated level funding from the state for $28,257. The grants will be voted on during the Annual Town Meeting should they be advanced to the warrant, DeCosta said.

Also during the meeting, Town Clerk Catherine Heuberger discussed the need to finance poll workers versus a combination of senior tax work-off staffing and paid staffing. The budget impact would be an increase to the department’s FY19 of $3,000. Heuberger also requested a 2% pay increase for her position, from $59,000 to $60,180.

On a humorous note, Heuberger presented a punctured and severely damaged dog tag saying that a resident had brought it in to show her the poor quality of the tags. The committee members chuckled when Heuberger said that a “puppy” had done the damage, causing Town Administrator Michael Gagne to say, “I wouldn’t want to see that puppy!”

Heuberger’s FY18 budget was $150,666 with a proposed $3,717 increase for FY19, bringing the department budget to $154,383.

The Mattapoisett Finance Committee’s next meeting was held on April 4 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.

(Disclosure: Marilou Newell is a member of the Community Preservation Act committee representing the Mattapoisett Historical Commission.)

Mattapoisett Finance Committee

By Marilou Newell


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