It only took 45 minutes for the pros and cons of proposed increases to marine fees vetted in an October 5 public hearing to be aired, debated, and reviewed, but when all was said and done, the 20-percent average increases to the boating community received unanimous approval from the Mattapoisett Select Board.
Coming forward to outline the increases and the rational for them was Harbormaster Jamie McIntosh. “New services have been added, some infrastructure has been upgraded, but we can’t continue on at this pace without a rate increase of about 20-percent,” said McIntosh, noting that in some cases fees remain unchanged in line with no new service requirements. “We are just below average of other towns along Buzzards Bay.”
The fees are as follows after the increases: Mooring with boat and boat sticker $75 with resident per-foot rate $2.50 and non-resident rate $6; small boat fee in kayak/canoe rack $50; inner harbor mooring fee $120; outer harbor mooring fee $120; commercial mooring $160; commercial slip $160; commercial boat $85; swim float $60; wharf space fee $60 per foot; skiff space fee $180; skiff sticker $60; dinghy dock space $120; dinghy sticker $60; pig pile space $20; replacement sticker $10. Seniors over the age of 65: mooring with boat sticker fee $75; resident $1.25 per foot; skiff fee space $90; skiff sticker $30; replacement sticker $10.
Select Board Chairman Jordan Collyer said that the requested increases are part of a staged three-part fee increase planned to unfold over about seven years. “We did it this way to avoid a big hit,” he said, noting that the last increase was in 2017 and that this rate increase is the second incremental stage of the bigger plan. “We need retained earnings to help with upkeep of infrastructure.”
Select Board member Jodi Bauer questioned the increase, saying, “Some of these rates are more than 20-percent, they’re 25-percent.” Member Tyler Macallister said, “The average is 20-percent.”
Collyer said that the waterfront is a true enterprise fund with revenue generated from fees going directly into services used by the boating community. Other areas such as the parking and wharves are deemed assets used by everyone, therefore not paid for from the Waterfront Enterprise Fund. Bauer asked when the next rate increase would be scheduled. Collyer responded in about five years and restated that property taxes do not support the Waterfront Enterprise Fund.
But the numbers didn’t add up for Capital Planning Chairman Chuck McCullough.
McCullough started by pointing out that in 2015, the Harbormaster Department budget was $118,000; in 2018 it was $187,000, and in 2022, $266,000, a trend that would soon find the department in the million-dollar category, he projected, over the next 10 years.
What McCullough asked for was two-fold: first, a willingness on the part of the board to table its vote to a later day so that, secondly, a review of the department’s goals and long-range planning could be undertaken. While saying on the one hand that he wasn’t questioning where the department is today, McCullough pointed to a need to understand where the department is headed, especially in terms of big-ticket improvements.
Collyer said that, given the increased responsibilities the department has and will be taking on such as a restructuring of the shellfish program, a program McIntosh has experience in managing, an increase was warranted. “In 2015 we were grossly deficient in services,” said Collyer.
Chairman of the Marine Advisory Board Carlos DeSousa said, “We are in the middle of a five-year improvement plan. We’ve re-grid the mooring field and hired a full-time harbormaster, we have a new rescue boat and pump-out boat – we need to keep going. We’ve got all the pieces in place to move forward.” DeSousa said that the Marine Advisory Board had unanimously approved the increases.
Macallister added that McIntosh works alone through the winter months performing maintenance projects that would otherwise be outsourced at additional costs.
Public comment was limited, but resident Andrew Stackpole said he was concerned about “growing the department without a strategic plan.”
With no other comments forwarded, the public hearing was closed. Collyer asked for a motion to accept the fee increases; it was unanimously approved.
Before going into executive session, Collyer said, “To Chuck’s point,” then, directing his comments to MacIntosh, “let’s do a refresh on plans; let’s get a three-year rolling plan with key areas to ensure we aren’t missing anything.”
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Select Board is scheduled for Tuesday, October 12, at 6:30 pm.
Mattapoisett Select Board
By Marilou Newell