Mattapoisett Losing Mobile Pump-Out Service

On August 30, Mattapoisett Harbormaster Jill Simmons reported to the Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board (MAB) that pump-out services provided by Mattapoisett Boat Yard (MBY) would end in 2018.

Simmons explained that MBY simply could not continue to provide the service as it wasn’t profitable. With that grim reality, Simmons said she hoped the town would plan to acquire a pump-out boat to ensure that mobile service could continue.

“People don’t want to take what limited recreation time they have to pump their boats out at the wharf,” Simmons explained. The convenience of having a mobile pump-out service has been one that boaters in Mattapoisett waters have enjoyed for years; losing that service will be a big blow to them, she said.

According to Simmons, David Kaiser, general manager of the MBY, had informed her of the situation, which prompted her to look into cost estimates should the voters decide to purchase their own boat, something that she had suggested and planned for during a previous municipal budgeting season. That plan, however, was nixed at an annual town meeting.

Simmons said the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries governs a federal program that provides grants up to $75,000 to municipalities to purchase a pump vessel. These grants are part of the federal Clean Water Act, first enacted in the 1940s. Cost estimates for a pump-out boat were being investigated, she said.

The Town of Mattapoisett currently provides shore side pump-out service located at the end of Long Wharf. Simmons said the shore side equipment currently needs about $17,000 in repairs and upgrades, of which she said approximately $4,300 would be paid for through federal grants.

MAB Chairman Carlos DeSousa said, “We need to take this to Town Meeting.”

In other matters, DeSousa opened discussions regarding the need to consolidate mooring classifications that currently separate commercial and business status. He said that previously the local regulations scheduled 10 percent of all moorings to a business classification that allowed marinas to hold a certain number for their customers. That allowed marinas to provide mooring services to customers without the worry of what had been a historically long waiting list for moorings. Now, however, with the wait list eliminated through better grid planning and an increased mooring field, there were 30 moorings unassigned.

DeSousa suggested that both classifications could be melded into a singular business classification allowing the marinas to use them as needed for their business operation. Simmons said she believed that the two classifications were local distinctions versus anything mandated by state regulators. The commercial classification allowed marinas to rent moorings, while the business classification did not, it was pointed out.

“[The marinas] are in business: they know what they need,” DeSousa said. Simmons agreed, saying, “I’d leave it up to them.”

In attendance were representatives from Triad Boat Yard, Brownell Boat Yard, and Leisure Shore Marina. They were unanimously in favor of the rule change. While none said they wanted to be in the mooring rental business, having a few for rent would help their operations.

A cautionary note was lobbied into the discussion when MAB member Bob Moore said, “The Inspector General is adamant that these are public waters. Boat yards are not allowed to put anyone ahead of a town person. But with the extra moorings we now have, that might not be so relevant.” He added, “The Inspector General is concerned that everyone goes through the Harbormaster’s Office.”

That brought up a sticking point for Simmons who said that marinas were not keeping her fully informed regarding boats staying on moorings for more then 14 days (in the agitate) in a season. Any boat moored in Mattapoisett for that period of time is required to pay a permit fee, Simmons said. Lack of notification by marinas made fee collection nearly impossible, Simmons explained. The marina representatives acknowledged their role while at the same time wondering aloud how such notification would be managed on a day-to-day basis.

On the matter of another type of notification to the Harbormaster’s Office, Simmons reported that she had sent a letter to Leisure Shores Marina asking for a list of boats and owners per the Harbor Rules. She stated that 30 of the 54 boats noted were cited for not having Waterways User stickers.

In the end, it was determined that the selectmen would be notified that the MAB suggests a rule change eliminating the commercial classification for some moorings and that Simmons would draft a letter to them in that regard.

Simmons also reported that the two vessels used by her department were not suitable for the type of activities her staff is required to perform and was actively securing cost estimates for a new harbormaster boat. She said that domestic cost estimates ranged around $150,000. A source in Canada quoted closer to $85,000 per vessel.

Another issue Simmons raised was the use of private vehicles by herself and her staff for departmental activities. She said that municipal planning indicated the Harbormaster’s Office would inherit an SUV from the Police Department, but she wasn’t convinced it would be totally suitable, although she said she would be grateful to have it. She called this issue a “priority” due to the liability issues associated with the use of private vehicles for business purposes.

Simmons also stated in her written reports, “Since [May 10, 2018], we have issued 161 warning stickers for violations such as winter sticks not being removed … no boat stickers on moorings, slips, dinghy spots, or kayak racks, and failure to have a boat property registered.” She wrote that citation documents were now in hand, allowing “finable offenses under the Harbor Rules” to be issued.

On the theme of security in and around the wharves, Simmons said she has the capacity to add security cameras to Internet connections already in place. However, she said that to date, funds had not been allocated to purchasing equipment. Simmons said her plans would include live streaming so that those wishing to “see” in real-time what’s going on at this iconic location could do so. She said that people who have mobility issues could view the harbor side while, at the same time, would-be vandals and thieves – both real problems at this location, she stressed – could be videotaped.

Moore said that possibly the Lions Club could partner with the Town in providing webcam equipment for security purposes as well as community engagement. He said he would follow up with the Lions Club at their next meeting.

Simmons also offered a packet containing what she termed blog-like snippets of the daily activities of her staff. She said the wide-range of interactions and situations her staff encountered during the boating season might surprise the public. Some entries were the expected such as assisting disabled vessels to shore. Some were downright comedic like this entry, “Assist boater who thought he lost his boat. Boat on mooring; he just couldn’t find it.” Simmons hopes to make these logs available to the public either through print or social media.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board is scheduled for September 27 at 7:00 pm in the town hall conference room.

Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board

By Marilou Newell


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