Marion Harbormaster Isaac Perry made his first appearance before the Marion Resources Commission since he recovered from a winter back surgery. Perry began with “a huge thank you to Adam (Murphy) and Dave (Wilson) for keeping the ball rolling while I was out.
“(Their efforts) really made the transition from surgery and recovery back to working quite a bit easier than I thought it was going to be,” said Perry.
Perry’s summary of Harbor Management and Capital Projects included a report that the town had collected $121,000 in revenue as of the MRC’s April 17 public meeting and estimated that with fee increases, there is another $400,000 left to collect.
The Marine Center, he said, will be on the Special Fall Town Meeting warrant. The town hopes to get it out to bid sometime in the summer, at which point Marion will have concrete numbers to put before voters.
Deputy Harbormaster/Shellfish Officer Adam Murphy is taking a conservative stance this year on oysters.
After reporting that shellfish is coming in for propagation specific to what is owed to Marion, he told the MRC he is not doing oysters, noting that Tabor Academy still has 150,000 continuing to grow, MRC member Scott Cowell asked Murphy about buying scallop seed.
Murphy said he has not.
“My goal would be to meet with the town administration and figure out, one, the propagation permits and the fees and where all the money’s going and work to figure out what we can spend on buying larger seed so that we can put out,” he said. “It costs more money to buy it, but I’d like to not waste money on smaller seed or scallops or oysters, whatever we decide, and use the money that we’re generating for propagation and actually buy the animals larger that we can put out with a better survivability and more of an abundance.
“So instead of just throwing money away, if you will, I figured we’d take a step back this year and figure out how many permits we’re selling and kind of study it a little bit, figure out what kind of revenue we’re bringing in, and then figure out what’s the best course of action as far as spending that money on what’s appropriate for the community.”
“You should start looking,” said Cowell, “because they usually don’t become available until back of July.”
“I’ve got to figure out how much money we can spend,” said Murphy. “We have $6,000 that we usually spend, so we have the up-waller, we have the quahog seed coming, but like I said, I didn’t want to buy oyster seed just to spend the money. We’re walking across oysters at this point.”
MRC Chairman Vin Malkoski referenced the winter appearance of Finance Director Judy Mooney and suggested it’s time to revisit the subject of indirect expenses, especially with the new revenue resulting from increased fees.
MRC member Peter Borsari addressed the controversial matter of indirect costs to the Harbormaster Department, asserting that the town unfairly holds down the Waterways Account.
Malkoski acknowledged that the town can legally take 50% of excise taxes. “But where it gets fuzzy,” he said, “is the discussions we had about the dinghy slips because those are bottom-anchored. And some of the other things where money’s being withdrawn that again, we contend. … Where that money comes from is part of the discussion.”
“We were told that the money never left,” said Borsari.
“That reality is, it’s not in the Waterways Account, and it’s being shown on the town record as being used for these other purposes,” said Malkoski.
“A portion of the indirects are costs that are generated by the (Harbormaster) Department,” said Perry, rattling off insurance policies, fuel and electricity as examples.
Borsari insisted he had been instructed that those monies are not taken away from the Waterways Account and said the matter remains confusing.
Murphy clarified that he had spoken on the matter at the MRC’s last meeting and said he is still seeking answers “on where, why, when and how” of indirect costs that also left him confused.
The dinghy dock revenues of $48,000, said Murphy, go into the general fund rather than the Waterways Account. “But the Waterways (Account) is supporting that through our budget to maintain it, so there’s a lot of things on there that I don’t think the town understands what goes into supporting that general-fund money.”
Murphy suggested it’s the MRC’s mission to make the town understand the Harbormaster Department’s plight.
“The floats in particular, that’s a 10-A permit, all day just like anyone’s mooring permit out there. There’s no difference,” said Perry. “So how that revenue goes toward the General Fund versus the Waterways Account is beyond me. I know the Finance director is going to look into that. That’s another thing we have to make sure of because, like you said, that’s a big chunk of change.”
Vice Chairman Greg Houdelette noted that the FY24 budget has been finalized for the May 8 Town Meeting, so there is no great rush to iron out the matter.
“Let me be clear, none of us are suggesting that the money is going someplace it shouldn’t go. It’s being used (by the town),” said Malkoski, who also noted that by state law, the harbor cannot serve as a profit source for the town.
Cowell finds it unacceptable that the three-person Harbormaster Department is hired at will and is not under contract like every other department head. Police reform has complicated their roles.
MRC member Cheryl Souza suggested the commissioners can appropriately plan a course of action once it’s known how things will shake out from the Police Department side of the matter.
Perry also reported that he anticipated Tabor Academy’s “day of service” to yield assistance in preparing boats for community service and plans to freshen up Island Wharf. Floats, he said, would be in the water two to three weeks behind last year’s schedule but in time for most boaters who arrive near the end of May and the beginning of June. Channel markers were expected over the final two weeks of April.
The Department of Public Works and the Water Dept, said Perry, will help the Harbormaster Department replace the sewer line at Island Wharf.
The sea wall at Island Wharf requires the filing of a Request for Determination of Applicability with the Conservation Commission. Conservation Agent Doug Guey-Lee assisted in the preparation of the application.
The new motor purchased through grant funding last year has been installed in the pump-out boat.
“Big thanks to (Murphy and Wilson) keeping the lights on while I was away,” said Perry.
The next meeting of the Marine Resources Commission is scheduled for Monday, May 15, at 7:00 pm.
Marion Marine Resources Commission
By Mick Colageo