Calling it an emergency situation, the town has bypassed the normal bidding process in order to haul an abandoned boat from Blue Bell Cove.
The 44-foot Egg Harbor sunk in the cove in August 2011 during Hurricane Irene and has been an eyesore — and navigational hazard — ever since.
At Monday’s meeting, Town Council member Keith Hamilton said now that boating season is fast approaching, he’s worried that a jet-skier may not see the vessel and crash into it.
“At high tide, you can see very little of it and that’s my concern,” said Mr. Hamilton, adding that the owner has abandoned the vessel and has no financial means to remove it himself. “He’s already been fined $7,000 at this point and he’s not going to pay that.”
Under a state law passed last year, the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is prioritizing which abandoned boats need to be taken out of the water first, Mr. Hamilton said. DEM has talked about placing a lien on the boat owner’s property and it’s possible that the state could reimburse the town for the full cost of the hauling, he said.
Mr. Hamilton presented the council with quotes from two different businesses that were contacted by Town Administrator John Klimm and Police Chief Jeffrey Furtado: $23,400 from Mac Marine Maintenance in Tiverton, and $20,000 from Coastal Diving Services in Middletown.
Finance Director David Faucher cautioned the council that the two quotes were solicited informally. Under the town’s rules, he said, the council should formally go out to bid for items exceeding $10,000.
Council President James Seveney, however, said it’s permissible to bypass the normal bidding process in emergency situations, which he believed this to be.
“In fact, I’m the knucklehead jet-skier who will run into it,” said Mr. Seveney.
He said he favored using the higher bidder — Mac Marine — because its proposal included the safe removal of any hazardous materials such as oil and fuel that may still be on the boat.
Council member Liz Pedro said she wasn’t sure if the boat’s presence was really an emergency. “That boat has been there for so long I don’t think there’s any fuel left in it,” she said.
Chief Furtado said it’s difficult to say “what’s on that boat right now,” but that “it’s clearly a hazard.”
The council voted 5-1, with Ms. Pedro against, to hire Mac Marine. Ms. Pedro said the town should instead place buoys around the boat and formally go out to bid.
Mac Marine will be asked to attend the council’s next regular meeting to report on its work.
“If they’re quick enough it will already be gone,” said Mr. Seveney.