Westport Board of Selectmen notes …

Westport rule changes — jet skis, water skis, winter moorings

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 11/8/19

Westport’s Harbor Advisory Committee hopes for approval of rule changes that would impact jet skis, water skiers and those who keep their boats on moorings over the winter.

Selectmen approved at …

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Westport Board of Selectmen notes …

Westport rule changes — jet skis, water skis, winter moorings

Posted

Westport’s Harbor Advisory Committee hopes for approval of rule changes that would impact jet skis, water skiers and those who keep their boats on moorings over the winter.
Selectmen approved at their October 28 meeting a request from Chris Leonard, director of marine services, to hold a public hearing sometime in December on a request to amend the town’s waterways Rules and Regulations.
As things stand now, Mr. Leonard said, personal watercraft and water skiing are lumped together in the rules, yet the state views personal watercraft as vessels.
A problem, he said, is that jet skis are not allowed under the present rules to operate in the river channels yet the channel is the only way in and out, especially at low tide.
The rule change would allow personal watercraft to operate in the channel at no-wake speed.
Water skiing and tubing, however, would be prohibited in the channel (they are presently allowed at no-wake speed, something Mr. Leonard says makes about as much sense as allowing someone to be towed up Main Road behind a pickup truck).
“We don’t want people water skiing in the channel” — anyone falling off would be a sitting duck, he said.

Winter moorings
Another change would prohibit keeping boats on moorings from December 21 to March 21 within harbor Area B — from Fontaine Bridge to the mouth of the harbor.
The problem, Mr. Leonard said, is that some boat owners have been keeping large boats, both sail and power, on moorings year-round.
These boats and moorings are vulnerable to ice floes moving about in the river, he said. By prohibiting that practice, “If an ice flow cuts off a large boat, we won’t have to deal with it.” A boat that breaks loose becomes a projectile, he said, that can damage other boats and docks.
Mr. Leonard said he checked with Tripps Boat Yard — “They make their customers get off their moorings by November 15.” By giving people until December 21, the town would provide them “plenty of time to find a place at a dock to keep their boat for the winter.”
Asked by selectman Brian Valcourt whether an allowance should be made for someone who lives on the moored boat over the winter, Mr. Leonard said he is not aware of any boaters living aboard in the winter at present in Area B except for several who tie to docks at Tripps.
Would you consider making such an allowance given that some people who have fallen on hard times choose to live on boats, Mr. Valcourt asked.
The Harbor Advisory Committee will discuss it, Mr. Leonard said, adding that he has concerns.
“I think living on a boat probably wouldn’t be the best solution,” he said. “We definitely do not want a bunch of derelict boats with squatters rights … (That) turns into a nightmare for us,” especially when such boats are abandoned and the town faces the considerable cost of disposal. He added that they are dealing with just such a case now involving a boat abandoned near the Hix Bridge boat ramp.

Boaters — stay in the channel
• In other waterfront news, Mr. Leonard told selectmen that they’ve lately had issues with people running aground in the federal channel, “specifically around the Spindle area.”
There have been three cases in just the past few weeks of sail and power boats in the 40 foot range “cutting the channel.” While that may have worked years ago, it’s a bad idea now, he said.
Two of the boats sustained little damage but one was damaged — “it could only do circles in reverse” and had to be towed in.
So “please, stay in the channel.”
• The Shellfish Department recently planted 25,000 legal sized oysters in “bony” (rocky and hard bottom) waters south of Cadman’s Neck that should be a good place for the oysters to latch on. “We are trying to rebuild that oyster reef.
The department is also waiting for the right upper 40s water temperature to plant 800,000 thumbnail sized oysters in the river — just cold enough to keep predators at bay.
And the department also intends to plant 210,000 scallops in the river.
Mr. Leonard announced that those efforts were bolstered by another successful Shellstock event. This year’s Shellstock, at Buzzards Bay Brewery, grossed $18,000.

In pursuit of late taxes
Selectmen Steven Ouellette’s push to collect some $632,000 in back taxes owed to the town picked up steam at Monday’s meeting. Most of those taxes involve properties and some of the properties owe taxes going back as far as 2004.
Town Treasurer Brad Brightman reported that 76 properties are now in the tax title process and the owners will be getting letters shortly recommending that they pay up promptly.
He said that circumstances behind the debts vary — from genuine financial crises, to divorces, family disputes and those who simply don’t treat payment as a priority. He said one resident was prompted to pay up in order to qualify for a beach pass.
Mr. Ouellette said he wants to publish the names of delinquent property owners on the town website. Ultimately non-payment can result in a lien on the property and possible tax sale.

Treasury on the mend
“We love to see you, we just hope not to see you so much.”
Board of Selectmen chairwoman Shana Shufelt greeted consultant Eric Kinsherf, the accountant hired hired over ten months ago to rescue the town Treasurer’s Department, with those words at the board’s October 28 meeting.
This time, Mr. Kinsherf came bearing his “final report” and glad tidings.
There are now new processes and procedures in the treasurer’s office that enabled the audit to be completed, he said.
What’s more, the cash reconciliations, once more than a year behind, are up to date, “material weaknesses” in the office have been resolved and internal controls have been addressed.
“I’m happy to say that the treasurer’s office did pick up the ball and are doing reconciliations all on their own. I feel that the treasurer’s office isn equipped with all of the tools and skills to to this independently,”Mr. Kinsherf said.
Karen Raus, vice chairwoman of the town Finance Committee and one of those who was deeply involved in efforts to get the department caught up, thanked Mr. Kinsherf. “It’s been a long and winding year and road. It’s nice to see a complete turnaround on a year.
Elected treasurer Brad Brightman is serving out his term after which selectmen will appoint future treasurers, a change approved by Town Meeting voters. That transition process has already begun and the search is on for potential treasurers.

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