TREMONT — After meeting for an hour in executive session with the town attorney Monday, selectmen voted 5-0 to take no action on the transfer of a mooring that had been questioned at an earlier meeting.
That’s good news for Richard Helmke, owner of Bass Harbor Boat, who has been dealing with uncertainty since former Harbormaster Greg Dow approved the transfer in 2014, shortly after Helmke purchased the business, which includes the mooring, from Robert “Chummy” Rich.
On Tuesday, Helmke said he is happy with the resolution and hopes it puts the issue to rest.
Although the transfer of the mooring was a topic at Harbor Committee meetings, the issue came to a head at an April 19 selectmen’s meeting, after being put on the agenda at the request of Selectman Dean Wass.
Under Tremont’s harbor ordinance, mooring permits are not transferrable with the exception of those used for commercial fishing. In that case, the mooring can be transferred to a member of the permit holder’s family as long as the mooring continues to be used for commercial fishing. Permits have to be in a person’s name; a corporation or other business entity cannot hold a permit.
Wass argued that the transfer from Rich to Helmke should not have occurred and violates the ordinance as well as state and federal law. If someone gives up a mooring, it should be offered to the person at the top of the waiting list, Wass said.
After considerable discussion, selectmen voted 4-0 to send the matter back to the Harbor Committee with the recommendation that Helmke be allowed use of Rich’s mooring “unless otherwise instructed not to.”
The Harbor Committee met April 28 and voted to “ratify the harbormaster’s transfer of the mooring permit from Chummy Rich to Rich Helmke that was done in 2014.” Wass, dissatisfied, asked for the issue to be on the agenda for Monday’s selectmen’s meeting.
According to Town Manager Dana Reed, there was no discussion of the mooring transfer during the open meeting. Reed and selectmen met in executive session with town attorney James Collier and current Harbormaster Justin Seavey. After coming out of the closed session, selectmen voted unanimously to take no action.
During the April 19 selectmen’s meeting, members of the Harbor Committee stated that there have been other mooring transfers similar to Helmke’s case. Going after these people legally would be like opening a “Pandora’s box,” one member said. Instead, the committee is working to change the ordinance to address the needs of businesses using the harbor, members said.