TREMONT — A new fee structure for use of the Bernard Town Wharf was adopted Monday in response to a notification from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that different fees for residents and nonresidents do not comply with an agreement surrounding the federal dredging of Bass Harbor.
The corps insists that the existing fee structure violates the “open to all, equal to all” requirement in the dredging agreement.
Town officials learned that the fee system did not comply with Army Corps requirements in February, after town attorney James Collier sent a copy of a proposed new wharf and facilities ordinance to the corps’ Jay Clements for comment. Clements’ response put a halt to plans to put the new ordinance before voters at the May town meeting.
The two-tiered system wasn’t new to the proposed ordinance. It was a component of the existing ordinance. With adoption of the new ordinance on hold, town officials thought it wise to change the fee structure in the current ordinance to ensure compliance with federal regulations.
“This needs to be changed before the fees are due this summer,” Town Manager Dana Reed told selectmen.
Wharf use permits are set by the length of the boat. The fee for resident vessels was $12.50 per foot for vessels up to 50 feet in length and $25 per foot for those greater than 50 feet. Nonresident vessels paid double the amount paid by the owners of resident vessels.
A major concern was the loss of revenue if nonresidents paid the same as residents. The Harbor Committee was tasked with making the changes approved by selectmen. The committee met last week and came up with new fees to recommend to selectmen.
“The vote was unanimous,” Harbor Committee Chairman Mel Atherton told selectmen.
Owners of vessels up to 50 feet will now pay $14.50 per foot. Vessels over 50 feet will be charged $27 per foot.
“It should be enough to make up for the lost revenue,” Reed said.
Selectmen voted 5-0 to adopt the new fees.
In other business Monday, selectmen gave the nod to a conduct policy for members of boards and committees. The need for a policy was suggested earlier by Selectman Stewart Murphy.
Reed said the policy was modeled on a general policy in effect for selectmen.
“The basic thought is still there,” he said. “The way I drafted it was to apply to all boards and committees.”
According to the policy, the intent is to ensure “board and committee members work well with the other members and with our other boards and committees.” Decisions are to be supported by the entire body as a whole, despite members who vote otherwise. Members are to listen and respect the ideas of others, not use sarcasm or ridicule, and remain “calm and professional at all times.”
Selectmen did take issue with one requirement where missing three meetings in a row would be considered submission of that member’s resignation.
“Should that be unexcused absences?” asked Murphy.
Reed, who drafted the policy, replied that there are cases where some committee members haven’t attended meetings for months.
Still, Murphy argued, people with health problems or other valid reasons should not be subject to this requirement.
Selectmen voted unanimously to adopt the policy with the amendment that “three unexcused absences” would be considered a resignation.