Committee appointments hit some rough water

TREMONT — A former harbor committee member on Monday accused selectmen of loading the committee with fishermen instead of maintaining the balance of interests set out in the governing ordinance.

Mike Ryan last month was denied reappointment to the committee. Instead, selectmen chose fisherman David Schlaefer, former harbormaster.

Several harbor committee members questioned the decision at a subsequent meeting, saying Ryan was an active member of the committee whose contributions to drafting an amended harbor ordinance were invaluable. Those supporters were at the meeting on Monday.

Ryan, from the beginning, made it clear that he no longer was seeking appointment to the committee. He said he was withdrawing his application because of comments selectmen made at a Sept. 15 meeting. His role, he maintained, was minimized and “characterized as something anybody could do.”

“Obviously, I don’t want to be on a committee where my work is valued as such,” he added.

Selectman Dean Wass took exception to Ryan’s allegations that selectmen were loading the committee with fishermen.

“Just because someone is a fisherman, you can’t rule him out as an at-large member,” he asserted.

Wass, himself a fisherman, maintained that the committee was made up of the “correct people.”

“Personally, I’d rather have a lobsterman who’s on the harbor every day instead of someone who just drives by the harbor once a week,” he said.

According to the harbor ordinance, selectmen are to appoint a harbor committee “of at least seven individuals familiar with the harbors and their activities.”

Specially, the ordinance states, two members should be commercial fishermen, one member a representative of an in-town boat storage or repair business using the harbors, one member a riparian property owner, and three members-at-large who are residents of the town.

Reacting to comments that it was unclear which committee members were filling the designated roles, chairman Kathi Thurston suggested that the board clarify the confusion.

As determined by selectmen, the two fishermen are Jon Crossman and Scott Harper; the resident boat storage and repair representative is Schlaefer; the riparian land owner is Mel Atherton; and the three at-large members are Spencer Ervin, Art Paine and George Lawson. Four members – Crossman, Harper, Schlaefer and Lawson – are fishermen.

Atherton, who at earlier meetings objected to Ryan not being reappointed, questioned whether Schlaefer meets the requirement of representing boat storage and repair interests. Schlaefer, who once had a boatbuilding business, no longer operates Mitchell Cove Boats and has sold molds for those boats to another company, he said. As defined by selectmen, anyone with “a kayak in the attic” could be considered to be involved in boat storage, he argued.

Pointing out that Schlaefer had finished one boat last winter for a customer, selectman Stewart Murphy accused Atherton of “discriminating against the small guy.”

A motion to appoint the harbor committee members to their respective roles was approved 4-0 by selectman.

Earlier in the meeting, selectmen discussed Crossman’s Sept. 25 letter to the town stating he was resigning from the harbor committee. Four people had applied for the position. But, according to interim Town Manager Dana Reed, Crossman since has changed his mind and wishes to continue to serve on the committee.

Because selectmen had not acted on Crossman’s resignation, Thurston said Crossman continues to be a member and no action is needed.

No action was taken on the other applicants despite the fact that the number of seats on the committee, according to the ordinance, could be increased. The harbor committee earlier this month rejected a proposal to add additional members.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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