Town adrift without harbormaster

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — It is the busiest time of year for the harbor. Without a full-time harbormaster in place, members of the town’s Harbor Committee are wondering how the town’s waterfront affairs are staying afloat.  

When Jesse Gilley resigned as full-time harbormaster at the beginning of June, he agreed to work a few hours a week to keep the town’s waterfront responsibilities in order. While working for a barge company, mainly out of Southwest Harbor, Gilley has been able to keep an eye on the activity in the harbor, which includes assigning and collecting fees for mooring rentals.  

“I’ve been working anywhere from 15 to 20 hours a week,” said Gilley on Tuesday in a conversation with the Islander about his time on the town clock. “I know that I left at a really hard time and I’m doing everything I can to not leave everything a total mess… After work here I’ll go into the office for a while and do some paperwork and things.” 

During their meeting on Monday, members of the Harbor Committee, an advisory committee for the town, went through a list of items that typically fall under the purview of a harbormaster. There were questions about how mooring rentals, dock maintenance, abandoned vessels and parking enforcement are being handled.  

“What’s the situation with boats coming in?” asked committee member Ron Weiner. “I do think it’s important to service the boats coming in.” 

Boats traveling to Southwest Harbor looking for a place to tie up are being taken care of by Gilley and the staff at the town office.  

“I manage the radio because I’m on the water 11, 12 hours a day,” said Gilley. “The town office has been helping out a lot. People will call them and they pass it along to me.”  

On Friday, members of the Harbor Committee and Interim Town Manager Dana Reed interviewed two potential candidates for the harbormaster position. During the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, Reed told the board there was no “clear consensus on the top applicant,” following the interviews. He also noted the town was doing its best to monitor mooring rentals and assignments. 

“It’s the best we can do without a harbormaster,” said Reed. “We are having problems with boaters hanging out on floats too long. Speeders breaking no-wake rules. We really can’t get a harbormaster fast enough.” 

There have been a few boaters with mechanical problems or lack of access to their floats who Gilley has allowed to use the town’s floats. 
“I’ve given quite a few people permission to tie up on the town docks for a few hours, or a day, if they need it,” he said. “I’ve been around focusing on trying to collect as many fees as possible to help it run.” 

Parking in the town dock lots was also an issue brought up by the Harbor Committee. It is one that comes up every year when more visitors and seasonal residents use the lots. Members of the committee voted to post signs that indicate no overnight parking, which would include equipment. They also voted to research the possibility of installing a kiosk on at least two of the lots, with Greening Island residents being allowed to park by displaying a permit to do so. Installing an updated video surveillance system at the town docks was another point of discussion by the committee.  

Without a harbormaster and the number of people on the Harbor Committee dwindling, some members voiced frustration that waterfront issues are not a priority with the Board of Selectmen.  

“We come up with all of these ideas and the Select Board is just dragging their ass,” said Donald Sullivan. “Nothing ever gets done. It’s really frustrating to be on this advisory committee.” 

“I share your frustration,” said Nick Madeira, the chairman of the committee, adding that they need more members. “We’re a committee of 12 and we’re down to six.” 

While the town is searching for a harbormaster, there also has been an opening for an assistant harbormaster since the beginning of the year.  

“I was always against an assistant, but I couldn’t be more for it now,” said Corey Pettegrow, a member of the committee. 

“We need a harbormaster bad,” said Sullivan. 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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