No fuel leaves Edgartown boat operators fuming
With the summer boating season coming up quickly, Edgartown officials are frustrated that the harbor's only fuel dock remains closed. Selectmen have scheduled an executive session with the town's attorney Monday morning to discuss their recourse if the R.M. Packer Company, which operates the fuel dock under a 10-year contract with the town, does not correct fire code violations by the weekend.
"It can't go on," said town administrator Pam Dolby. "We've been pushing this since October. It's very frustrating, and I'm sure it's frustrating to the boating public."
It is unclear what sanctions town officials could take against the Packer Company if they determine there is a violation of the lease. The company, not the town, owns the pumps, fuel storage tanks, and equipment. That would complicate any effort to award a contract to another distributor.
The Packer Company was cited for five main violations following an inspection last fall. The violations ranged from improper hoses and shut-off valves to an invalid permit for selling gasoline. Following the inspection, the fire marshal's compliance officer sealed the fuel tanks, preventing their use until the violations are corrected.
"We waited and waited and waited, and nothing got resolved," said harbormaster Charles Blair, who has been irked by the Packer Company's repeated promises to fix the problems in time for the summer season.
Ralph Packer, who owns the company, said changing regulations are part of the reason for the long delay.
"There are several new regulations that weren't even in effect in October," said Mr. Packer. "We had to make a decision which way to go, and get the proper people to do it. There is a considerable amount of work. It's a difficult operation."
Contractors have been working on the facility this week, and Mr. Packer said he is hopeful to complete the work by the coming weekend. Town officials expressed roughly equal amounts of optimism and skepticism that fuel would be available by Saturday.
Officials had expected the violations to be corrected by Memorial Day weekend, and were ready to expedite permits last Friday afternoon, so fuel would be available to boaters.
"We didn't have any fuel for Memorial Day," said Mr. Blair. "I got harassed all weekend long. About every hour somebody asked for fuel."
Mr. Blair said the lack of a working fuel facility on the harbor presents a number of public safety issues. "Here's the real problem," he said. "When you don't have fuel, people start to fill jugs full of gasoline at the service station, and that makes for a super dangerous situation. That's just the little guy. The big guys are really stuck, they have to go to Falmouth or Vineyard Haven."
Mr. Blair said he is forced to carry fuel in jugs for the town's patrol boats, in order to keep tanks full enough to respond to an emergency on the water. Old Port Marine, which operates launch service in the harbor, is also transporting fuel for its boats.