Packer's Edgartown fuel dock cited for fire safety violations
Ralph Packer, owner of the R.M. Packer Company, the fuel distributor, said Wednesday afternoon he is addressing several violations cited by the state fire marshal's office after inspecting the Edgartown Harbor fuel dock, which the Packer company runs under contract to the town. The fuel outlet is the only one on Edgartown Harbor.
Mr. Packer said he has ordered the required hoses and will move shut-off valves to the top of the dock so they are accessible, as the fire marshal has ordered.
If not addressed, the violations could result in the fuel operation being shut down just as the month-long Bass and Bluefish Derby is about to begin on Sunday.
The only fuel outlet on Edgartown Harbor is at the former Edgartown Marine dock, now owned by the town. Photo by Susan Vaughn
"It could be catastrophic," harbormaster Charles Blair told the selectmen Tuesday at the prospects the fuel operation could be closed. Town administrator Pamela Dolby said the fire marshal's office told her that if the violations are not addressed, the state will close the fuel dock by the end of the week.
The five main violations, ranging from improper hoses and shut-off valves to an invalid permit for selling gasoline, came to the attention of the Edgartown selectmen, who requested Mr. Packer's attendance at their Tuesday afternoon meeting. Mr. Packer did not attend, causing the selectmen to track him down and continue the meeting to Wednesday morning.
The selectmen were clearly unhappy that Mr. Packer did not meet with them Tuesday. Selectman Art Smadbeck, reading off some of the violations, said, "We need to keep this open."
After making several unanswered phone calls, selectman Michael Donaroma confronted Mr. Packer at his Vineyard Haven office before the Wednesday meeting. He elicited assurances from Mr. Packer that he is at work on some of the violations and intends to address them all this fall. Mr. Packer said he has ordered the hoses to comply with the requirement to use a flexible hose less than 30 feet long.
"He has been working on them (the violations), and has every intention of complying by fall," Mr. Donaroma told the selectmen. He said Mr. Packer's response to the violations is "sort of two-thirds of the way done.... He showed me he was actually working on them."
Mr. Packer told Mr. Donaroma he has been in touch with two of the state inspectors. He is required to send a letter to the fire marshal when he has corrected all the violations.
The selectmen decided to give Mr. Packer, who did not attend the Wednesday session either, until Monday to address the violations. The next step is to notify the fire marshal's office of their actions. The fire marshal has the final say on compliance and whether the fueling operation will be closed.
Mr. Packer said Wednesday he has not had word from the fire marshal's office regarding the violations or possible action.
Other violations cited by compliance officer David J. Beaudin of the state fire marshal's office, after an Aug. 6 inspection, include: three violations involving fuel shut-off valves, and failure to possess a valid permit from the fire marshal for the resale of a flammable-combustible liquid.
In additional orders in the violation notice, Mr. Beaudin wrote that the facility did not have a separate marina fueling permit to dispense gasoline, only Class II liquids. Mr. Packer said he has the permit, but had not posted it in the fuel dock building. He will do that now.
Mr. Beaudin also wrote that tank sump covers are in poor repair and not accessible for inspection, emergency shutoffs are under the wharf and access to them is not labeled, access openings are nailed shut, and emergency fuel shutoffs are missing handles and not operable.
Late Wednesday morning, Edgartown harbormaster Charles Blair said he awaits word from town officials about the results of their most recent conversation with Mr. Packer. "My goal is to keep the facility open," Mr. Blair said.
Mr. Blair said it is particularly important to provide harbor fuel facilities in the shoulder season for recreational fishermen participating in the Derby and for Island boaters in general who in the fall take time to enjoy local waters. Any shutdown could result in people transporting fuel in vehicles, with all the attendant risks.
Mr. Blair said Mr. Packer operates the fuel business under a 10-year lease from the town. The selectmen also reported that Mr. Packer has not paid the town on his current year's lease. Mr. Packer said he would take care of that.
Expressing some frustration, Mr. Blair said that over the years he has repeatedly urged Mr. Packer to maintain the facility better. Mr. Blair said the fire marshals were cooperative and helpful. He said they did not want to shut down the facility, but that he wanted to see the violations corrected as soon as possible.
Mr. Beaudin's violations notice to the Packer Company concluded that failure to correct any of them "may result in civil and/or criminal penalties." Mr. Beaudin could not be reached for further comment Wednesday.