Scofflaw scallopers get ultimatum from Edgartown selectmen

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Edgartown selectmen told two commercial scallopers that their shellfish licenses are in jeopardy if they continue to ignore citations for violating multiple shellfishing regulations.

On January 8, a deputy shellfish constable cited Michael Briggs for taking one bushel over the daily three-bushel commercial limit and for arriving at the check-in station 15 minutes late.

On March 13, shellfish constables cited Mr. Briggs, after they observed him fishing in Cape Poge Bay 45 minutes after the 4 pm limit.

He was fined $100 on each occasion. But, he did not contest the citations or pay the fines, shellfish constable Paul Bagnall told selectman Monday.

Mr. Briggs, who attended the meeting, said little in his own defense, except to question the regulations.

“I don’t actually agree,” Mr. Briggs told selectmen. “The way they’re written is not the way they’re followed.”

Selectman Margaret Serpa did not buy that argument. “You’re not in position to disagree with the two tickets, in my mind,” she said. “You ignored these two tickets.”

Members of the shellfish committee who also attended the meeting said that Mr. Briggs had received many verbal warnings before the constable issued a citation. They argued forcefully for the selectmen to schedule a public hearing and recommended that selectmen suspend Mr. Briggs’s license for five days.

Bypassing that recommendation, selectmen Margaret Serpa and Art Smadbeck agreed to give Mr. Briggs until Friday, April 5, to pay the $200 in fines in full or face a hearing, which might end with his license being suspended. Chairman Michael Donaroma did not attend the meeting.

The wholesale value of a bushel of scallops ranged from approximately $100 to $120 through the season, Mr. Bagnall told The Times following the meeting.

In the second case involving a scalloper, on January 28, constables cited David Viera for hiding an extra two bushels of scallops in his boat. Mr. Viera did not pay the fines or contest the citations.

Mr. Viera did not attend the selectmen’s meeting, despite a letter hand delivered to him asking him to appear, Mr. Bagnall told selectmen. Mr. Viera was also cited in October 2011, for taking a half-bushel beyond the limit and concealing the extra scallops in his boat.

Selectmen gave Mr. Viera the same ultimatum: pay the fines by Friday, or face a hearing and license suspension.

Cable contract

In other action, selectmen signed a new contract with Comcast to provide cable television service to town residents, including those who live on Chappaquiddick.

Chappaquiddick customers will have to pay an initial $2,139 fee for the cost of building out the system. They also face extra connection charges if they live far from the main roads.

Town administrator Pam Dolby, who represented the town on the Island-wide cable advisory board, said a minimum of 270 customers will have to commit to two years of service before Comcast will move forward.

“I think they’re well on their way to that,” Ms. Dolby said.

She and selectmen expressed thanks and relief that the sometimes contentious two-year negotiation is over.

“This represents a tremendous amount of work by the town administrator,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “This is above and beyond the call of duty. Along with my signature, comes my thanks.”