Tisbury selectmen dig in on sensitive topic

Town is still waiting for permission to dredge Tashmoo.

The dredging vessel "Codfish," owned by the town of Barnstable, works in Lake Tashmoo in 2013. — File photo by Steve Myrick

Talk of dredging the Tashmoo channel dredged up some criticism of the harbormaster’s office and a town committee that’s supposed to keep up with those projects.

At Tisbury’s board of selectmen meeting Tuesday night, harbormaster John Crocker said he hopes to have permits in place soon to dredge the channel. Once the permits are in place, he would like to have the project completed by Jan. 15, he said.

Lynne Fraker, who has had professional experience as a dredge administrator, criticized the harbormaster’s office for allowing the previous dredge permit to lapse. She questioned whether there is enough time to get the project done.

“It’s outrageous that the channel is in the shape that it’s in,” she said.

Chairman Larry Gomez grew impatient with Ms. Fraker outlining steps she’s taken to investigate what went wrong and how the town might be able to get the work done. “Give us a little slack so he can do his job,” Mr. Gomez said of Mr. Crocker.

Selectman Tristan Israel mentioned earlier that the town should hear more frequent updates from the town’s dredge committee. He also asked Mr. Crocker if there were any environmental concerns with dredging the channel hydraulically rather than mechanically.

“What is best for shellfish, eelgrass and circulation?” Mr. Israel said.

Mr. Crocker couldn’t answer the question, but said the town may not have a choice if it wants to get the project done by the Jan. 15 deadline.

Mr. Crocker expressed some frustration at the bureaucracy involved in the permitting process.

“We received a form that we need to complete about sturgeon, salmon, and right whales in the Tashmoo channel. It’s a bureaucratic mess,” Mr. Crocker said.

The harbor back channel also needs to be dredged, he said.

Mr. Crocker also updated the board on other harbor-related activities.

Boats are no longer an issue at the Park and Ride, he said. A boat that had been abandoned at the parking lot has been removed, and that allowed Mr. Crocker to get another derelict boat removed from the lot.

Mr. Crocker also reported that he is working with the fire chief on what to do with the harbormaster patrol boat, which has firefighting equipment on board. “It’s never worked reliably,” he said. “It’s too complicated to operate, especially when your adrenaline is going.”

There is also an issue with two different metals used in the firefighting mechanism, he said. He’s in the process of getting quotes to see how much it would be to remove the firefighting mechanism.

In consultation with the fire chief, Mr. Crocker said he’s looking for prices on getting a drop-in pump, similar to the one the fire department has on its skiff. He told the board he’ll be back when he has more details.

Mr. Israel said the harbormaster’s office and fire department haven’t always worked cooperatively, but Mr. Crocker assured him that’s not the case now. “The fire department needs to be involved in something that fights fires,” he said.

Construction on the Owen Park pier, which needs new pilings and whalers, is on hold, he said, because of other projects that are taking precedence.

It was a busy year for the the transient dock, Mr. Crocker said. Revenues were up $11,000 over the previous year.

In other business, town administrator Jay Grande told the board that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is proposing an elevated walkway to deal with coastal erosion near the R.M. Packer property on Beach Road. The state would pay for the engineering and design, but the town would be on the hook for construction, Mr. Grande said.

Community Preservation funds are a potential source to pay for it, Mr. Israel said.

Talk of the walkway led to ongoing frustration with the slow progress on a Beach Road upgrade. “I hope to be alive when they finally do it,” Mr. Israel said.

On that credit card selectmen had previously discussed for town purchases, Mr. Grande is recommending one credit card, to be kept in the possession of treasurer Jon Snyder to make sure no department is making a purchase beyond what it has budgeted.

Mr. Israel is calling on town departments to put in requests for embarkation funds — the $250,000 the town receives from Steamship Authority ticket sales. The committee that approves doling out the funds is scheduled to meet Dec. 4, he said.