Committee tackles Chilmark fuel dock friction

Marshall Carroll and Dennis Jason continue to argue over two-pump dock.

The slip the harbor management advisory committee is considering recommending be used solely for touch-and-go boat traffic. — Rich Saltzberg

An enduring “war,” as committee member Scott McDowell put it at a meeting back in November, was the focus of Tuesday morning’s harbor management advisory committee meeting. The verbal skirmishes of two longtime Chilmark residents over control of the Menemsha fuel dock carried over from the board of selectmen’s meeting on Sept. 4. Marshall Carroll, who manages the dock as part of his Menemsha Texaco station, and Dennis Jason, who manages Menemsha Harbor as part of his duty as harbormaster, found little common ground at the meeting.

Carroll said it’s his responsibility to manage the fuel dock under state regulation. He pointed out numerous licenses and certificates are necessary to possess the marine fueling permit he has. The law for fuel docks is clear — boats may not be tied up or raft to other boats on a fuel dock unless purchasing fuel, Carroll said. A past town regulation also prohibited maritime activity at the fuel dock other than fueling, he said. The town regulation was later amended to stipulate vessels can seek water in the “yellow zone” from 9 am to 3 pm.

“This is almost a personal attack on the Carrolls from Mr. Jason,” Carroll said of the fuel dock contention. “I’m happy to run a business in Menemsha. I am extremely lucky to have that opportunity to be down there … I just can’t function with turning the fuel dock over to someone else. The fuel dock attendant runs the fuel dock; that’s the way it is.”

“My predecessor did the same thing,” Jason said, referring to water and pumpouts at the fuel dock. “This is not something I started. It’s something I inherited.”

Carroll went before the selectmen on Sept. 4 to explain his position in light of allegations he turned away boaters who wanted water but not necessarily fuel. Carroll told the board his fuel dock is governed by state fire laws, and that the harbormaster routinely violates those regulations by sending vessels to the fuel dock for water or pumpouts.

At least one member of the committee expressed frustration with the ongoing feud between Carroll and Jason.

“I don’t like the chicken [expletive] that goes on between the two of you — I like both of you,” committee member Stephen Broderick said. “I don’t like that crap. I don’t think there’s a need for it, and I can see you being here to protect your future and I understand it completely. We’ll see if we can find a resolution, because it’s a very minor point that’s gotten blown way out of proportion. It’s become a big issue, and it isn’t a big issue.”

Jim Malkin, the selectmen’s harbor liaison, agreed with Broderick. “This has been blown way out of proportion,” he said.

Discussion led to the idea of repurposing the slip at the end of the transient dock as a place where boats could briefly dock for water. The harbor currently uses the slip for income.

“That slip was supposed to have been for drop-off and pickup,” committee member Edward “Spider” Andresen said. “It’s evolved into a rental slip to try to increase revenue … I think a possible solution here would be to not rent that slip out. Get it back to what it was supposed to have been from the start, which is drop-off and pickup. And also, you know, it could be a watering spot.”

“That drop-off dock, with a boat in it, probably generates a couple hundred dollars a day,” Jason said.

“There is no spot right now to drop off,” committee member Scott McDowell said.

Malkin said the committee might also consider a water barge or a finger pier to support touch-and-go boating.

Chairman Everett Poole said the committee should think out the issue and be prepared to vote when it reconvenes on Nov. 6.