Cape looks to share Scarborough’s harbormaster

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The town is considering an agreement to share harbormaster services with Scarborough.

The move will cost more, but is expected to better serve local boat owners.

The Town Council on March 14 is expected to agree to share services provided by newly hired Scarborough Harbormaster Ian Anderson. If passed, the agreement would be sent to the Scarborough Town Council for approval.

“By working with Scarborough we’re providing much better service to the citizens of Cape Elizabeth,” Town Manager Mike McGovern said Feb. 8, when the issue was first discussed.

Using Scarborough’s harbormaster would cost Cape Elizabeth $5,500, compared to $4,000 the town now spends for the position. Anderson would be expected to do weekly checks on the town’s moorings, of which there are less than 100, for 28 weeks out of the year, for up to 155 hours a year.

According to McGovern, the town’s current harbormaster, Walt Gibson, works “very part time” and doesn’t provide enough service.

“For some time we don’t really feel as though we’ve been providing a level of service that we would like to,” he said.

If both towns decide to enter into the agreement, Gibson, who has worked for the town for about five years, would be let go.

The harbormaster falls under the police department’s jurisdiction, but Gibson does not have the authority to enforce the law. Anderson, however, does. According to Police Chief Neil Williams, Anderson, who was hired by Scarborough within the past two months, has the authority of a full-time law enforcement officer, and is a former state marine patrol officer. Anderson is replacing Scarborough’s former harbormaster, Dave Corbreau, who recently retired.

McGovern said the town is looking to enter into the agreement now because Anderson was recently hired and the position is still in transition. Also, Anderson is more qualified.

“We believe the service would be immensely improved in terms of the professional experience and knowledge of working with moors and other issues,” McGovern said.

In addition, Gibson doesn’t have the proper resources to be harbormaster, such as a boat. According to Williams, the Town Council provided Gibson with money for a boat a few years ago, but it wasn’t enough to buy the right type of boat so Gibson didn’t use the funds.

“We’re just not big enough that we can attract a harbormaster and supply a harbormaster with all the resources they’d like to have,” McGovern said.

At the Feb. 8 meeting, a few residents who maintain moorings near Kettle Cove  asked that mooring holders have a say in who the new harbormaster is. Although Scarborough already hired a new harbormaster and Cape Elizabeth is talking about using Anderson, Williams has agreed to sit down with mooring holders on March 23 at 5 p.m. at the Police Department to answer questions.

Council Chairwoman Molly MacAuslan on Feb. 8 asked Edward Perry, a mooring holder, how much interaction or engagement he has with the harbormaster.

“We sent him numerous letters and got no response,” Perry said. “I send my money in and assume I have a mooring because the town cashed my check for two years in a row. I had nothing to do with him. We need somebody we can just talk to.”

Perry and other mooring holders said they want the harbormaster to be a local person. But McGovern said where the person is from isn’t important as long as they can properly do the job.

“I’ve never been pleased with this program, and it’s supposed to be an enforcement program, and yes, they’re supposed to have local knowledge, but in the end it’s an enforcement program,” McGovern said. “It’s a safety program to make sure the moorings are the way they’re supposed to be.”

McGovern said Cape Elizabeth needs a harbormaster who can do the job well.

“We’ve had a number of harbormasters who have all been good people, but at the same time … we need more rigor in the program and we need to make sure the ordinances are being followed,” McGovern said.

Councilors agreed, saying the quality of service is more important than cost.

“Oftentimes when we talk about shared resources we’re talking about lowering costs, and as (McGovern) pointed out, we’re not necessarily lowering costs here, but another objective is getting better service, which definitely appears to be a clearly met objective with this arrangement,” Councilor Jamie Garvin said.

The move fits with a Town Council goal this year to “seek opportunities for personnel sharing with neighboring communities.”

Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough already share school food services and a tax assessor; each agreement was entered into within the past year.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.