Harpswell harbormaster to tackle more tasks

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HARPSWELL — Less than a year after he was hired, Harbormaster Paul Plummer will be taking on more responsibility at a higher salary. 

Selectmen on Wednesday also approved the purchase of an airboat and trailer for no more than $80,000.

Plummer’s amended job description and a nearly $6,000 salary increase to nearly $44,500 were accounted for in the $5.2 million budget approved by voters at Town Meeting March 10.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said many of the extra tasks included in Plummer’s amended job description, such as attending all Marine Resource Committee meetings and “acting as a resource” for the group, are things he already does.

Under his expanded job description, Plummer will be responsible for working with town staff, the Marine Resources Committee and shellfish conservation wardens to develop ways to combat challenges to the marine resources industry. Some challenges listed on the description include invasive green crabs, ribbon worms and ocean acidification

Plummer, who was hired last April, will also be responsible for developing partnerships with other communities, such as forming joint research projects. He will also collect water samples for the shellfish wardens, seek out grants for marine resource-related projects, and seek permitting for projects being undertaken by the Marine Resources Committee.

Eiane added that several of the added items on the list were services previously “contracted out” by the town, and staff has been trying “to bring some of those tasks and responsibilities into the town office.”

“We now have a harbormaster who has a skill set of having worked in the marine resources in another nearby community, and he brings a really good skill set here to Harpswell,” she said. “We’re acknowledging that by expanding the job description.”

Before beginning work in Harpswell last May, Plummer served as a marine patrol officer and deputy harbormaster in the Brunswick Police Department for more than six years.

Shellfish Conservation Warden Steve Welsh said Plummer and the wardens have started going to shellfish forums in Augusta together, and that Plummer’s outlook on the marine resources program is a “tremendous asset” to Harpswell.

“I can say without question that his ability, his expertise, his knowledge has drastically improved my ability to do my job here in town,” Welsh said. “He’s helped me with questions I wasn’t sure about, (and) he’s enabled me to go beyond what my normal duties were before coming here.”

Plummer in turn said Welsh did extensive research to determine Florida-based Diamondback Airboats is the best fit for Harpswell. The total cost of the new boat and trailer is almost $78,000. Unknown costs, such as shipping equipment to be mounted by the vendor, could result in a cost not to exceed $80,000.

Selectman Kevin Johnson, who attends Marine Resource Committee meetings, also said the addition of Plummer to the staff has been helpful.

“I can tell you since Paul took over and the two sheriffs, the whole tenor of these committee meetings has changed dramatically,” Johnson said. 

Eiane said the town has also reduced contracted services in the upcoming budget, which makes the changes “more of a shift” for the town in terms of cost.

“For a number of years we’ve tried to find the right solution for providing good support services for the Marine Resources Committee, and I think we finally have hit the point where we have a really strong crew in place,” she said. “I feel like we’re in a really good place to support Marine Resources in Harpswell.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Shellfish Warden Steve Welsh addresses the Harpswell Board of Selectmen on Wednesday afternoon, March 14, as Harbormaster Paul Plummer looks on. Selectmen approved an expanded job description and nearly $6,000 salary increase for Plummer, who was hired last May.

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