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February 21, 2013

Editorial: It's time for city to pull plug on Waterways Board

Working in the private-sector, Gloucester resident Tom Hovey says he had gotten used to making quick decisions and “getting immediate results.”

Now he’s made another one; after less than a year on Gloucester’s plodding Waterways Board, he’s already resigned, saying it’s not for him.

Member Phil Cusumano, meanwhile, advanced what he and many others thought to be an innovative plan to create a floating marina in the harbor that could greatly expand Gloucester’s transient or day-trippers’ moorings space, clearly one of the city’s greatest tourism needs. Yet he resigned last week as well, with the Waterways Board supposedly awaiting a feasibility study — for a project Cusumano launched in October 2011.

There are all sorts of adages about the wheels of justice turning slowly, and there are times that the wheels of government can turn even slower. But the action – or inaction – of this board has truly reached the point of no return. And it’s time to commit this embarrassing symbol of bureaucracy to Gloucester’s governmental history books.

The fact is, Gloucester desperately needs to explore ideas like Cusumano’s to add a significant number of moorings to welcome more visitors through its most impressive gateway — its harbor. It also needs to add harbor facilities — including the launch boat the board has just put out for bid after more than a year of talk — along with a viable shower and changing station for visitors. And it must, as Cusumano put it, find other means of making Gloucester a “friendly harbor” to boaters, Quite frankly, the Waterways Board has never come close to making that happen.

On one hand, yes, the board is bound by some constraints. For example, as a self-sustaining enterprise fund — one that funds its own projects and expenses with its own mooring fees and other revenue self-generated from outside the city’s budget — the board must not only field a project, get approval from the City Council, but then take it back, find a means of financing it, and then go through the entire process again. No wonder nothing gets done.

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