A request for a new harbormaster patrol boat has been docked as city councilors seek more answers about where the money will come from.
Harbormaster TJ Ciarametaro's request for a loan authorization for $362,123 for a new patrol boat has been continued until November as city councilors who sit on the city's Budget and Finance Standing Committee are waiting until the city's Capital Improvement Advisory Board has had a chance to research the matter, the city's grant team is able to provide insight into what grant opportunities might be available, and to know whether or not the Waterways Board would be willing to accept the debt service on the boat if the city does not want to pay for it out of its General Fund.
"I'd like some answers," Councilor John McCarthy said last week, noting that he does not want to move forward with the request until all three things have been done.
Needing a better boat
McCarthy's request for clarification comes after learning that Ciarametaro is looking to use the city's General Fund to pay for a new patrol boat that the Harbormaster's Office needs.
Ciarametaro said last week that his office's decision to buy a new boat came as its main boat, a 30-year-old patrol boat, needs to be replaced as the hull is starting to separate from the cabin which is beginning to cause water intrusion.
"This is something that we have been looking to acquire for quite some time now," he told to the Budget and Finance Standing Committee last week.
"We have some equipment issues that we need to address," Ciarametaro said. "A boat is at the top of this list."
The Harbormaster's Office currently operates and maintains a fleet of six vessels; two patrol vessels, one work skiff, one clean vessel acting as a pump-out vessel, one shellfish skiff, and one 21-passenger tender launch vessel.
The need for a new boat is paramount, Ciarametaro explained last week, as harbormaster's office has responded to 206 calls for assistance — including three vessel fires, one house fire, seven medical evaluations, and five marine mammal reports.
The boat that Ciarametaro and his crew are looking into is a SAFE boat, which he explained is "made out of aluminum and not fiberglass, thus extending the service life of the hull to 20 plus years."
"In fact, the city already owns one of these boats," Ciarametaro said, referencing the Gloucester Police boat that cost the city $330,000. .
Communities that have purchased the same patrol boat in the past two years include Manchester, Beverly, Salem, Newburyport, Plymouth, Hingham, New Bedford, and Fall River.
The price to pay
The harbormaster said that the first payment would be in 2024 at $30,000 a year with an estimated total cost — including all equipment mounts and safety gear — of $362,123.
He hopes that if the city approves the loan authorization request to spend the money out of the city's General Fund, the loan may be paid off with money left over from the Annisquam River dredging project.
"If we need to, we could use some money from the Waterways Enterprise Fund," he said.
McCarthy has heard differently.
"I have also talked about the dredging funds with the city and the Army Corps of Engineers has that money, it is held in a lawsuit and what I have been told is that we should not expect that money any time soon," he said. "We don't even know if that is an allowable expense to pay this debt."
If that is the case, McCarthy noted, then the Waterways Board needs to be prepared to take on the debt out of the Enterprise Fund.
The Budget and Finance Standing Committee is scheduled to revisit the request in early November.
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford may be contacted at 978-675-2705, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at TayBradford97.