For nearly a decade, the town of Tisbury has served as the reluctant steward of a 45-foot sailboat, rotting behind the Department of Public Works building and deserted by an owner who has been almost impossible to track down.
The town has been unable to move or destroy the boat, but that may soon change.
“Everyone’s tired of looking at it,” said town administrator John Bugbee at the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday. “We’ve exhausted numerous legal and non-legal options and we continue to try to find ways to get rid of that boat.”
The owner is a man named Norman Ross, who Mr. Bugbee could only say is thought to live somewhere in Massachusetts. Mr. Ross has been unwilling in the past decade to have the boat declared abandoned and as a result the town has been unable to dispose of it, he said.
But Mr. Bugbee told selectmen he was confident he could track down Mr. Ross after a recent telephone conversation with him.
He said the town would prefer to take control of the boat and destroy it. But if Mr. Ross doesn’t agree and refuses to pay boat storage fees, the town could go to small claims court and use any proceeds to have the hulk hauled to Mr. Ross’s home.
“We will bring an end to this long saga,” Mr. Bugbee vowed.
Also on Tuesday selectmen rejected a request from emergency management director Christopher Cini for $50,000 in town embarkation fees for a fuel-efficient replacement for the town’s currently unusable 1988 emergency management vehicle.
Mr. Cini said the vehicle could be used to coordinate communication and move equipment during “mass casualty incidents.”
“I’m very aware that this is a large sum,” he said.
Selectman Jeffrey Kristal was skeptical of the request.
“We’ve operated for years without a vehicle,” he said. “It’s a little premature to ask for $50,000 for a vehicle when I’m not sure we even need a vehicle.”
Mr. Kristal said the selectmen had failed to define a role for Mr. Cini since his appointment and said that they would work to do so in the coming weeks.
In preparation for the fiscal year 2013, finance director Tim McLean said all town departments would see a zero per cent increase in their budgets. In the case of extenuating circumstances, Mr. McLean said, department heads could appear before the finance committee to raise specific line items.
“It forces department heads to just address specific line items in their budget they may want to go up as opposed to just a general increase in their budget and I think it serves the town well,” he said.
Mr. Bugbee also provided an update on the beleaguered emergency services facility. He said three major problems had yet to be addressed in the building: the storefront windows, a bowed wall and a stairwell. But with a new superintendent on the job and ramped-up communication among himself, contractor Seaver Construction and project manager HKT Architects, he was encouraged.
“In the end I do not see anything that would be a fatal flaw for this building,” he said. “It’s going to be the best building this town has. It’s been a rocky road admittedly . . . In the end it’s going to be a building the community will be proud of.”
Selectmen also held a public hearing to discuss amending its commercial shellfish regulations to include a prohibition against transferring shellfish from one license to another. Shellfish constable Danielle Ewart said she had witnessed three such incidents recently.
“One fishermen would sit out in a dinghy while two others would go out and go fishing and bring the other person bushels [of scallops] to cull out on their boat,” she said. “Technically that’s not fishing . . . It’s wrong because if you’re a commercial fisherman you should be able to go out and physically get your own catch. Somebody handing you bushels is not fishing.”
Selectmen approved the amended regulations. The discussion also prompted commercial fisherman Glen Pachico to speak out against a separate rule that restricts licenses to two per boat. Four commercial licensees use Mr. Pachico’s boat: himself, his two sons and one of their girlfriends. Mr. Pachico said the regulation would force him to buy another boat.
“If I can lend my boat to somebody who maybe is losing their house, or maybe isn’t going to have a Christmas as good as mine or maybe is starving, what is wrong with me letting another town licensed resident use my boat?” he asked.
Selectmen suggested Mr. Pachico bring the matter to the shellfish committee.
Selectmen also learned that the community preservation committee approved a request for $70,000 to repair the town hall’s leaky roof. The amount is subject to approval at town meeting.