Police chief gets authority over harbormaster, shellfish warden

Posted:  Wednesday, June 28, 2017 - 8:30am

Wiscasset’s harbormaster and shellfish warden will become part of the police department July 1. The select board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to break with tradition, putting both positions under the authority of Police Chief Jeffrey Lange.

Lange told selectmen he had two police officers ready to do the jobs, one harbormaster-certified, the other certified as a shellfish warden. They will be paid hourly using the positions’ stipends.

Lange said the change might generate more money from enforcement of the town’s waterfront and shellfish ordinances. He said the shellfish warden had issued only five citations over the last three years. “We know that there have  been other shellfish-related violations but we don’t have him working for us exclusively; we share him with several other towns.” Lange said the harbormaster has been issuing only warnings.

Revenues collected for shellfish and waterfront violations are kept by the town because they involve local ordinances. “These revenues could offset the cost of enforcement,” added Lange. The change requires an additional day’s training for the officers.

Selectmen Ben Rines Jr. cast the dissenting vote. “I think we should hire a harbormaster that can put in the hours necessary to do the job,” he said.

Town Manager Marian Anderson said when the town advertised the position it received only two applicants, both with full-time jobs. The position pays a $7,525 stipend; the shellfish warden’s stipend is $8,605.

Neither the shellfish warden nor harbormaster were not present for the discussion, which was not listed as an agenda item. It came up under the town manager’s report.

 Ambulance contract with Dresden approved

Selectmen approved a contract to provide ambulance service to Dresden beginning July 1. The vote was 3-0 with abstentions from newly elected selectmen Bob Blagden and Katharine Martin-Savage. They were not on the board when the contract was proposed.

Anderson said the three-year contract requires Dresden to pay $6,000 for the first year, $6,500 the second year, and $7,000 the third year. If Dresden withdraws from the contract early, it assumes responsibility for uncollected payments. Otherwise, Wiscasset does.

“Why would we pick up bad debt for ambulance services from another community,” Blagden asked.

Anderson said the town has similar arrangements with Edgecomb and Westport Island. “We do turn (the bad debts) over to a collection agent,” she said.

Martin-Savage asked why the Wiscasset Ambulance Service couldn’t add uncollected debt to a town’s contract. Martin-Savage and Blagden asked to see the Dresden contract but Anderson didn’t have a finalized copy. She said EMT Director Toby Martin was on vacation.

“I’d like to think there’s a clause within the contract that states the town can get out of this if it doesn’t work out,” added Blagden.

Westport Island and Edgecomb pay $3,000 a year for ambulance services and Wiscasset picks up their bad debt, Anderson said.

Rines supported providing ambulances services to Dresden but said he was doing so with reservations. “The ambulance revenues we’re bringing in aren’t keeping up with expenses,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Ed Polewarczyk praised the ambulance service’s response to a 911 emergency call to his residence. “They arrived within three minutes to my home on Youngs Point Road,” he said.

The board entered in an executive session at 7:20 p.m. to discuss a personnel matter. Blagden and Rines declined to participate in the closed door meeting. Both said they felt an executive session wasn’t warranted.