ELLSWORTH — Boaters will be able to keep their vessels on the Ellsworth floats a little longer this year after Ellsworth city councilors approved an extension to the city’s boating season at a special meeting last Friday morning.
Vessels will now have to be removed by Dec. 10 (the extended season will run until Dec. 5) at the latest.
The marina will open for the season on April 2, compared to previous years, when the season began on May 15 and ran through Oct. 15.
“I think you’ve come to the middle ground,” said Councilor Gary Fortier.
“I think winter berthing was a little bit much this first year after we’ve tried the ice eaters.”
The “ice eaters” are de-icing machines that circulate water around the docks.
The decision came after city staff received a request from at least two boat owners, including one involved in aquaculture, to extend the season.
Councilors voted 4-2 in favor of extending the season, with Councilors Heather Grindle and Dale Hamilton opposed to the measure.
“I’m going to vote no because I think it’s rushing,” Hamilton said. “I think it was a last-minute idea. I still don’t think all the pieces are there for me.”
Hamilton questioned in particular the city’s liability in the event of a visitor falling on slippery docks and how much time city staff would need to devote to keeping the docks clear.
“If we’re not doing due diligence what does the insurance company think is due diligence for this type of setting?” he wondered.
City Manager David Cole said he had asked staff to look into how much maintenance would be required for the city to be covered in the event of an accident.
“If we maintain it to a standard, winter is winter and you can’t be everywhere all the time,” he said.
“We’re protected by tort claims; however, there are cases of negligence and we can’t just ignore it.”
“Those concerns are incredibly important but those concerns are already covered,” said Harbor Commission Chairman Mark Remick. “Safety issues … are covered under our policies now.”
Remick maintained that the plan to extend the season would not cost the city money.
“It’s a utilization of a public resource that allows us to capitalize on the opportunity,” he said.
Remick continued: “You come in, you tie up, you don’t use the water or the power-those things have been turned off. It’s just a place to berth.”
But Hamilton said the cost of staff time hadn’t been accounted for in the plans.
“There is a cost to have the harbor open in terms of staff time, which we haven’t accounted for.”
Public Works Director Lisa Sekulich said that staff already check on the docks nearly every day to make sure the ice eaters are working.
“As far as staffing, it’s something we can add to the lists, as far as sidewalks and everything else that we do.”
Under the new rules, the regular season would run from May 15 to Oct. 15. Extended season would run from April 2 to May 15 and Oct. 16 to Dec. 5.
Boat owners must obtain an extended season permit to put in before or stay in after the regular season cutoff dates. They will be required to show proof of insurance and check on their vessel on a weekly basis.