Tiverton will get its pump-out boat after all. A California marina owner donated a 30-foot vessel after catching news of the town's difficulty securing adequate funding to run the program.
Deciding to accept the boat in a split 4-3 decision, councilors William P. Gerlach, Jay J. Lambert, Brett N. Pelletier and council President Edward Roderick said starting a pump-out boat program was a step toward investing in developing Tiverton's harbor.
"This is an opportunity for the Town Council to make a statement that we are willing to invest in one of our greatest assets - we have the opportunity to take this boat, try for it for a season and if it's not working or if it's adding to infrastructure costs, then we can just sell it and be on our merry way," said Roderick.
Council naysayers Denise DeMedeiros, Joan Chabot and James A. Arruda worried the town would be harnassed with operating another program with too many undefined variables.
"I'm not against developing the shoreline and I would like to develop it more, but I'm concerned with whether this is the best value for doing so," said Arruda. "This is not an issue of the shoreline, this is more an issue of whether we can afford it."
Arruda said he would rather allocate money toward repairing town snow removal equipment damaged in Winter Storm Nemo this past weekend.
The donation came just three days after the Tiverton Town Council voted against the purchase of a pump-out boat at its Jan. 13 meeting, said Bruce Cox, chairman of the Harbor Management Commission. Unlike with that pump-out boat, Tiverton has no obligations to run a program if it proves too costly.
The previous pump-out boat would have been paid for in part by a state Department of Environmental Management grant. Under that plan, the town would have paid $13,416 of the total $53,665. The state matching grant, however, stipulated that the town would be obligated to run the pump-out program from 10 years upon accepting the DEM money.
"With the first boat, I felt very uncomfortable that we had to pay out-of-pocket, that we were committed to a 10 year program, and that we would have to hypothetically run this program at a loss," said Gerlach. "Tonight we are talking about the boat, not necessarily about funding the operation."
Budget Committee member Joseph Sousa wondered how the town would pay to operate the pump-out program once they have the boat.
"We just don't feel like we need - at this time - to expand into anymore services in town when we can't fund what we have already," said Sousa.
The donated boat, which is valued at $175,000 is a 2005 aluminum hull boat with twin 140 horsepower inboard-outboard engines. The boat's current owner, Frank Moothart, is awarding Tiverton the vessel complete with a trailer and $18,000 cash to cover the costs of shipping the 16,200-pound boat to Tiverton from Oroville, CA. As Moothart will use the boat as a tax deduction, it is 100 percent free to the town. All Tiverton has to do is make sure the boat is ensured for travel.
With a 600-gallon capacity holding tank, this vessel is nearly three times the size that the council considered earlier this year and consequently, some councilors and residents are worried the boat will be too expensive to operate.
"It is a bigger boat than we had originally planned, but there is not an obligation to run it all holidays, weekends or for five hours a day," said David Vannier, harbormaster.
The harbor department will charge boaters $5 for every 30 gallons of waste it pumps out. While town officials anticipate the program to run at a net loss, Vannier told the Town Council on Monday that the town raised mooring fees last year with the intent to introduce this program. Resident mooring fees jumped from $50 to $55 while non-resident and commercial spots increased from $250 to $375.
"Mooring fees went up last year in prelude to us having a pump-out boat and if you're not going to have a pump-out boat, you should lower those fees," said Vannier.
According to Vannier, the boat can double as a firefighting apparatus propelling water onto fires in the water or on the shoreline.
Prior to formerly accepting the donated boat, an independent mechanic contracted by the town of Tiverton will inspect the boat to ensure it is in proper working order.