Naples marine safety’s future in budget, networking

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — The “volunteers” on the Naples Marine Safety Department have a genuine passion for public safety on the waterways from Long Lake to the Songo River.

However, a couple things could help improve their service to the community.

One of those might be a bigger stipend, which is currently $50 a season.

Another significant change might be more assistance from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. That is what is being recommended by the Naples Board of Selectmen.

A few things have fallen into place to make the town reconsider and review its Marine Safety Department, according to Naples Town Manager John Hawley.

First, longtime Harbormaster Bill Callahan retired prior to the 2018 boating season. Then, interim harbormaster Ron Terciak took a medical leave for an undetermined amount of time.

In recent weeks, Hawley has met three times with the remaining half-dozen members of the Marine Safety Department.

“I was feeling out the level of commitment from that organization,” Hawley said. “After meeting with these guys — there are six or seven of them — there is still a lot of passion for this service. They can be positive ambassadors for our waterways.”

“This is going to be a rebuilding year for this group,” he said.

Following the first sit down with the new town manager, the department has revamped its mission statement and accomplished much more.

“They redrafted the mission statement,” Hawley said. “They drafted a potential ordinance for future adoption by the town, which defines the purpose of the marine safety division, and recognizes them as a formal department of the town. They drafted a job description for the harbormaster and patrol staff.”

Also, there have been discussions about networking with the state’s wardens — something the selectmen favor as a way of making water recreational activities in Naples safer and more enjoyable for tourists and locals alike.

Additionally, the group “looked at liability [and making certain] that their patrolling is done with the proper authority,” Hawley said.

Definitely, a bigger budget comes into the picture.

“There is going to be an additional financial commitment to this group,” Hawley said. “There is a boat to be maintained. They are working for a $50 stipend per year. To get this commitment, it will take more than throwing $50 at them.”

Chairman Jim Grattelo suggested that the town “approach the game warden.”

“We need a permanent game warden posted here between Blues Fest and Labor Day weekend,” Grattelo said.

Hawley said that topic had been broached.

“We did talk about that. It is going to come with a cost,” he said.

It was during Annual Town Meeting that one resident asked if the amount of money going toward marine safety was enough to keep the department afloat. The resident mentioned that there are more boats and also a greater number of faster boats on the lakes and ponds in Naples. More enforcement is needed before a serious accident happens, she said.

Grattelo’s comments confirmed that other residents are talking about marine safety.

“Several of us have received complaints and concerns,” Grattelo said. “There are more and more boats on the lakes. We have to do something. We have to police it. It cannot be a free-for-all.”

Selectman Jim Turpin asked if investing in marine safety would include paying for courses for the volunteers.

Hawley said, “They should be certified harbormasters. There are other trainings that put them just short of being law enforcement officers.”

Selectman Bob Caron II said, “That is why we mentioned working with the game warden. Our marine safety does not have authority.”

“Our town is growing. More traffic on the road and on the water is an issue,” Caron said.

Hawley said it will be important for the department to “have a strong relationship with the warden services. They have to do things diplomatically so they are not a target. They have the ability to enforce rules. It is not the goal of our marine safety to be law enforcement.”

“They said they get 90% compliance when they pull up alongside a boat and give a warning,” he said.

Therefore, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office is called for that other 10% of the time when a marine safety issue is not easily resolved, he said.

“A lot of people don’t know what it is that they do,” Hawley said. “They are out there to be advocate for safe boating.”

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