Councilor Raises Need for Harbormaster with Encore Docks Coming

It doesn’t look like a harbormaster will be taking to the high seas of Everett in the near future, but at least one City Councilor wants the administration to keep a close eye on the City’s waterways.

Monday night, the Council approved an ordinance establishing a commercial passenger vessel license for businesses located in the city. In part, the ordinance was drafted so the City won’t be left out to sea when the new docks at the Encore Boston Harbor casino open, allowing for the casino to run its own four ferry boats out of the dock, as well as allowing for water taxis to and from Boston.

While those ferries will be docked and licensed in Boston, several councillors noted there could be an increase in marine vessel traffic and business in Everett and wanted to get ahead of the issue.

Discussion and approval of the ordinance led to some questions about marine safety and traffic that didn’t necessarily fall within its bounds at Monday night’s council meeting. Chief among them was whether the City should consider appointing a harbormaster, an issue raised by Ward 6 Councilor Michael McLaughlin.

“I hope the City is taking this seriously,” said McLaughlin. “This is opening up the City to serious concerns by bringing private boats to the docks.”

McLaughlin questioned John Tocco, Encore’s director of Community Relations, and Kevin O’Donnell, Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s chief of staff, about safety issues associated with the boat traffic and if they believed the City needs a harbormaster.

“I’m open to the idea, and I’m not closing the door,” said O’Donnell. But he added that he is comfortable with how Encore will handle the operation and didn’t think there was an immediate need.

Tocco said there have been transportation meetings addressing the marine issues with the Coast Guard as well as the Boston and State Police’s marine units. Both Tocco and O’Donnell noted that all three agencies are close by the Encore docks and typically quickly handle all marine emergencies and other issues in the area.

McLaughlin also questioned how Encore would handle the running of its ferry service and access to its docks.

“We will control access to our docks,” said Tocco. “They will be reserved for the most part for water taxis and our own ferry service.”

Any public use of the docks will be at Encore’s discretion, Tocco said.

“It sounds like your company is going to play the harbormaster role because they are your docks,” said McLaughlin.

Encore will have a number of dock attendants and someone monitoring the docks and attendants falling under Encore’s transportation department, Tocco said.

McLaughlin asked O’Donnell how the City would respond if there were an emergency involving the private vessels in the Everett waters.

“We do not really have that capability at this time, but we do have the Coast Guard and the State Police and Boston marine units right around the corner,” O’Donnell said.

Several councilors also raised concerns about additional marine traffic impacting motor vehicle traffic at the nearby Alford Street drawbridge.

Councilor-at-Large Peter Napolitano steered the discussion back to the issue at hand, the ordinance itself.

“I believe we are getting off track,” he said. “The ordinance we are reviewing is for the licensing of commercial vehicles. It has nothing to do with a harbormaster, it has to do with licensing vehicles in Everett.”

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