Harbor Management Commission Hoists Delta Flag: Maneuvering with Difficulty

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Historic Norwalk Harbor, fall 2014. Credit Leslie Yager

Greenwich’s Harbor Management Commission had their March meeting on Wednesday. The meeting came to an unproductive conclusion after 90 minutes.

Despite a succinct agenda, or maybe because of the succinct agenda, disagreements bubbled up quickly.

Peter Quigley suggested assigning commission members to mooring and  dredging subcommittees. HMC chair Frank Mazza said dredging is an issue handled in Parks & Rec, which set off the first round of disagreements over jurisdiction.

“I’m a DOT official,” said Ian MacMillan, the state appointed harbor master. “I am charged with the highest priority of authority of dredging to federal navigation projects. I am supposed to be guided in my work by this commission.”

Bruce Angiolillo suggested someone sit down with Parks & Rec. “…to get a sense of what they currently do and then we decide if that’s the way forward or if there should be a migration of responsibility toward us,” he suggested.

Mr. Mazza moved the discussion to navigational buoys. “I know it’s not on the agenda, but I talked to a lot of members on the commission who said they were not permitted,” he said of the 9 channel buoys everyone had previously agreed are hazards to navigation. “I think there is confusion on who is doing the permitting.”

Jeff Freitag, Parks & Rec Superintendent for Marine Facilities, said most of the 9 aids to navigation lack permits from the DEEP. He said that he had not taken steps to getting them permitted. “I hadn’t taken steps to get them permitted because Ian was going to work with DEEP to do it,” he said, referring to Ian MacMaillan, the harbor master.

Mr. MacMillan said the Auxilliary Coast Guard had come to Greenwich waters to determine where the buoys would be located. “In every case they were not located in the right place.”

Lt. James Bonney suggested the HMC pay for the appropriate tackle and arrange for the applications to be filled out immediately.  He added that he had attended a state law enforcement meeting where the DEEP reviewed with marine police the statutes pertaining to unpermited marker buoys. “It’s paramount that we do it legally,” he said, suggesting that Mr. Freitag could fill out permit applications. Mr. Freitag replied that he’d need his boss at Parks & Rec to approve that.

As several commissioners began to speak at once, Mr. Angiolillo asked why couldn’t the harbor master determine the latitude and longitude for each marker, select tackle, get the permits, have HMC vote on the money and drop the buoy.

“Provided that the ballast is correct for the application,” Mr. MacMillan said.

“Jeff, can you put in the application,” Mr. Angiolillo next suggested, addressing the question to Mr. Freitag.

“Only if my boss says it’s under our purview,” Mr. Freitag replied.

“There is $1.5 million in the Parks & Rec budget for this kind of thing,” Mr. Quigley said.

“What did we collect the $300,000 for?” asked Mr. Bennett who was attending the meeting as a member of the public.

“This is an amount of money we can transfer to Parks & Rec department so they can put down moorings for these navigational buoys,” Mr. Mazza said to Mr. Quigley. “They said they’d take care of the maintenance. This was simply a transfer of money from this commission to Parks & Rec to get these buoys done this year. Don’t make it complicated.”

Mr. Freitag said, “I’m going to do it any way. …but I’m not going into the permits.”

“The permitting part confuses me because why can’t you just fill out the form?” Mr. Bonney asked. “I want to pay for this, but we have to have the permit. We need someone to fill out the application.”

“We should fill out the application,” Mr. Quigley said.

Gary Silberberg brought up a point of order, asking why the topic of navigational buoys was being discussed at all, since it was not on the agenda. He pointed out that the previous night he’d attended Stamford’s Harbor Management Commission’s meeting and noted that they adhered to Robert’s Rules.

The FOI Act governs meetings and provides that at a regular meeting an agenda can be changed only by a vote of two-thirds.

Mr. Silberberg pointed out that the problem of drifting navigational buoys needing heavier ballast and permits is not new, and goes back years. He questioned why Parks & Rec would come to HMC for the funds. He questioning what precedent it would set if the commission went along with the request. “Any motion to vote on that is not in order,” he said. “It was not on the agenda.”

“We can waive the rules if we want,” Mr. Mazza said.

Someone in the public reminded Mr. Mazza he’d need a two-thirds vote to add something to the agenda by Robert’s Rules of order.

After a vote 4 to 3, Mr. Mazza declared the motion had passed, but a member of the audience pointed out that 4 votes was not two-thirds.

“I say we proceed,” Mr. Angiolillo said.

“You don’t have the authority,” Mr. Silberberg said.

“I say we proceed,” Mr. Angiolillo repeated.

“Any vote tonight doesn’t stand,” Mr. Silberberg insisted.

“Are you being a litigator tonight?” Mr. Angillillo asked Mr. Silberberg.

“Yes, I am,” Mr. Silberberg replied.

“We spent a year going around in circles over silly things,” Mr. Angiolillo said. “And we do absolutely nothing….And we’re fighting about Robert’s Rules of order and other silly stuff. I am embarrassed to be on this commission. …We have navigational buoys that are in the right place and we cannot manage as a group to allocate $5,000 to have some buoys put in?”

“We are embarrassing this town by the way we behave on this commission. The fact that we have to wait for someone’s permission to fill out some forms,” Mr. Angiolillo said. “We have a harbor master who keeps saying, ask me politely….”

“I’m not saying that and I resent it, and I want it on the record,” Mr. MacMillan snapped.

“I’ve been waiting a year from you to share information with me,” Mr. Angiolillo said.

“This is out of order,” Mr. Quigley said. “We have to draft a plan and you’re off on another tangent.”

Mr. Van Oss suggested returning to the topic next month. The motion was withdrawn.

Next month the Harbor Management Commission is set to have elections of officers. The three officers are Chairman Frank Mazza, Vice Chair Michael Van Oss and Secretary Steve Kinner.