March 8, 2012 | Vol 42, No. 10

Boat owners off the hook for shoveling 'fingers'

The harbormaster’s office will be responsible for clearing snow off “finger” floats at the small boat harbor as the result of action last week by the Haines Borough Assembly.

The change came in the form of an amendment by assemblyman Jerry Lapp to harbor code revisions the assembly was considering before passage at the Feb. 29 assembly meeting.

It’s an apparent shift in policy and a reversal of proposed changes supported by harbormaster Ed Barrett and the borough’s harbor committee.

“Stall owners are responsible for their fingers and the main floats are the responsibility of the borough. That’s the way it’s always been,” said committee chair Norman Hughes.

Responsibility for shoveling fingers was not spelled previously spelled out in code. Hughes said the wording was proposed to clarify harbor rules and to address an issue with boat owners shoveling snow off boats and onto slips.

The change to the proposed code secured by Lapp removed a section that said: “During the winter months, it is the responsibility of slip licencees to remove snow from adjacent fingers if they are occupying their assigned slips.”

In a Feb. 28 letter to the assembly, boat owner Lee Clayton objected to the wording, saying it would create a “hazard condition” because “not all boat owners are able to clear the finger next to their boat in a timely manner.”

At Wednesday’s assembly meeting, assemblyman Norm Smith said the borough always had been responsible for clearing finger floats and Lapp said finger snow removal should be covered by slip rental fees.

Joanne Waterman, the assembly’s harbor liaison, cast the sole vote against the wording removal, saying that the proposed wording was not a change.

Harbormaster Ed Barrett told assembly members that he “didn’t have a feeling one way or another” about responsibility for the floats.

Committee chair Hughes, who was not at last week’s meeting, this week expressed disappointment with the decision, characterizing it as an unwise use of manpower that would likely increase slip rental rates.

“If (harbor staff) has to clear the fingers, we’ll have so much workman’s comp and carpel tunnel, we’ll have to hire a whole new crew,” Hughes said. There are more than 50 fingers, each more than 30 feet long, he said. “Trying to shovel those off will take five people.”

Harbormaster Barrett, who resigned last week, said this week he didn’t think the department would have enough time, manpower or money to shovel the slips. Cleats and ropes prevent use of a snowblower on the slips, requiring hand shoveling, he said.

Asked why he didn’t express those concerns to the assembly, Barrett said: “(Completing harbor revisions) has been an epic journey. At the 11th hour, that wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight. It also seems like an issue where no matter what you do, there’ll be 50 percent of the people mad at you. If that’s what people want us to do, we’ll do it. We’re about customer service.”

Hughes said the previous, unwritten, policy didn’t require boat owners to shovel fingers every time it snowed.