Quincy city councilors will meet Monday to discuss a $35,000 bill from the Maritime Police Unit for winter boat storage.
The expense was brought up this past week at the council meeting, where some councilors balked at the idea of yet another expense that hadn’t been approved in advance.
“It seems to be a pattern…if we’re spending it, what’s the purpose of this body in terms of being a check and balance on the city balance, and the various funds that make that up? It seems to me to be a relevant question,” said Councilor Joseph Finn.
Although Councilor Margaret Laforest defended the expense, saying that boat winterization was an annual item that came out of the Waterways Fund every year, other councilors were hesitant to approve it.
According to Councilor Brian Palmucci, taking $35,000 out of the $66,000 account would severely diminish the council’s ability to pay for anything extensive for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“My concern is if we transfer more than half of the waterways fund, we’re diminishing that capacity to do that dredging, whereas we have other sources for what we’re covering now,” he said.
Palmucci suggested that the city look into forfeiture from drug proceeds, which typically go towards law enforcement activities. The existing Waterways Fund could go towards dredging Wollaston Yacht Club and other areas with boat ramps into the water.
The city may already be utilizing that forfeiture funding for other police activities, and councilors said they would look into it prior to Monday night’s meeting.
Regardless of how the Waterways Funds is used, officials recognized that the account, comprised mostly of boat excise tax revenues, is diminishing on a yearly basis.
In fiscal '10, the fund collected $106,000. In fiscal '11, it collected $94,629. So far in fiscal 2012, which began July 1, the fund has collected just $18,000; however, most of the revenue is known to come in at the end of the fiscal year when the boating season starts back up.
According to Quincy Police Officer Robert Bell, who was representing the Police Department to the council, the department is collecting more revenue percentage wise, but revenues are going down because fewer people have boats.
“What’s the relevancy of having a marine unit – it provides a level of service to being a coastal community, but it brings us back to [the issue of also having a] harbormaster. It clearly seems that there’s a problem. The boat excise seems to be going down year after year,” Finn said. “We need to be careful about the revenue from this fund, as it is continuing to lessen.”
No vote was taken on the matter and the subject will be brought up again during Monday night’s meeting.