A majority of the Select Board voted to dissolve the town's Harbor Committee, and agreed to seek applications from interested citizens to reconstitute it.

The 4-1 vote took place Feb. 12, with Taylor Benzie, Chairman Bob Falciani, Alison McKellar and Marc Ratner in favor, and Jenna Lookner opposed.

During the discussion, there was talk about how the Harbor Committee had dealt with difficult issues and was at an impasse.

There was no mention of a May 2018 Select Board vote that changed the windjammer license regulations to allow an expanded number of day sails, which started a dispute. While the board supported the request of windjammer Capt. Ray Williamson to offer four-hour day sails with full meals, Harbor Committee members, five daysailer owners, and six windjammer owners objected to the change. They petitioned the Select Board to rescind its decision, but the board stood firm. Afterwards, the task of sorting out a resolution to the dispute fell to the Harbor Committee. Since that time, the committee has not returned to the Select Board with recommendations, and the 2018 change to the windjammer license remains in place.

Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell talked Feb. 12 about how "there have been some difficult meetings and issues they've grappled with."

"There's a dynamic now where there's an impasse, and it's really hard to move forward. The only fair way to do it is to reset the table," she said.

Caler-Bell acknowledged that everyone respects the longtime committee members who have served for decades and who "deserve recognition from the town. They've done a wonderful job." she said.

Falciani said over the past six months, the proposal to reconstitute the Harbor Committee if possible arose during discussions. It means that the current Harbor Committee of five members and two alternates will be cancelled, and persons interested in serving on the committee may apply. Falciani said any person, including current Harbor Committee members, may apply. He said it is possible that only a couple, or even none, of the members will change.

He said that the view that every member on the Harbor Committee has some kind of vested interest in the harbor, and that three members had businesses based in the harbor, were factors in the discussions. "Nothing wrong with that, just making a comment," he said.

He said the town did not know how much interest there was in joining the Harbor Committee, and he understands it is difficult to find qualified people who want to volunteer on committees.

On the other hand, he sees this as an opportunity to seek new and capable members, and to "better align the Harbor Committee with the town's objective and goals." He hopes to have the committee back together within the next couple of weeks and ready to meet in March.

He and Caler-Bell praised the hard work and commitment of the committee members and said the decision was a difficult one. Both emphasized that the decision was not about individual members.

Falciani asked Richard Stetson, chairman of the Harbor Committee, if he wanted to speak, but Stetson said he didn't have anything to add to the discussion.

McKellar noted that the committee has had one of the lowest turnover rates, unlike a lot of town committees that often have vacancies. Talking to people around town, she said she had heard that some people think they would not be able to get on the committee, and had to have a business at the harbor in order to do so.

She said it's important to get feedback from people who feel their businesses, moorings or a float are going to be directly impacted, but that "usually the model is that those people provide feedback, but aren't the ones setting the policy."

"Ideally it would be better if fewer people with their livelihood attached to it [the harbor] were making the decisions, and instead just providing the knowledge," she said.

Ratner said he attended some of the subcommittee meetings regarding the windjammer licenses, and "there were some good suggestions put forth." He recently asked what happened with those suggestions, and found out that they were never brought forward.

"It's a concern that the work people are doing is not moving forward," he said.  "I think it's important for a town to progress."

Benzie asked if the current number of board members and alternates was the right number, and what Harbormaster Steve Pixely thought about the change to the committee.

Caler-Bell said she supported Pixely's request not to attend the meeting, because his job involves working with the Harbor Committee, and it was best for him not to be involved. Falciani said the number of committe members is set in the Harbor Ordinance.

Lookner said that while she understood the idea of conflict of interest, and the issue of stagnation with membership that does not change, she could not vote for "just vacating the Harbor Committee."

"These are all people that I grew up with, and that I know have the best interest of the harbor at heart," she said.

While she wanted "a better mechanism of doing what we're trying to do," she said she did not have an alternative to suggest, and could see some conflicts of interest that could arise.