2008-07-17 / Editorial

Who's in charge of our waterfront?


There was a line drawn in the sand this week over which local governmental body has the final responsibility for our island's public waterfront projects.

The dispute came to head over plans to repair the wood pile pier at East Ferry. The Jamestown Harbor Commission assumed that it was in charge of the project and that the town's professional administrative and support staff should report to the commission.

That became an awkward situation for the town's employees.

The Town Council soundly rejected the harbor commission's assumption. The council said project bids and project management should be performed by town staff who then report to the town administrator.

The town administrator reports to the Town Council.

The harbor commission should act in an advisory capacity to the town council, the council members said.

We have to agree. We've seen this type of authority struggle in past years between previous town councils and harbor commissions.

There should be no argument that the town council is ultimately responsible for everything.

Jamestown's numerous boards, committees and commissions are comprised of volunteers. Indeed, those individuals volunteer untold hours. That helps keep our property taxes low and the town functioning at the appropriate and acceptable level.

The volunteers are appointed by the Town Council to serve on the boards, committees and commissions which are there to advise the council. None of those council-appointed bodies should be autonomous.

The Town Council answers to the island voters. It's all about checks and balances.

- Jeff McDonough

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