Removal of abandoned boat may cost town money
A Newport man who left a boat anchored in Potters Cove over the summer has been charged with abandoning a vessel, Police Chief Ed Mello said. Owner Daniel Querzoli failed to answer a court summons on Sept. 21.
“We are preparing an affidavit to apply for an arrest warrant,” Mello said. “We are in discussion with the Department of Environmental Management regarding the removal of the vessel. It is likely that the town will have to take on that responsibility.”
Querzoli is facing fines for failing to remove the boat.
Over the summer, town officials received numerous complaints about the boat, which resembles the S.S. Minnow from “Gilligan’s Island,” Mello said.
The boat is currently tied to a mooring, while town officials decide the next step. Most likely, the boat will be demolished, said Harbormaster Sam Paterson. According to Mello, the boat is no longer visible from the road.
Paterson said the “derelict” vessel arrived around the middle of the summer.
Mello said that boats are allowed to anchor there for three days, but this boat continued to sit in the cove after the grace period had elapsed. Paterson investigated and learned the boat had come from Newport. According to the Newport harbormaster, Querzoli had been anchoring it in various locations.
“It had been bouncing around for one or two years,” Paterson said.
Newport Harbormaster Tim Mill provided the background story about the boat, Paterson said. Mill also provided contact information for Querzoli, including his last known address, telephone and cell number.
Querzoli had been trying to sell the boat, Paterson said, and had listed it on Craigslist for $3,500.
Police spoke to Querzoli over the telephone and ultimately sent him a written notice. Police said he ignored their requests and failed to remove the boat.
Now, islanders will probably have to pony up roughly $3,000 to haul the boat away and demolish it, Paterson said. It was either pay, or let it sink to the bottom of Potters Cove and deal with cleanup costs.
Querzoli could be required to reimburse the community for towing, hauling and disposal costs, but so far, according to Mello, police have been unable to find him and serve the papers.
As far as selling the boat to recoup money, Paterson said that is not a possibility because the craft is worthless. “All it is is a shell. We secured it to a mooring to make sure it doesn’t break free.”
Unfortunately, Paterson said the town had to assume legal responsibility for the boat due to its decision to tie it to a mooring.
“Once you put a line to it, you own the vessel,” he said.
Mello said town officials decided at the end of the summer to secure the boat to a mooring. He reported on the status of the “hulk” at the Harbor Commission’s September meeting.
Jamestown finally resorted to the summons and legal action after Querzoli ignored repeated requests from the harbormaster, the Jamestown police and the Coast Guard. They wanted the boat moved because it was becoming a hazard. Mello said police assigned a detective to the case.
“We tried to get ahold of the guy,” Paterson said. “We did talk to him personally and sent him a registered letter to summon him to go to court because he was being fined. It came to the point we had the Save the Bay swim and the Coast Guard told him he had to move it.”
However, Paterson said, Querzoli never came back for the boat. Ultimately, Paterson and a highway department worker boarded the boat, checked it for fuel tanks, pumped the boat out, and secured it on a line.
There was no engine or fuel tanks, so there was no danger of oil going into the bay if the boat sank. But the abandonment is time consuming and costly, Paterson said.
“We shouldn’t have to do this. It took my time and one of the guys from the highway department.” Paterson believes that the town will probably not be able to recover the costs to remove the boat.
“We knew we were going to get stuck with that thing,” he said. He added that police and harbor personnel did everything possible to contact the owner and resolve the situation.
“We followed the ordinance to the letter,” he said. “You can’t just run out there and do something. You have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.”
Paterson said Jamestown does deal with occasional boat abandonments. For another example, he said there was a small sailboat near Bryer beach. But other communities like Warwick and Providence see more of this problem. “We are not subject to that much of it,” Paterson said.