Nfld. & Labrador

Placentia boat owners want harbour authority dissolved

Some boat owners are concerned about safety and the authority's finances, but the Harbour Authority says it's doing everything by the book.

There's a fight over the future of the Placentia Harbour Authority

Bernard Mulrooney protested a large bill he received from the harbour authority. (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

Wayne Fulford sits at his kitchen table holding a petition addressed to Avalon MP Ken McDonald.

It's a request from dozens of boat owners to dissolve the Placentia Harbour Authority.

Fulford, a member of the concerned citizens and boat owners of Placentia area, says owners are worried about safety and financial accountability.

Wayne Fulford has started a petition demanding the dissolution of the Placentia Harbour Authority. (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

One of those concerns is a floating dock, but there are many complaints. Fulford says proper maintenance at the harbour hasn't been done for years.

Fulford says he contacted Service NL's Occupational Health and Safety division about the issues back in February 2015.

"The gangway leading to the floating docks was broke off and one friend of mine, he's dead now, but he had to slide down the plank to the floating docks to get to his boat and it's been a bunch of stuff like that," he said. 

"There was a hole in the slipway for two years which every committee member see, and there was a piece of countertop over that and a fisherman went through it one day and almost broke off his leg."

Financial concerns

Fulford also has concerns about the Harbour Authority's finances.

For a number of years including 2010 to 2013, the volunteer-run Harbour Authority was "experiencing operational challenges," according to Small Craft Harbours, and didn't submit any financial reports.

The moving of a floating dock in Placentia has been controversial. (Todd O'Brien / CBC)

In the past few years though, a newly invigorated authority has been sending out bills and demanding payment for docking fees not collected in the past.

Bernard Mulrooney says he had a pleasure craft on the dock for about five or six years and was sent a bill for $5,600.

"I assumed it would pay a regular wharfage fee of 75 or 100 bucks a year. After six years I get a bill for something like $5,600," he said.

Mulrooney protested, sending a registered letter to the Harbour Authority, and had his bill reduced to just $340.

Allegations disputed

Tony Barry, vice-president of the authority, disputes allegations that bills haven't been sent out every year.

Barry says financial reports and an audit are done yearly.

An unusable bathroom is one of the complaints lodged by some boat owners against the Placentia Harbour Authority. (Todd O'Brien / CBC)

As for Mulrooney's highly reduced bill, Barry said, "Mr. Mulrooney had his boat sold. So we figured if we could get something out of him it would be better than nothing."

Barry says the vast majority of boat owners have paid their dues, and it's just a few people who haven't.

"We're trying to make it better and then you get these few people that are against everything," he said. 

"Everything we try to do, you know, you meet opposition, so what do you do?"

Floating dock controversy

As for the floating dock, more controversy erupted late last month after it was moved back to its original location just down the harbour, from a finger pier to a part of the wharf near the entrance.

Area MP Ken McDonald will attend a meeting on Friday. (CBC)

Fulford predicts boats will suffer wind and ice damage now that the floating docks have been moved.

Both the Harbour Authority and Small Craft Harbours say the floating docks offer little protection from the elements and that in any case the dock, as planned, has been returned to the original wharf following repairs to that wharf.

The Concerned Citizens and Boat Owners of Placentia Area are holding a meeting Nov. 16 to air its concerns.

MP Ken McDonald will be among those attending.

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