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City’s Harbormaster Position to Remain Vacant

Greg Desrosiers / TSM
Greg Desrosiers / TSM

NEW BEDFORD – Despite nearly an hour of discussion, the city council did not take a vote on appointing a new harbormaster Thursday evening.

Mayor Jon Mitchell submitted the appointment of police chief Joseph Cordeiro for the harbormaster position, but the council remained divided on whether to approve it.

Those in dissent of approval made it abundantly clear it was nothing against Corderio’s ability to perform the duties as harbormaster, but would rather see him focus his time and energy on protecting the city’s streets.

Ward 5 Councilor Kerry Winterson was one of the councilors against the appointment, citing the need for a harbormaster that can be at the harbor at any given time.

“We’re going to have a lot of future development going on in the harbor and it is extremely important that we have someone who’s going to navigate and communicate with vessels in the future that are coming.” Winterson said.

The motion was referred to the Committee on Appointments & Briefings by Ward 1 Councilor James Oliveira, but that vote failed 5-5 with Councilors Naomi Carney, Brian Gomes, Steven Martins, Linda Morad and Winterson voting ‘no’.

To keep the matter from moving forward, Council President Joseph Lopes invoked charter rule which will place a hold on the appointment until the council’s next meeting.

Lopes would prefer councilors work with the Mayor’s Office and the Harbor Development Commission to amend the ordinance outlining the harbormaster position.

“I think the dialogue tonight went extremely well and I think you saw the full spectrum of where the council is looking at this matter as it relates to the growth and future of the harbor as well as the public safety across the entire city,” Lopes said.

The council has previously supported the idea of handing over control of the harbor to the police department, but it appears they would prefer it be the sergeant in charge of the police department’s marine unit rather than the chief.

As for operations along the waterfront, HDC Port Director Edward Anthes-Washburn said it will remain business as usual.

Thursday was the second consecutive meeting where the issue of appointing a harbormaster was discussed after former harbormaster David Condon was relieved from the position Feb. 3 for not moving to New Bedford as per his contract with the city.

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