City Council OK’s Investigation into Missing Ernestina Lumber
NEW BEDFORD — Add the New Bedford City Council to the list of interested parties that want to know exactly what happened to valuable lumber that went missing from the City Yard at Quittacas Pond in Rochester.
The southern yellow pine was intended for use by the Schooner Ernestina Commission for restoration of the historic vessel, and was in storage at City Yard for several years before it's disappearance in 2016.
The New Bedford City Council voted Thursday night to launch an investigation by the Committee on Internal Affairs into the matter.
Councilor at Large Brian Gomes says he hasn't been satisfied with the answers given by the Mayor's office.
"It's not very easy to just let this go away without some type of investigation," said Gomes. "Some of the answers that I have heard have been very vague and not to the point."
On WBSM this week, Mayor Jon Mitchell admitted that the lumber, which had been donated for use for repairs for the Ernestina by the Dickinson Development Corporation, was given away to a third party by a City employee who was unaware of the lumber's intended use, calling it a "screw-up."
Gomes says it's worth knowing who that employee is.
"I want to know who went to the Ernestina Commission and apologized. And did the Ernestina Commission just accept [the apology] without any restitution for what had taken place?"
It's unclear if the lumber had been donated to the City of New Bedford for safekeeping until needed by the Ernestina Commission, or if it had been donated directly to the Commission, ergo, the State of Massachusetts.
An internal review by the City's personnel director is already underway.
In addition to the investigation, the Council will also send a letter to the District Attorney and the Attorney General, alerting them to the situation.
The southern yellow pine lumber was salvaged from the Fairhaven Mills complex in New Bedford that was razed in 2009 to make way for a large retailer. The 160 beams were stored behind locked gates at the City Yard at Quittacas Pond and had a value estimated at $330,000.
Mayor Mitchell says the City has contacted the party that took delivery of the lumber, and the party has refused to return the wood.