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Avalon Rebuts Charges About Boat Slips at Fishing Center

Avalon Rebuts Charges About Boat Slips at Fishing Center

By Vince Conti

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AVALON — The borough’s assistant administrator has told the Borough Council that a charter boat owner’s claims that slip assignments at the Avalon Sport Fishing Center are being handled in ways that violate a borough ordinance are without merit.

Avalon Assistant Administrator James Waldron presented a report to the council on June 26 on a controversy that has lingered over rights to slip #4 at the fishing center. The report was in response to charter boat owner and borough resident Kevin Dougherty’s charges that slip assignments are being handled improperly.

Dougherty used the June 12 council meeting to voice extended accusations that the borough allowed someone else to skip over him on the wait list for a slip, showing favoritism. He said that there were irregularities in the management of slip leases and that nonconforming materials were used for pilings and decking at the center. Dougherty has long complained about his inability to get a slip for his fishing charter vessel.

Waldron said that Borough Engineer Thomas Thornton had filed a written report certifying that “all materials – pilings and decking – comply with the requirements of the regulatory agencies.” Waldron added: “This certification refutes allegations made at the last council meeting that such materials did not comply.”

Waldron also noted that the borough has successfully renewed its Department of Environmental Protection tidelands license for a 10-year term beginning this year. The license is a rental agreement from the state for the use and occupation of state-owned tidelands.

He then turned his attention to slip rentals at the fishing center, saying the borough has approval from the DEP for 17 boat slips. He said seven slips are allocated to charter and open boat leases, seven to non-charter vessels, and one to Moran’s Bait & Tackle and Sandwich Shop, as required by Moran’s lease with the borough for the small business that is run at the fishing center. Of the remaining two slips, one is reserved for public safety vessels and one is for transient use by those who may come in to use the bait and tackle shop.

The controversy with Dougherty centers on the use of slip #4, which is the only slip that can handle a boat of the size of Dougherty’s vessel, according to the borough. Dougherty says he has been improperly passed over on the waiting list, that the recipient of the slip is not even an Avalon resident and taxpayer, and that the borough’s policies, if followed, would give preference to his application.

But Waldron called Dougherty’s claims “without merit,” and he reviewed the history of Dougherty’s application since he joined the wait list in December 2021.

According to Waldron’s report, slip #4 has been continuously leased to someone else since 2016. Dougherty’s claim that the holder of the lease for slip #4 is allowing unauthorized vessels to use the slip was also dismissed in Waldron’s report.

The appearance of what Dougherty claims was an unauthorized vessel, was, according to Waldron, a temporary use by the slip leaseholder while waiting for a new and larger vessel whose construction has been delayed.

When Dougherty addressed the council on June 12, he singled out another slip and claimed that one was improperly given to someone who was behind him on the wait list. Waldron said that this slip, #6, cannot accommodate Dougherty’s vessel.

Turnover in slips is infrequent. Waldron told the council that there have been only five new slip owners in a period of 10 years.

Reporter

Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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