HARPSWELL — The town will now charge a $5 per day fee for storing abandoned property, including boats and fishing gear that need to be removed for navigational or environmental reasons. The fee comes a year after two sunken and abandoned vessels in Harpswell created a navigational hazard for other boats and needed to be removed.

Harpswell Harbormaster Paul Plummer said abandoned property like sunken boats are hazardous because “they aren’t marked, so at low tide it’s easy for other boaters to hit them. They can also leak fuel that pollutes our natural resources.”

Plummer said one boat sank near Leavitt Island and was removed by the owner in Oakhurst Bay.

The second boat sank in Middle Bay and Plummer was unable to contact the owner. That boat is still in Middle Bay.

Plummer said he welcomes the new policy because he deals with abandoned property, “multiple times a year, which takes time away from our general duties.”

Once a piece of property is removed, it’s taken to the Harpswell transfer station and disposed of. If the property is deemed valuable, it will be stored at the transfer station for up to 21 days and the owner will be charged $5 per day.

After 21 days, if an owner cannot be found or hasn’t responded, the property will be deemed abandoned and the town can dispose of it.

If a property owner wants to recover property, they will need to pay the storage fee as well as fees the town incurs for transporting the property to the transfer station.

According to Plummer, there are over 2,300 mornings in Harpswell, more than any other town in Maine. There are eight waitlists for moorings in various locations, and Plummer estimated a total of 40 people are on the waitlists. 

Annual mooring fees range in price. A Harpswell resident pays $50 annually for a mooring whereas a non-resident pays $250 annually.

The new fee is part of a policy the Harpswell Select Board adopted last week. Chairman Kevin Johnson said the policy puts into writing a system the town has used for years.

“We want people to be responsible for their personal property,” said Town Administrator Kristi Eiane.

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