River tour boat plan sunk?: Haverhill orders moorings removed | Haverhill

HAVERHILL — It sounded like a good idea at first.

Former Haverhill Assistant Harbomaster Tim Slavit recently unveiled plans to bring a 100-plus-foot-long tour boat with room for 400 passengers to the city. It would be based in Haverhill and provide tours of the Merrimack River when the weather warms up.

The timing was right. In the last few years Haverhill has targeted the river as a way to boost the economy through boating and tourism. If the pandemic eases up later this year, the tour boat could be a way for the city to jump start more river tourism.

Slavit’s plan even passed the political test initially. Mayor James Fiorentini, a proponent of using the river to benefit Haverhill, said he liked the sound of the proposal when he first heard about it.

But suddenly the tour boat plan has run aground.

Slavit’s proposal may have come to an end after he received a letter from the city’s current harbormaster ordering him to remove concrete moorings he placed in the river last Sunday behind the Water Street fire station. The moorings were intended as a place to keep the tour boat when it arrives in Haverhill. This week, the boat was in dry dock for repairs in Gloucester.

The city’s Harbor Commission told Slavit at a Tuesday night meeting that he failed to obtain a permit as required to install the moorings, and that he placed them in the river without permission or guidance from the harbormaster.

Slavit said a police officer stopped by his house on Groveland Street Wednesday night with a letter from Harbormaster Michael Vets ordering Slavit to remove the moorings by the end of the day Friday. Slavit said the letter warned that if he failed to comply, the city would remove the moorings and send him a bill.

Slavit said he called the mayor around 10:30 Wednesday night to discuss the letter, and that Fiorentini told him he should have obtained a permit for the moorings as required.

“The mayor told me that he would enforce the order and that he’d get police involved if needed,” Slavit said. “The mayor told me on several occasions in the past that I could just put the moorings in the river and that he’d take care of permitting and would waive all fees.”

Tour boat moorings removed

On Thursday, a crane removed the moorings from the river with the assistance of Slavit’s sons Ryan and Tim Slavit Jr., who were in their grandfather William “Captain Red” Slavit’s former harbormaster boat.

“Now I have nowhere to go after the mayor led me to this point,” Slavit said of his lack of a home for the tour boat. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to my boat, but I am considering reaching out to the mayor in hopes we can all gather around a table and discuss why this is a good project for the city.

“If they give me the green light, I’ll go get the boat but if not, we have to sell the boat,” Slavit said. “I still want to bring a tour boat to Haverhill.”

Slavit said he and his two sons have been in Gloucester working on the 105-foot-long, 28-foot-wide boat he named “MS Capt. Red” in honor of Slavit’s late father, “Captain Red,” the city’s longtime harbormaster who operated tour boats on the Merrimack River for years.

Slavit said he planned to launch the boat on Thursday and then travel to Newburyport, where he planned to moor it overnight. He said he planned to travel upstream to Haverhill Friday and moor the boat behind the Water Street fire station, where he installed the moorings which have since been removed.

Slavit said he planned to start his tour boat business sometime in May, and that up to this point he had received the full support of the mayor.

Tempers flare at meeting

Slavit said he met with the city’s Harbor Commission on Tuesday evening to ask for money from a waterways fund. That money would pay for a walkway and docks for his tour boat. He said he made the request at the recommendation of the mayor.

The Tuesday meeting saw Slavit balking at questions from commissioners who asked for a copy of the Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection for his tour boat, a copy of a pilot’s license, proof of insurance and for details on how he would fuel the boat and have its sewage holding tanks pumped out.

When commission member Phil Wysocki asked Slavit about details about the mooring, how low the boat sits in the water and its stability, Slavit insulted Wysocki. Wysocki told Slavit to keep the conversation civil.

Committee member Alan Foucault told Slavit that the commission was there to review his plan, but there was no plan to review.

“You want my vote of approval to spend public waterways money on a private charter boat, then I have a right to ask some questions,” Foucault said. “I don’t think we can use that money to support a private enterprise.”

Slavit responded by saying, “Let me tell you something ponytail, you’re going to get a certificate of inspection when you request it from the Coast Guard. You’re going to get a proof of insurance and that’s it.”

Foucault has long hair that he gathers into a ponytail.

After the Salisbury harbormaster stood up to express his concerns about a large tour boat operating in the river, Slavit stormed out less than 15 minutes into the meeting.

After Slavit left the meeting, the mayor’s spokesman, Shawn Regan, told the commission that the mayor had not given Slavit permission to install moorings without a permit.

“What the mayor told him was that he’d love to have a riverboat in the downtown, the public would love it, but that he has to follow all the rules and he has to get all the permits and do whatever you (the commission) want him to do,” Regan said. “The mayor would love to see a riverboat and Mr. Slavit is the only one who wants to do it.”

Mayor: ‘No one is above the law’

After learning about Slavit’s demeanor at the meeting, Fiorentini said he was anxious to work with Slavit, but that he must follow the rules like everyone else. The mayor said Harbormaster Michael Vets indicated Slavit’s moorings were placed in the wrong location, presenting a danger to other boaters and the public.

“While I support the tour boat, no one is above the law,” Fiorentini said. “He (Tim Slavit) has to work with the harbormaster to locate the boat and the moorings in a safe location. I have asked everyone to try to lower the temperature, calm down and try to work things out so that we get the boat and it is done safely.”

Slavit said he spent $6,000 on two concrete moorings and hardware and $3,500 for a crane to place them in the river. On Thursday, Slavit told The Eagle-Tribune that a crane removed the moorings from the river.