CHATHAM — Boat owners will soon be able to do something they’ve wanted to do for a long time: renew their mooring permit or waiting list application from their computer or smart phone.
Making good on a longstanding goal, town officials are rolling out a system that allows mooring holders and people on the waiting list for moorings to renew and pay online. Given the green light by selectmen last week, the software developers intend to ramp up the new system in time for the next round of renewal notices later this month.
Duxbury-based Mooringinfo, LLC, has been working with the town since August and built a test system using information from the town’s mooring database.
“They’ve already done a considerable amount of work,” Harbormaster Stuart Smith told selectmen last week. Online mooring management and renewals has been “a longtime town goal,” he noted. “This software program is specifically designed for us – the communities that have moorings – and we think it meets all our requirements.”
Mooringinfo is already in use in Falmouth, Barnstable, Scituate, Hull, Newburyport and Newport, R.I., communities “with similar number of moorings that Chatham has,” Smith said.
There is no up-front cost to the town for the software, which is cloud-based. The developers are paid to build and operate the system via a user fee of $5.50 per mooring holder and $4 per wait-list customer, which is collected as a surcharge during the renewal process. Based on the number of permit holders and wait list customers, Mooringinfo would collect around $19,775 this year. The contract provides the town with 20 hours of tech support.
The new system will be a convenience for users, and will reduce the number of mailings the harbormaster office sends.
Smith said the program can also be adapted to work for other town-issued permits. “It could go to beach stickers, shellfish permits, whatever the town may want,” he said.
The town already uses a database to manage moorings, and previously tried a different online mooring management system. “It wasn’t quite up to snuff,” the harbormaster said.
“This sounds like you’ve done a lot of due diligence,” Selectmen Chairman Shareen Davis said.
Board member Jeffrey Dykens said it’s “great news” that the town will be able to provide online mooring management. Dykens said the endorsement by the harbormaster in Newport, R.I., is particularly impressive. The new system has important features, “but when the rubber hits the road, it’s implementation,” he said. Putting the system in place in time for October renewals is an aggressive goal, he added.
“What kind of magic wand will they wave in order to pull this off?” Dykens asked.
Smith said he’s been in communication with Mooringinfo for several years, and heard their presentation at the regional harbormasters’ association. “I thought a couple of years ago that it needed a little bit more time,” he said. Since then, a number of other towns have endorsed the system, and the town has investigated other vendors’ software “that didn’t quite meet a lot of our needs.”
Mooringinfo Partner Joe Romanowski said much of the preliminary work with Chatham has been done, and uploading the actual mooring data can be done in a single day.
“We do feel confident that we can get this turned around very quickly,” he said.
“I know we’ve been waiting for this a long time,” Selectman Dean Nicastro said. Board member Cory Metters agreed, and asked what process is used if Mooringinfo intends to raise its user fees. John Vigilante of Mooringinfo said his company typically does not increase fees in the first two years working with a town, and thereafter does not expect “anything more than a cost of living [increase] or a percentage point or two.” Chatham is signing on for a one-year contract, but the company offers contracts of up to three years’ duration, Vigilante said.
Davis asked who would be responsible for resolving any disputes of payment that stem from the new system. Smith said his office would do so, rather than the vendor.
“With any new programs, we’re always concerned about growing pains,” Smith said. If disputes arise in the first renewal season, “we’re going to have to give the benefit of the doubt to the permit holder.”
The board voted unanimously to endorse the use of Mooringinfo, LLC, and to fund the contract through their proposed processing surcharges.
“Good job, harbormaster department,” Davis said. “We hope that we have an efficient system here going forward.”