AUGUSTA — The town of Randolph – or any city or town in Maine – would be prevented from charging fees on ice fishing shacks under a bill endorsed unanimously Monday by a legislative committee.

The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee voted in support of L.D. 1747, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Shaw, D-Standish, following a decision by selectmen in Randolph to charge a $15 fee for each smelting shack on the ice along the town’s Kennebec River frontage.

Selectmen voted last June to charge the fee, estimating it would bring in about $2,000 for the town. They have not collected it, however, preferring instead to wait until the proposed state law is resolved.

Fisheries committee members said they don’t think such fees are needed, that such ordinances would be hard to enforce and that no one entity owns the ice.

“We didn’t think there was just cause to impose a fee on temporary shacks,” said Sen. Thomas Martin, R-Benton, the committee chairman.

Martin said that on Sebago Lake, for example, it would be difficult to determine which municipality a given shack is located in.

State law already prohibits charging fees on ice shacks placed on lakes and ponds that are not public water supplies. Shaw’s bill would extend that prohibition to coastal or tidal waters – such as the Kennebec River – and water bodies that serve as public water supplies, such as Sebago Lake.

Rep. Jane Eberle, D-South Portland, said fees might be justified if there was evidence that municipalities had to spend money to repair environmental damage caused by the shacks. But lacking that sort of evidence, she said she couldn’t justify allowing towns to charge fees.

“It seemed like this would be an added layer that wasn’t necessary for the municipality or the business owner,” Eberle said.

The bill, which will now go to the full Legislature, is considered an emergency measure, so it will require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate for passage. Shaw, the bill’s sponsor, said he’s confident the measure will get enough votes.

“I’m an ice fisherman,” he said. “I think it’s one of the last things you can do virtually for free.”

The Maine Municipal Association opposes the bill, saying it’s an unnecessary intrusion on the rights of cities and towns to collect fees. “It’s an erosion of home rule authority,” said Kate Dufour, a lobbyist for the association. “We don’t see what the problem is here.”

Randolph Selectman Peter Hanley said the town wanted to collect the fee to help cover the costs of the town’s harbor master and the constable, who has to respond to late-night parties on the Kennebec.

“What they should do if things get out of control, they should call the (IFW) committee and let them answer the phone at 11:30 (at night) or 12:30,” he said.

Jim Worthing, owner of Worthing’s smelt camp on the Kennebec, could not be reached for comment Monday. But he told the Kennebec Journal last month that he feels the town is anti-business.

“Anything you try to do, they tax you on it,” he said. “We bring a lot of business to the town.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]

 


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