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Harbormaster position prompts an online response from Langley mayor

When Langley Mayor Neil Colburn announced in October that a contract with the city’s harbormaster would not be renewed, it spurred debate as to why the decision had been made.

To try to address that debate, Colburn opened a discussion on the Langley Community Forum’s Web site — www.langleycommunityforum.org — inviting people with questions or comments to contact him directly.

“I was just inviting comment,” he said Monday.

In October, Colburn announced that Ben Reams had agreed to retire when his annual contract expires in April. Reams has declined to comment on the situation. In a statement on the forum’s Web site, Colburn said a financed “campaign” on behalf of the harbormaster has prompted him to set the record straight and defend his actions.

“I made the right decisions for the right reasons for the right people,” he said.

Since the announcement in October, a Web site — www.saveourharbormaster.com — has been created and supported by boaters, fishermen, Langley business owners and concerned citizens who hope to see Reams stay in the harbor. Langley resident and boater George Neroutsos said Reams is an important part of the harbor they do not want to see leave.

“The boating community is going to be really supportive of him,” Neroutsos said. “I suspect there’s going to be quite the feedback from people.”

An organizer of the Web site, Joe Whisenand, said the main objective is to help save Reams’ job. Although there is no comment from Reams himself asking for the support, the Web site proclaims it is acting Reams’ desire to remain the harbormaster in Langley. As of Friday the Web sites had accumulated over 100 posted letters and comments from people about the decision.

Mayor Colburn said there are two common misperceptions on the part of some people in the community as to why the mutual agreement was made.

“A lot of people assume it’s a budgetary issue,” he said.

Colburn said Langley’s recent history of dropping sales tax revenues that generate funds for the city is not a factor in his decision. He said the harbormaster position is paid out of a harbor fund, which is separate from the city’s general budget.

Colburn also said another common misperception is people assume Reams’ position will not be filled after his April retirement.

Currently, the harbormaster position pays approximately $1,236 a month, according to Langley clerk-treasurer Debbie Mahler. Reams also receives free moorage in the harbor, which is valued at approximately $250 a month. Reams has been the harbormaster in Langley for the past 18 years. Before it became a paid position, Reams had received free moorage as compensation for his responsibilities.

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