Haverhill Seeks Alternative Riverboat Operators; Slavit Calls Plan Unfair and Will Run for Mayor

One of two concrete mooring blocks is loaded on a trailer after being ordered removed from the Merrimack River in March. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill is seeking seasonal boat operators who will be paid with federal stimulus dollars for providing Merrimack River tours. The only riverboat operator who has stepped up publicly, however, says the city plan amounts to retaliation.

The city is accepting proposals by the end of the month from charter operators who promise to provide a riverboat with at least 10 seats from May to October. Tim Slavit, who recently demonstrated his 400-passenger “Capt. Red” ship, said his family has been unfairly treated. He vowed Monday to bring his ship to downtown Haverhill and oppose Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s re-election.

“We are going to run the boat. Haverhill is going to have a riverboat, but Fiorentini won’t be the mayor. I’m going to get him and I’m starting a committee. We have 1,100 people behind us already,” he told WHAV.

The mayor explained his reason for pursuing the plan this spring. “We need more people using the river and I thought tours would be a great way to attract people. We have all of this stimulus money that is coming to the city now and we’re able to use it for tourism and I think this is a great way of using it,” the mayor said.

Fiorentini told WHAV Slavit is still welcome to submit a proposal and share in the federal subsidy. “Everybody’s eligible. We want to open this up and make it a fair process. It’s not just going to be  for one person,” he said.

It is not the first time a Slavit has been on the ballot after a falling out with a sitting mayor. Slavit’s father, the late Harbormaster William J. “Red” Slavit, first ran for mayor during the 1980s during a feud with then-Mayor William H. Ryan.

The 57-year-old Slavit said he made his investment in the ship after receiving an explicit endorsement from the mayor and permission to place moorings in the river. Last week, for a second time, the city prevented Slavit from siting those tie-ups—an action, Slavit said nearly cost him and his sons’ lives. He said he was forced to use the Salisbury State Reservation Friday.

“It was the only where in the world I was allowed to tie the boat up. The boat broke loose and went all the way over to the Plum Island airport. We went out at 3 in the morning in the battles of hell with my sons and got aboard that boat and we backed her out and brought it up to the town docks in Newburyport, downtown,” he explained.

The city’s request for proposals states operators will “provide tours of the Merrimack River for the purposes of promoting tourism, bringing customers back to the downtown business area, and boosting the local Haverhill economy that was severely impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

That’s at least one area of agreement between the city and Slavit. “Sick and poor and handicapped, elderly, hospitals that want to ride the river and businesses are dying downtown and they need the revenue that the boat will bring in.” Slavit said.

Besides a minimum of 10 passengers, the city said applicants must meet rules set by the U.S. Coast Guard and any other federal, state and local entity with regulatory authority and embark and debark passengers at the City-owned dock located at 102 Washington St. or other suitable location. Documents also state the city can provide applicants with “seasonal overnight/downtime docking or mooring…for a nominal fee if needed, or the vessel may be docked/moored elsewhere.”

Comments are closed.