City officials tackling Boathouse rental issues
Belfast — Increasing fees and adjusting the rules and regulations for the Boathouse are some of the options being considered to address how the city should handle renting the facility.
City Manager Joseph Slocum brought a number of questions before councilors Tuesday, Aug. 6, in relation to renting the Boathouse. Because he was seeking direction from the council regarding potentially increasing rental fees, establishing a specific footprint for how much space is available, implementing limits on the number of people allowed for sit-down events and how much time the city will devote to assisting with events, Slocum has frozen further rentals of the facility.
One of the challenges of renting the Boathouse is the fact the building sits in the middle of a “highly used waterfront,” according to a report from Slocum.
For that reason, he suggested adjusting the footprint of the building to specify that all of the area in front of the building, the parking spaces on the opposite side of the street and the two existing spaces closest to the southerly side of the building would be available to whomever rents the Boathouse.
The adjusted footprint deviates from the space established for a wedding taking place on the weekend, Slocum states in his report. Under the rental terms for the wedding, the parking lot and green space along the side of the Boathouse that runs along Steamboat Landing property is included. However, due to construction of the Harbor Walk that space is not available.
“A far as the rental goes, they rent the boathouse and whatever is in it,” Mayor Walter Ash Jr. said.
In addition to specifying the footprint of the Boathouse, Slocum asked councilors to consider establishing a maximum capacity of 150 people for sit-down events. Slocum indicated in his report that the wedding party renting the Boathouse over the weekend will include about 200 people.
He said the Boathouse's kitchen is not equipped to prepare or maintain food for that number of people, nor are the two bathrooms in the building adequate for such a large crowd. In the past, Slocum said in his report that people have brought in their own kitchen equipment and ended up shorting out the power in the building.
Along with establishing how the Boathouse should operate, Slocum asked councilors to consider raising rental fees. The existing rental rates for a Belfast resident, business or organization for a full day is $400 and $1,500 for a weekend. Non-residents pay $700 for full day rental and $1,850 for the weekend.
A separate rental rate is available for non-profits with fees ranging from $75 to $200.
Slocum's proposal would increase the rental fees and establish a “prime season” — May 25 to Oct. 7 — and an “off season” — Oct. 8 to May 24.
From May 25 to Oct. 7, weekend rentals of the Boathouse for resident would increase to $1,600 and non residents would pay $2,300. Daily rentals for residents would increase to $150 and to $225 for non residents.
During the off season, rental fees would be $1,200 for residents and $1,750 for non residents for weekend rentals. Daily rentals would increase to $100 for residents and $175 for non residents.
According to figures provided by the city, during a 14-month period from May 2012 to June 2013, Boathouse rental fees totaled $29,455 with the majority of the fees collected during the months of June, July, August and September.
Additionally, Slocum suggested closing the Boathouse during the months of January, February and March due to the small amount of revenue generated during that time period. In his manager's report, Slocum stated the revenue brought in during those months does not justify the cost of cleaning and heating the building.
Finally, Slocum requested councilors consider establishing a limit on how much time the city's managing agent for the Boathouse will spend on each event. He cited an example where a bride and her mother made repeated requests to the managing agent.
“On one wedding this year our independent managing agent had more than a hundred phone calls and emails, each calling for a response, from a mother and daughter coordinating a wedding, Slocum stated in his report.
City Councilor Mike Hurley was surprised that people renting the Boathouse could be so demanding.
“I'm amazed that these people feel they have the right to make a hundred phone calls,” he said.
Because of the time the city's managing agent spent dealing with requests for services and other amenities in regards to the Boathouse, Slocum suggested offering three hours of the agent's time per event, and anyone who asks for more time would be billed at a rate of $25 per hour.
Due to the amount of information proposed, councilors asked for time to consider the potential options for the Boathouse. Slocum agreed and said the proposals could be brought back to a future meeting.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at email@example.com.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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