Officials continue to tweak Boathouse rental proposals
Belfast — City officials again tackled proposals for operating the Boathouse, as they considered increasing fees, maximum seating capacities, professional cleanings and other issues.
Before councilors began discussing their thoughts on several proposals regarding the Boathouse from City Manager Joseph Slocum, a handful of residents offered suggestions for making the space more user friendly, while also citing the building's cleanliness as a concern.
Suggestions from residents included installing bathroom facilities at Steamboat Landing for use by park visitors and beach goers; making a dumpster available for the Boathouse; increasing rental fees; and to hire professional cleaners, a maintenance person and manager specifically for the property.
Belfast resident Aynne Ames suggested the city could include the cost of a professional cleaning in the rent for the building.
“I'd love to see it look better,” Ames said. “It's a real gem on the ocean.”
During discussion amongst the council, Slocum agreed that the Boathouse has not always been cleaned as well as it should. To address that issue, he said the city is implementing new standards for how the space should be cleaned. He continued by saying the city is looking at several options for reducing the amount of dirt that gets into the building, either through the use of more rugs or other devices.
Slocum said the city would also make sure there are clean mop heads and other supplies available to renters to clean the building after their event.
Councilor Nancy Hamilton questioned whether the city raising the fees for renting the Boathouse would cover expenses if additional cleanings and maintenance are required. Councilor Mary Mortier suggested that a fee could be charged to cover the cost of cleaning that would be paid by whoever is using the space.
Mortier, who is a member of several organizations that have utilized the Boathouse for events, suggested the fee could even be paid by groups that have used the space in the past at no cost or at a reduced price.
“I'm saying that maybe we have to consider a set cleaning fee that some of these civic organizations have to absorb,” she said.
Slocum responded by saying he would be hesitant to charge such a fee, and said the city is moving away from booking more than one event at the Boathouse on the weekends. That way, after the event is concluded, city staff can go to the Boathouse on Monday and make sure the building has been cleaned properly, Slocum said. If the space requires additional cleaning, it can be done before the next event is scheduled to take place.
He said the city is also collecting a fully refundable security deposit. If the Boathouse requires additional cleaning, or there is damage, the money to do any work will be taken from the deposit.
In terms of the increased fees proposed by Slocum, he acknowledged that the higher prices may result in some business being lost. Under his proposed fee schedule, weekend rentals for Belfast residents, businesses and organizations would increase from $1,500 to $1,600 and for non residents the price would increase from $1,850 to $2,300.
Slocum also proposed establishing a prime season, May 25 to Oct. 7 and an off season that would run from Oct. 8 to May 24. The higher rates would be charged in the “prime” season and lower rates would be charged in the off season.
While councilors were generally in favor of the higher rates, one of the concerns was how the city would address non profits and other organizations that work to improve the city and may not be able to afford the cost of renting the Boathouse.
Slocum explained that the new rates assume that the groups and organizations would be treated they same as they were in the past; meaning they could receive a lower rate or have the fee waived.
In his manager's report, Slocum estimates the cost of running the Boathouse is about $33,000 a year. That figure includes a base budget of $21,000 plus about $8,500 for support staff, $2,000 to $3,000 for furniture and structural updates and $1,000 for 23 weekends of on-call support.
The report continues by estimating that the increased fees would generate about $50,000 in revenue. That number would drop to about $40,000 if the council opts to offer the same amount of discounted and sometimes free use of the Boathouse as it has in the past.
Revenue would decrease even further, but still be enough to potentially cover all expenses, if people choose to use another venue due to the increased fees or if a discount of 10 to 20 percent is offered to non profit groups, the report states.
To minimize the amount of time city employees are spending managing events at the Boathouse, Slocum suggested offering three hours of the event manager's time per event. Renters can request more time, but they will be charged an hourly rate of $25 per hour to the event manager, Slocum proposed.
He also proposed establishing maximum capacities for how many people can be in the Boathouse during an event. For sit-down dinners, Slocum suggested a maximum of 150 people; auditorium style seating would accommodate 175 people; training and education events would could accommodate 150 people; and a standing social could accommodate 175 people.
Slocum said he heard a recommendation to go as low as 130 for the maximum seating capacity — a number that Councilor Mike Hurley felt was too low.
Hurley said Belfast is limited in terms of the public spaces available for people to use and said he would be more comfortable with the 150 maximum seating capacity.
Councilor Nancy Hamilton commented that she felt people will look at a potential venue and decide whether there is enough room for their event or decide they need to find an alternative location. Mortier then noted that based on her experience with the Boathouse, 150 people at a sit-down dinner is an appropriate number.
However, she commented that she felt the standing social figure of 175 could be increased to 200 people.
Slocum also proposed closing the Boathouse for January, February and March due to the limited use it gets during those months. Hurley agreed and suggested closing the space for those months on a trial basis to see how it works. Slocum commented that even if the Boathouse is closed for three months, workshops could still be held there.
Councilors also discussed the footprint of the building to determine how much space is available around the building for people who rent the facility. Slocum said one of his issues with the facility is that he needs to know how much space the city is renting before he allows more events to be booked in the future.
Once discussion concluded, Slocum said he would take the feedback and continue tweaking the plan for the operation of the Boathouse.
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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