Revised Thompson's Wharf slip fees sail through council consideration

By Ben Holbrook | May 21, 2014

Belfast — After further consideration, the Harbor Advisory Committee suggested, and city officials accepted, a rate of $75 per foot for slip rentals at Thompson's Wharf.

City councilors previously rejected a proposed slip fee of $70 per foot after officials pointed out private businesses such as Front Street Shipyard and Holmes Marina charge a much higher rate. However, the harbor committee had argued the slips at Thompson's Wharf do not provide the same amenities as those available at the private marinas.

The issue of the slip fees was eventually referred back to the harbor committee for further review and during a meeting May 12, the committee settled on the $75-per-foot rate.

After evaluating the rates charged at Front Street Shipyard, Holmes Marina and Thompson's Wharf, committee members felt a $75-per-foot rate was fair. In a memorandum to councilors, Harbor Advisory Committee Chairman Jim Black said a rate of $87 per foot would be comparable to the rates charged by private businesses.

However, committee members decided on the $75-per-foot rate because Thompson's Wharf does not include amenities such as parking, Wi-Fi Internet, security and other features. For that reason, the committee deducted the assessed value of those amenities, which they estimated to be about $12 per foot, to reach the proposed $75-per-foot rate.

Black also suggested the city reinstate a float reserve fund for the public landing and to put money aside to pay for repairs in the future, as well as to replenish the city's Enk fund, which Black said has been tapped heavily in recent years.

Councilor Nancy Hamilton asked whether there is a separate fee for commercial boats as opposed to recreational boats. Harbormaster Kathy Pickering said there is not a separate fee, with the exception of charter vessels, but in the future there should be a discussion on that issue.

Pickering fielded a number of questions from Councilors Mike Hurley and Eric Sanders regarding the number of people looking to get a slip at Thompson's Wharf, as well as how long people tend to keep a boat at the facility.

Pickering said there are approximately 30 people on a waiting list to get a slip at the facility, but pointed out that generally, if someone has to wait a year or more for a slip they tend to find accommodations elsewhere. She also said there are a handful of renters who have been at Thompson's Wharf for five or six years, while the rest have been there for less time.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting, Steve Garrand, who has kept a sailboat at Thompson's Wharf for a number of years, raised concerns about the proposed fee hike. Garrand said he would be switching out his sailboat for a smaller skiff, but noted his rental fee will still increase $100 under the proposed fee schedule.

Hamilton suggested the city could institute a two-tiered system where if someone is using their vessel for commercial purposes they would be charged under a different fee schedule than someone who is using their boat for recreational purposes.

She then suggested charging a rate of $70 per foot for commercial vessels and $75 per foot for recreational vessels.

Hurley also suggested phasing the proposed increase in over a period of two years.

Councilor Roger Lee, who had opposed the $70-per-foot slip rental fee as proposed during the May 6 meeting, said he supported the $75-per-foot suggestion from the Harbor Committee.

However, neither of Hamilton's or Hurley's suggestions were put into the form of a motion and councilors ultimately approved the across-the-board $75-per-foot fee with Hamilton and Sanders opposed.

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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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