Consultant advises Port of Port Angeles to raise marina rates

By James Casey, July 5, 2015, Peninsula Daily News

The Port of Port Angeles should increase its marina rental rates by 1 percent over the cost of inflation, a consultant to the port recommends.


Paul Sorensen of Bst Associates of Bothell has told port commissioners they also should conduct only a “modest” marketing effort to attract more boaters to the Boat Haven marina in Port Angeles and the John Wayne Marina in Sequim.


“Almost your entire market is in Clallam County, and you’ve already captured almost all the market there,” he said, saying chasing other opportunities probably would be futile.


Commissioners have accepted Sorensen’s report but have not endorsed it. Commission President Jim Hallett said it would be at least a month — perhaps during the August budgeting process for 2016 — before they would make a decision.


The port’s struggle to increase marina occupancy pits it against countering trends in recreation, Sorensen said at a meeting last month, such as fitness centers, tennis courts and golf courses.


The numbers of boat owners 65 and older have shrunk by half, according to Sorensen. Although boat sales have increased, they haven’t kept pace with increasing consumer confidence in the wake of the recession.


A boom in boating in the early 2000s was driven by homeowners’ reaping record equity in second mortgages that financed recreational craft, he said. That phenomenon has reversed itself.


And whereas Clallam County numbers about 70,000 people, only 400-500 of them are boaters, he said.


“I look at it from that perspective as well. You’ve got an asset; what do you do to make that optimal for the community?”


The port’s marinas capture most of the boats that are 25 feet and longer, but smaller boats have become increasingly easy to haul out on trailers and store in people’s driveways and yards, Sorensen said.


The port’s strategy should be to meet its costs with its moorage rates, he said.


“Either the rates pay for the marina, or that’s subsidized by something else,” Sorensen told commissioners.


“I don’t believe that if you lower your rates significantly you’re going to attract more boats.”


A citizens committee of boaters and others that advises port commissioners about the marina opposes Sorensen’s views.


“What we are alarmed about is that the port, despite forming a citizens advisory committee, hired a consultant at $36,700 last year,” said its chairman, Bill Spring.


“That consultant essentially dismissed most of the committee recommendations to the port, particularly on moorage rates and the marketing of the boat haven — the two things that are probably most crucial for increasing occupancy at the Boat Haven.


“Many of us strenuously disagree with his recommendations on moorage rates.”


Still, the Boat Haven’s average 80 percent occupancy “is pretty good performance,” Sorensen said, and its moorage rates rank in the lowest 10 percent of comparable marinas in the region after the very costliest and very cheapest facilities are removed from the correlation.


Sorensen said capital and operating costs continue rising at the marina.


“Its really a dangerous thing having flat rates while operation and maintenance increased 2.5 percent,” he told commissioners.


“You can’t just roll that ball down the road. You have spiraling costs you have do deal with.”


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