By Paul Gottlieb, November 12, 2013, Peninsula Daily News
Boat Haven tenants critical of looming moorage rate increases packed a 2014 Port of Port Angeles preliminary budget meeting Tuesday at which board of commissioners President John Calhoun suggested the port should do a better job of communicating with the public.
More than a dozen speakers took Calhoun and outgoing Commissioner Paul McHugh to task for increasing linear-foot rates for 2014 at a time Boat Haven occupancy is trending down.
William Spring, a leader of People for the Responsible Operation of the Port, told commissioners the port used a “grossly unfair, unrepresentative moorage rate study” to establish the rates.
“Your insistence on raising moorage rates repeatedly in the face of an alarming decline in Boat Haven occupancy defies reason and good sense,” Spring said.
Calhoun suggested that some of the $15,000 dedicated to a “port-wide communication plan” next year could be devoted to community outreach.
He said an advisory committee could be formed to explore moorage rate issues much like a similar committee that delved into a new rate structure five or six years ago.
‘Miss in communication’
“We obviously have a great deal of passion on this front and, I think, a huge miss in communication,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun recalled that port Commissioner Jim Hallett, who was out of town on vacation Tuesday, had suggested leading an effort to hash out moorage rate issues with Boat Haven tenants.
“We need to create an environment where we can sit down and talk to folks and work these issues out,” Calhoun said.
Spring appreciated Calhoun’s “olive branch” but only “if he is sincere about it,” Spring said later.
“He has rebuffed all of our efforts to play a constructive role to work with port staff,” Spring said.
“The core is that the insensitivity of the port commissioners to the very real harm caused to Clallam County boating families and tradespeople needs to be brought to the attention of the public.”
“We’ve worked with marina tenants all along,” Calhoun countered after the meeting.
“I reject any idea we’ve taken any action to rebuff anybody.”
Commissioners have defended the survey by contending the increase totaled 85 percent of the average of the 20 marinas surveyed, which included the Boat Haven and marinas at Elliott Bay and Bremerton.
There has not been a rate increase for two or three years, but overall rates have regularly increased with the consumer price index, Calhoun said.
Moorage rates were adjusted according to market rates five or six years ago, he added.
Increases Jan. 1 will include a hike from $5.50 to $5.52 a linear foot for boats 20-29 feet long, an increase from $6.10 to $6.57 for boats of 40-49 feet and a hike from $6.65 to $7.62 for boats 60 feet and longer.
For example, the owner of 45-foot boat would see a rent increase of $21.15 a month, or $253.80 a year.
That does not include an adjustment based on the consumer price index.
Boat Haven tenants said the moorage rate increase will be too much for them to bear.
“I will not be able to carry on here with a rate increase,” said a man who identified himself as a shipwright.
“I’m just going to take my boat out of here,” said another man.
“Pretty soon, you can fill in the harbor with fill,” he added.
According to a 2014 budget report presented at the meeting, the spending plan foresees a “slight occupancy decrease” in 2014 at the Boat Haven but a 14 percent increase in revenues to $1.3 million, as well as a 17 percent increase in surplus from the facility, after expenses, to $690,926.
Commissioners approved resolutions introducing the budget and keeping the 2014 property tax levy at the 2013 level.
A public hearing on the budget will be Nov. 25, at the next regular meeting.
The tax levy must be approved by Nov. 30 and the budget by Dec. 2.
“For my part, I’m satisfied with the budget as presented,” Calhoun said.
Said Spring after the meeting: “Our organization is not going to go away as far as representing the interests of boat owners.”