By Arwyn Rice, July 23, 2014, Peninsula Daily News
Port of Port Angeles commissioners have rolled back moorage rates at the Boat Haven Marina to 2013 levels temporarily through 2015.
The commissioners approved the rollback Tuesday on a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner John Calhoun opposed. It takes effect Aug. 1.
“It’s a breath of fresh air. The port should be commended for this,” said Keith Bengtsson, one of the 10 boat owners in attendance Tuesday and a member of the Boat Haven Advisory Committee, which helped craft recommendations.
Boat owners had felt that the port disregarded the concerns of marina tenants, but the inclusion of boaters in the decision-making process has changed that, Bengtsson said.
“The buy-in is really high,” he said.
Calhoun, as he voted against the rollback, said the cost of increased marketing and the rollback could cost the port — and taxpayers who fund the marina — a lot of money.
“This is not a good balance for me,” he said.
Reduced moorage rates will remain in place through the end of 2015 while port staff researches the boat market and works to raise the marina’s occupancy rates through marketing, improved management and marina improvements.
“I’m pleased that there is movement in the right direction and that the commission appears to be taking the citizens advisory committee recommendations at least somewhat seriously,” said Bill Spring, who founded the seven-member People for the Responsible Operation of the Port in September 2012 and who was out of town and did not attend the meeting.
His group said rates were too high at the Boat Haven and that this depressed the occupancy rate.
Marina occupancy rates are low, Jerry Ludke, port airport and marinas manager, told commissioners Tuesday.
In 2013, the average occupancy rate was 65 percent, he said. The most recent occupancy rate, in June, was 75 percent, he added, noting that the summer occupancy rate is higher.
Ludke said the port has a number of slips that are difficult to access or unable to be used during certain tidal conditions.
Spring called present rates “excessive” and said “further rate reductions will be essential to restoring full occupancy to the Boat Haven.”
The 2014 moorage rate represented about a 10 percent increase over 2011 and 2012 rates, which brought rates closer to current market rates, port officials said.
The marina has five moorage rates based on the sizes of recreational boats.
Current monthly moorage cost ranges from a 20-foot slip for $5.56 per foot of boat length to a 60-foot slip for $7.66 per foot.
With the rollback in moorage rates, a 5.5 percent increase in occupancy rates would allow the port to break even in 2015, and a 10 percent increase would give the port a net revenue of $77,900, said Karen Goschen, port deputy executive director and finance director.
However, if the port has only a 1 percent increase, it could cause a net revenue loss of $74,000 in 2015, Goschen said.
Calhoun said some changes need to be made to make the port more attractive for boat owners.
He added that the 2014 moorage increase was established after a study of other marinas in the region, addressing complaints from boat owners that the Boat Haven was being inaccurately measured against marinas that had little similarity.
“There are no true comparables,” he said.
The commissioners supported staff work on other committee recommendations, such as setting occupancy rate benchmarks and increased marketing.
Commissioners Jim Hallett and Colleen McAleer said the reduction in moorage rates is a tool to improve usage.
“It is a first step,” Hallett said.
Marina occupancy affects businesses in Port Angeles, McAleer said, since boaters use both services in town.
“We’ll look at the market study and go from there,” she said.