By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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An organizer of a boat-owners’ group that had objected to the moorage rate hike in a steady stream of opposition at recent commissioners’ meetings praised the commissioners’ action at their regular meeting Monday.
But while Bill Spring of People for the Responsible Operation of the Port called the decision “a welcome reprieve,” he vowed to continue protesting the increase next year as the time draws closer.
“We are not going away,” Spring said.
“We would like to work with the port to develop a pricing structure that will refill the Boat Haven,” he added. “Raising prices hasn’t worked, and there is no reason to think that it will work in the future, given the local market conditions.”
Port commissioners said they expect the increases will take effect in 2014 as planned.
The western half of the Port Angeles marina at 832 Boat Haven Drive will need costly “significant redevelopment” within the next 10 years, Port Commissioner Paul McHugh of Sequim said.
“That rate increase needs to be implemented, in my opinion, in January of 2014,” he said.
His motion to delay the base-rate increase until 2014 but keep the 1.3 percent consumer-price-index, or CPI, hike was approved 2-1 at the port commission meeting.
Port commission President John Calhoun, who wanted the base-rate increase to take effect this coming January, was opposed.
Under the CPI increase, the owner of a 40-foot boat who pays a base rate of $5.98 a foot per month at the Boat Haven will pay $6.05 per month in January.
Also in January, all port marina tenants will be required to have $300,000 in liability insurance that includes the port as a beneficiary.
At the 300-slip John Wayne Marina east of Sequim, moorage tenants will see a CPI increase and an increase of 51 cents a foot for boats 60 feet and longer for an overall hike to $8.94 cents per foot.
That will increase the moorage rate to 100 percent of the average of moorage rates contained in a survey of 20 regional marinas that forms the basis of the rate hikes.
In January 2014, Boat Haven linear-foot rates will increase to 85 percent of the average of rates contained in the survey.
For a 40-foot boat, that translates to an increase to $6.47 per month per linear foot, not including a planned CPI increase.
Port Commissioner Jim Hallett said he met with Boat Haven tenants last Friday for two hours in an attempt to hammer out the compromise that commissioners enacted Monday.
“I would think their understanding of the port’s operations and other things has probably improved, as has my understanding of their concerns,” Hallett said.
Finding common ground
“It’s a classic case of, if you work with people who have valid concerns and respect their feelings rather than take it personally, you will find where there’s common ground where do we agree, where do we close the gaps,” he said.
“It’s just the right thing to do.”
Hallett said that had port commissioners imposed CPI increases in recent years, rates would have been “substantially higher” — $6.19 a linear foot for a 30-foot boat, for example, in 2013, rather than $5.69 a linear foot.
Hallett’s proposal to phase in the 85 percent increase over four years failed 2-1 before McHugh’s proposal passed by the same margin.
Calhoun said he voted against the measure that was approved to “stay consistent” with the commission’s earlier decision to increase base rates in 2013.
“I still believe our first decision was the correct one,” Calhoun said.
“What the commissioners have been struggling with is, we want to reach a balance, a fair return for investments in that marina to taxpayers who are supporting it and not drive out tenants with too-high rates,” he said.
“Every time we’ve taken up marina rates, it always is the most contentious and time-consuming situation that the port deals with as far as public interaction.”
But Spring insisted that the port’s existing pricing policy for the Boat Haven has “dramatically” reduced occupancy.
“The best way to refill the Boat Haven is to have a pricing structure that can be afforded by the local populace,” he said.
Spring suggested that the port keep the same rates for the summer and impose lower rates in the winter “to get people to keep their boats in the water instead of removing them,” he said.
“We want to fill the Boat Haven with boats, not further empty it.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.