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Councilman looks to cut related mooring costs

March 27, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

At a recent Town Council workshop, Councilman Dan Andre led the charge in a discussion about the Town of Fort Myers Beach public mooring field management, revenues and expenditures.

It was noted that mooring field revenue does not generate enough money to cover the expense of running it. In fact, Andre expressed concern that the Town is losing roughly $85,000 per year on the mooring field overall, including payment of all expenses and being on the low end of a 70/30 split revenue for upland services.

With the upland services contract coming up and ready to be put back on the streets, Town Manager Terry Stewart sought input from his council members by asking if they were happy with the current service in general, if it needed better enhancement and/or if there was a better alternative for a split revenue between provider and Town.

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Matanzas Harbor Municipal Mooring Field offers 70 mooring balls available to the public for rental year-round. Matanzas Inn has provided mooring field upland services since early November 2006.

Currently, the Town pays the provider, Estero Bay Hotel Company or d/b/a Matanzas Inn Resort, in the amount of 70 percent of the previous month's net revenue on the 15th of each month.

"I think the 70/30 split can be negotiated," said Andre. "I understand at the beginning (Matanzas Inn) had to put in capital expenditure with building showers and laundry facilities, but they have had six or seven years to recoup their investment."

Matanzas Inn has provided mooring field upland services since early November 2006. Its on-site facilities include dockage, dinghy dockage, laundry, bathrooms and showers, a restaurant, vending areas, trash services and front desk operations that provide information from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Town records show some of those facilities were first shared with inn guests before extra facilities were added.

The Town mooring field budget shows a revenue of $83,500 brought in for harborage user fees. Thirty percent of that yields $25,050, which doesn't even cover the cost of the "mooring field salaries" ($31,824). Then there are taxes, maintenance and capital costs on top.

Negotiations between Town and Matanzas Inn are expected to take place soon due to the near end of the contract term (which is three years with an option of three one-year extensions or one three-year extension at Town's sole discretion) on May 22, 2013.

Records, including checks and balances, may be looked into, while budget line items are being scrutinized.

During the workshop, Andre asked if a submerged water lease requires law enforcement payment from the Town since it is leased from the state and is partly in Lee County waters. Town boundaries were said to extend 1,000 feet from its land.

Andre questioned if law enforcement should be paid by incident, or if the Town should bite the bullet on $50,000 to $63,000 on annual enforcement costs.

"That seems like a lot of money to patrol the fields," he said. "Boats in Hurricane Bay are not our responsibility."

Matanzas Harbor Municipal Mooring Field offers 70 mooring balls available to the public for rental year-round. It allows boating guests to come ashore at a dinghy dock to place them within walking distance of beaches, restaurant, shopping, nightlife and public transportation. Its rental fees -$13 per day/ $260 per month- include pump-out service and the use of amenities, such as dinghy dockage, laundry, bathrooms, changing areas and showers as well as vending areas and front desk operations for information.

The Town gets an annual West Coast Inland Navigation District grant of $54,120 for law enforcement, yet pays out $63,000 to that agency for wages and fuel.

Another source of revenue could come from the Lee County Tourist Development Council since boating services is a part of tourism, says Mayor Alan Mandel.

"We could charge a bed tax as part of a fee to help make up the maintenance expenses," he said.

Stewart stated the purpose of the mooring field is not only to provide the service for safe anchorage to recreational cruisers, but for the health of the bay by providing pump-out services and "keeping it both visually and environmentally clean as possible."

"We are meeting those goals. There is a value in that," he said.

Stewart also stated, as a governmental entity, the Town should not make a profit on such a service, but that it should get as close to recovering its costs as possible.

"It is an asset to the Town, but we need to get a little bit closer to breaking even," said Councilwoman Jo List.

If the Town were to look elsewhere, where could they go? Bay Oaks was brought up to be a viable option, but it is not zoned for that type of subsidized service and lacks facilities for it.

Boaters have been very happy with the services that Matanzas Inn provides, and upland services are hard to come by. The Town and Matanzas Inn celebrated the partnership at the annual Cruiser's Appreciation Day last Saturday.

"Matanzas Inn has really done a great job," said Katherine Light, chairperson of the Town's Anchorage Advisory Committee. "They are in the hospitality business, so we've been pleased with their services. The shower and laundry facilities are great, and this is really a great place to have the Town dinghy dock. We definitely like it on this island and in this area as well."



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