Plan to auction slips runs aground

Ward 10 Coun. Alex Nuttall says auction helped jump-start dialogue on full cost-recovery for marina – part of a wider services-and-fees direction

John Devine
City Scene Barrie

The idea of auctioning off three slips at the Barrie Marina to determine market value ran aground Monday night at council chambers.
But the sponsor of the motion to auction the slips, Ward 10 Coun. Alex Nuttall, was content that his “shotgun” strategy of driving a discussion on full cost-recovery for the marina was successful.
Following a deputation by boater Rod Burns who challenged the notion that the marina was subsidized, council backed an amendment by Nuttall that sank the auction but moved up the timeline for a staff report on full cost-recovery.
The report is to be part of a more comprehensive waterfront master plan, expected in the fall. However, a staff report dealing only with the marina is to be ready by June for council’s review.
“The shotgun approach … didn’t work … but it did work because it got the dialogue started,” said Nuttall, who reiterated his position that boaters should not be subsidized by taxpayers.
Burns told council the marina turns a profit, and that slip fees have been going up at the rate of three per cent a year, or 30 per cent over the last ten years. It had revenue of $500,000 in 2010, with a profit of $95,000, he said, while last year revenue was $507,000, with a profit of $45,000.
Last year’s profit would have been higher had dredging at the marina not been done, he added. There is $544,000 in the marina reserve fund.
He suggested the marina has an expense problem instead of a revenue one, which could be addressed by trimming marina staff, a small increase in gas prices at the marina pumps, and higher fees for transient slips, which are currently $40 a night, as opposed to $120 a night in Orillia.
Burns also said it was against City policy, by order of council, to subsidize the marina.
The discussion over marina fees needs to be seen in the context of a wider review of fees and services, said Nuttall, pointing to budgetary decisions made to pursue cost-recovery models for a number of services.
And he said current marina fees wouldn’t cover the costs of needed marina upgrades, which include new docks and work on the break-wall. Replacing ten docks over the next ten years will cost about $2 million, he said, for an average of $200,000 a year, and that current profit margins won’t be enough to pay for the work.
Ward 6 Coun. Michael Prowse said his initial support for the auction was based, in part, on frustration over a lack of progress, “trying to get the dialogue started,” about marina fees.
“I think we made an error (on the auction). I think we can do it better … (but) we’re going to have to decide what services we provide and at what cost.”
Council, said Nuttall, has been waiting for a year for the report, and that the debate over the auction at least jumped-started the dialogue.
Mayor Jeff Lehman said the City is in the business of providing services, and the discussion should be on what services are subsidized, and at what level. “What we should be debating is subsidy and full-cost recovery.”
He agreed the fees generated from the marina don’t “even cover come close to recovering the costs of (upgrades), and that work would have to be subsidized from the general tax base.
Benefit to the public should form the basis of any decision to subsidize a service, he said, adding that the marina does provide a benefit to some, but not to the vast majority of residents.

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