CLEARWATER – After hearing a consultant’s report on expanding the city marina in Clearwater Beach, Mayor Frank Hibbard said he wanted to drop that idea and instead re-visit the idea of a marina along the Coachman Park waterfront.
The action came at Monday’s work session meeting of the City Council.
Hibbard said a downtown marina would aid revitalization and is still a top priority. He said, “We only have so many dollars for a marina. The money might be better spent downtown.”
Bill Horne, the city manager, attempted to bring the impetus of the study done by the consultants back on course by emphasizing the necessity of gathering the data.
“The core issue was to give ideas on what we have to work with. I want to make sure our efforts are consistent with your expectations,” he said.
Horne added that there was a time when talking about marina development was taboo. Last year, Clearwater residents voted against a combination downtown marina/parking facility and amphitheater.
The consultant, Wade-Trim, presented three design composites showing options for beach marina expansion and modernization. The designs included restructuring the marina with floating concrete dockage, a water taxi, a fuel station and adding additional and wider slips with water, electric, cable and phone hook-ups.
The consultants anticipated the project to take nearly three years and cost $8 million, which they pointed out, would partially be off set by existing and future grant money.
Council members along with Bill Morris, the city’s marina and aviation director, did the math and concluded that existing slip rental rates would have to almost double as only 64 new slips could be added.
Councilmember Bill Jonson asked, “Grants are possible, but we don’t know for sure that we’ll get them. If we double our slip rate, where will that put us in relation to other marina’s rates?”
Morris calculated a doubling of rates to be one dollar over what most other marinas now charge and reasonable, because experience has proven that boaters who want to boat will pay the going rate.
He said at present, “Clearwater offers the second cheapest slips on Florida’s west coast.” Rates for slips run $7.55 per foot each month for non-residents and $4.58 for residents.
Commissioner John Doran summed up that $1.6 million a year would have to be earned to make the Beach Marina expansion feasible, whereas reworking numbers from 2003’s marina research to construct nearly 12 dozen boat slips downtown, would over time pay for itself. Morris estimated the initial cost for expanding the downtown marina to be $6.5 million.
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