CLEARWATER - Having invested about $300,000 this year for consulting services on the proposed downtown boat slips, the Clearwater City Council will be presented with the project's design, cost estimate and financial feasibility next week.
Wade Trim, the City's Engineer of Record, will be proposing a complex consisting of 129 slips, down from the 138 that were present in earlier designs. Nine slips were removed because the Florida Department of Transportation objected to their proximity to the Memorial Causeway Bridge.
Wade Trim estimated the cost of constructing the slips at just shy of $11-million.
Applied Technology Management (ATM) was hired to conduct a market and financial feasibility study on the project. They concluded that sufficient demand will exist, and recommended a mix of slip sizes ranging from 30 feet to 55 feet, with the vast majority between 40 and 50 feet.
ATM recommended lease rates far in excess of the $4.58 per foot/month that the City currently charges at the Municipal Marina. "Monthly lease fees on the order of $12-$14 per foot/month would not be inappropriate," their report states.
Despite the attention getting rates, ATM forecasts that the facility will not cash flow. Assuming a 20-year $11-million bonding at the City's market rate plus 1%, the slips are projected to create negative cash flow for the entire bond repayment period, breaking into the black only after the bonds are retired.
At yesterday's Marine Advisory Board meeting, Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin said, "The operating shortfall is very manageable." He added that the City is looking for grants and possible county participation to reduce the debt service cost and get closer to break even.
The City Council will be presented with both the Wade Trim and ATM reports during their July 18th work session, and will be asked during their July 20th meeting to authorize a November referendum and approve spending an additional $91,000 to move the project through the referendum process. "We need to have the referendum language to the Supervisor of Elections by August," Irwin told the Marine Advisory Board.
The Marine Advisory Board unanimously endorsed the downtown boat slip plan at their meeting yesterday. Board member David Hemerick observed that this would be the only dock application in Pinellas County that increases public access to the water.
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