What To Do For The Boat People

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For the residents of the Fort Myers Beach mooring field things are in a state of disarray. Not too long ago it appeared they were on a path to getting a new castle, at Bayside Park, with bathrooms, showers and a place to wash their clothes. That came crashing down when businesses operating close to Bayside Park, and beach residents, who felt they were left in the dark about the new building, angrily objected.

This week the Anchorge Advisory Committee met. Now that the Bayside Park location is off the table the town council has tossed the issue back into their lap. The meeting started off with members voicing their concern that there’s a lot of misinformation about what the committee was trying to do and where they stand.

One committee member even said “all of a sudden there was a building” in Bayside Park, which made it sound like committee members didn’t even know the Bayside Park option would grow to a three story building. Some in the town believe it was the town staff that kept adding onto the building, which, in the end included staff offices, a stage and a rooftop viewing area, and became much bigger than anyone expected.

The Town is grappling with whether to take the upland services (showers, bathrooms, laundry, water and trash collection) for the mooring field residents in house or continue to contract it out. Currently Matanzas houses the facilities the residents use and its appears the owners of Matanzas are willing to continue those services.

Committee members aren’t sure that’s the best long-term option, especially with plans to expand the mooring field. They’re looking at something they can depend on for many years to come. What if the current owners of Matanzas sell their property and the new owners don’t want to continue the service.

Committee chair Judith Light said they’ve been discussing this issue for two years now. “We’ve been asking (town staff) for a plan. What’s the cost to take it in house?” Light appeared to want details that town staff was not willing to share in a public meeting. Public Works Director Chelsea O’Riley did say “we know the expenses are far more than the revenue right now.”

Mooring ball rental fees are $18/day, $103.00/week or $312.00/month which includes taxes. The Town of Fort Myers Beach currently operates a 70-slip mooring field east of Matanzas Pass Bridge. The town is looking to expand the mooring field to add 19 additional moorings west of Matanzas Pass Bridge accommodating vessels up to a length of 85 feet. The town has estimated the cost of expanding the mooring field at $200,000. That money will come out of the general fund.

It’s clear the committee believes the facilities being provided by Matanzas are not sufficient enough to meet their needs. There’s also a proposal from Harbor House on the table that’s being considered. And, the new Bay Oakes Campus facility is also now option, although that would take extensive permitting and chopping down some of the mangroves. The depth of the water is also a challenge at Bay Oakes.

Toward the end of the meeting, Town Manager Roger Hernstadt stepped in to say, “We are where we were a year ago. We spent money on a building (Bayside Park) that’s out the door, never to be recovered. Let’s try to avoid doing that again.” He did not detail how much money was spent on the design of the Bayside Park building.

In the end the committee made a motion to recommend to the town council that they look at options of taking the upland services in house, including at Harbour House or Bay Oaks and that they look at any other options that may be available. The committee would also like to know what the costs are of all the possible plans.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Not happy with “The Boat People”. It gives a shallow, hopelessly cliched, negative connotation to a group of people who contribute greatly, with some but not very much expense to The Beach.

    The Town’s Mooring Field patrons are not to be confused — as is done by this stupid headline — with homeless people that live on the derelict, or soon-to-be-derelict boats that anchor near, but are not a part of, the The Town’s Mooring Field.

    Another item of contention in the article is the quote from Public Works Director Chelsea O’Riley, “We know the expenses are far more than the revenue right now.” The reason that Chelsea brings that point up in the context of this drama eludes me. She either does or should know that our Town’s anchorage cannot, according the the terms of funding it, make a profit. It is a service. The Town’s Anchorage Advisory Committee is tasked merely with seeing to it that reasonable services are provided while losing the least amount of money.

    The Mooring Field exists (1) to try to keep boats from banging into public and private docks, and into each other during hurricanes, and (2) tourist revenue. Accomplishing those two objectives cannot be provided for in a for-profit business model. It was determined that the public sector needed to step-in when the private sector was unable to meet the need.

    Lastly, statistically, no one will read this post. The reason for making it is to help educate the writer. The Beach doesn’t need this type of stupid, senseless, downside clickbait.

  2. I believe the Town put the cart in front of the horse when they spent the money on a conceptual building that almost no one knew about. How about talking about issues and ideas BEFORE the Town spends our tax dollars????

  3. Harbour House has “for sale” units and the lower Level office and shop space. I don’t know all the issues of course, but this seems like the best possible Permanent option.

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