Harbormaster plugs marina plan

Members of the Oak Harbor boating community have a lot of questions about the details of a marina redevelopment plan, but seemed united in the belief that something needs to be done to fix the aging, silted-in facility.

Harbormaster Mack Funk presented a phased approach to repairing and remodeling the marina during a public meeting Thursday night, May 17. About 30 inquisitive boat owners attended the meeting, which was scheduled to be an hour long, but stretched into two.

Funk said the plan, which has the support of the marina committee, would be largely funded through the marina’s own budget.

“It’s very clear that we have to pay for this work through revenues we take in,” he said.

Mayor Patty Cohen and Councilwoman Sue Karahalios were the only elected officials at the meeting. The two women took the opportunity to boast of their support of the marina and to criticize other council members for not supporting it as much.

“We have three council members who’ve never come down to the marina,” Cohen said.

Karahalios chimed in that a fourth council member had come to the marina for the first time just three months ago. She also urged those in the audience to contact the council members about supporting the marina.

In his PowerPoint presentation, Funk focused on the plans for the first phase, with construction starting in September of 2008 if everything goes as planned. The phase calls for dredging in critical areas and construction of a new main walkway with new utilities, as well as a gangway that conforms to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition, the phase would include construction of a new dock between the E and F docks. The 75 new slips, ranging in sizes from 40 to 50 feet, would fill a market demand for moorage for larger boats.

The members of the audience expressed concerns about the ability to navigate with a tight squeeze caused by the new dock, as well as the lengthy gangway. They wondered if rates are going to increase, which Funk couldn’t answer.

But most of all, they were concerned about the amount of silting, both in the marina and in the main channel. It’s up to the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge in the main channel, but boaters said they will only dredge for commercial purposes.

The boaters also wondered if the “critical dredging” in the first phase would be enough.

Boat owner Byron Skubi said the silting situation is critical during a minus-three-foot tide.

“A four-foot water depth in over half the marina is unacceptable,” he said.

Cohen admitted that the “dredging question” is an issue the city should spend more time looking into.

Funk said a “seat of the pants estimate” is that the marina could leverage a $4 to $5 million bond backed by marina revenues. Also, the city received $59,000 from the state for dredging and Funk is applying for boating program grants.

The original marina redevelopment plan, which the city paid a consultant $145,000 to create, proposed more than $19 million of work on the facility. The problem is that the city doesn’t have the ability to raise anywhere near that kind of money.

Besides grants, currently the only way to fund all the $19 million project would be to ask the voters, but most marina backers think that’s a bad idea.

“The reality is we can’t go to the voters or the city council for support,” said Steven Williford, an active member of the marina community.

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