Boat Basin Blues
BY ROBIN JOVANOVICH & TOM MCDERMOTT
Addressing the many rumors about the future of the Boat Basin, after Boat Basin Supervisor George Hogben Jr.’s resignation, or “forced resignation” as his supporters assert, ten days ago, City Manager Greg Usry stated some facts at the March 11 City Council meeting.
First, and most importantly: “The City has no plan to sell, lease, or close the Boat Basin. Nor is RowAmerica Rye attempting to buy the Boat Basin. They are part of the conversation about the Boat Basin.”
The Dredging Task Force that was formed by the City last fall is looking for less expensive alternatives, explained Usry. The first permit to remove 20,000 cubic yards of silt is underway. “We are doing biological testing now and are hoping to move ahead after this season. It’s a multiple stage process.”
As for the cost, Usry gave no amount, but he did say that upland silt (toxic material) disposal is four to five times the cost of channel silt disposal.
A number of residents were in the Council Room to show their support for Mr. Hogben, and those who came to the dais to share their consternation about the way in which the City dispatched him questioned whether the Boat Basin was likely to open on schedule April 1.
The City Manager stated that the position of Supervisor was posted that day and that he would be interviewing candidates, along with members of the Boat Basin Commission.
Resident Scott Beecher stated his reason for attending the Council meeting. “I’m here because there was not a lot of information forthcoming about George Hogben or the Boat Basin. Like many, I was surprised to learn the news that George was no longer there. I thought he did a fine job and made lots of improvements during his tenure.”
As for the future of the Boat Basin, Beecher said, “The Rye Marina is one of the crown jewels. It’s not just about slip holders. Not everyone uses Rye Golf Club or the Square House, but no one talks about taking them down. Let’s make the investment at the Marina now.”
Having known Hogben for 40 years, George Klein was an ideal “character witness”. “George worked for me at the American Yacht Club Marina. He is a dedicated worker seven days a week. He has done a magnificent job bringing the Rye Marina up to standard since being appointed in 2016.
“When George told me in February that he was put on administrative leave because of a procurement purchasing order that did not even go through [he went to get a used outboard motor and submitted several bids but apparently the bids weren’t in proper form], this didn’t warrant a forced resignation. This was a poor way to go about things,” Klein continued. “I manage 20 engineers and when one of them breaks something we don’t fire them, we retrain them.”
Former American Legion Post 128 Commander George Szczerba, who has known Hogben for many years through their service as volunteer firemen and former chiefs and through the Rye Marina, vouched for his dedicated service. He questioned whether the Marina could realistically open on time with no staffing.
“How many people are on your list to interview,” he asked Usry.
“There were four, there are now three.”
Szcerba, who was on the Boat Basin Commission when Hogben was hired, offered that it takes time to hire the right person and get the operation working well. “And you’ve just pressed the reset button again.”
The Boat Basin must be dredged, emphasized Szcerba. “There is no process in place; there has been no progress on this for many years, under previous Councils. If you don’t have the money to dredge, you should tell the slip holders that.”
Mayor Josh Cohn went to the crux of the matter. “We’ve talked about dredging costs. We all understand that if the biological testing comes back the wrong way that means it will have to be dredged and hauled out.” He paused before adding, “Figuring out the future is challenging. Everybody’s heart is where Scott Beecher painted the lines.”