<The following letter was sent to the Rye City Council and forwarded to us for publication.>
The current model for the City of Rye Boat Basin is unsustainable and will leave taxpayers on the hook for a multi-million dollar cleanup and remediation bill if nothing changes.
The Boat Basin operates at a loss of approximately $280,000 to $300,000 each year, primarily due to so-called “non-cash” depreciation charges of approximately $400,000. Meanwhile, there are ongoing costs: regular dredging of Milton Harbor channel and repair and rebuilding of Boat Basin buildings, ramps, docks, and equipment that have been neglected for many, many years. We are now at the point where the facility requires significant expenditures to maintain it in a safe and effective manner. The cost of fixing the problem significantly exceeds the approximate $900,000 balance in the Boat Basin’s Enterprise Fund.
<<The facility is in need of major repairs.>> Supervisor George Hogben estimates repair costs for dock piling replacement at $215,000; repair cost for main dock ramp and covered atrium at $68,000; boat launch ramp extension at $120,000; main dock float replacements at $200,000; parking lot repair at $42,000. This list doesn’t include future repairs for the main office or maintenance shed. While some of these expenses can be deferred, many are overdue and safety will increasingly become an issue as the facility deteriorates.
<<We are behind the 8-ball on dredging.>>Milton Harbor requires ongoing maintenance dredging to keep the channel clear of debris that accumulates each year. A recent presentation to the Commission and the City Manager from consulting firm Coastline Consulting & Development estimated that a comprehensive dredging program to remove 94,000 cubic yards would cost several million dollars. A smaller, maintenance level of dredging to remove 25,000 cubic yards would cost closer to one million dollars but would need to be repeated the following season to try and “catch up” on the required dredging. The Army Corps of Engineers permits to dredge were allowed to expire in 2015. The permitting process will take approximately 15 months, meaning the earliest we could dredge is the spring of 2019. In short, we are behind the 8-ball on dredging.
What happens if we don’t dredge the channel? The larger boats that pay higher slip fees are now unable to get in and out of the Boat Basin at or near low tide. This situation will get worse. These boats will go elsewhere and the revenues will decline, causing the operating budget gap to widen.
<<Expenses have increased dramatically.>> In the meantime, the City has increased the primary expense consisting of employee wages and benefits over 30% in the past two years, from $238,000 in 2015 to $316,000 (estimated) in 2017.
<<If nothing is done, taxpayers will be on the hook.>> Realistically, it will cost several million dollars to fix the facility and the docks and dredge the channel. If the larger boats leave and the revenues shrink, the operation will sink under its own weight and the City of Rye taxpayer will be on the hook for a multi-million dollar dismantling and environmental cleanup of the Boat Basin, the docks, and surrounding property.
It’s time for the City of Rye to formulate a long-term plan for the continued operation of the Boat Basin. Do we really want to be the only municipality in the western Long Island Sound that cannot manage a successful marina, public or private?
— The Boat Basin Commission