Government should stay out of the marina business

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:57

    To the Editor: As Passaic County is considering purchasing the South Shore Marina in West Milford, I want to share my knowledge of government operated marinas. I have kept a boat at the West 79th St. Boat Basin in New York since 1978. Some observations: A marina should not be thought of as a cash cow for government. Dockage ought to pay for daily operating expenses, with a significant amount set aside for future upgrades. The Parks Dept., which owns the marina, had a history of placing the dockage monies into the city coffers — leaving no provisions for repairs or upgrades. When it came time for repairs, they sought the monies, which were often denied. PR was the problem — requesting large sums of money needed for dredging instead of hiring police and teachers, lead to a public perception was that the marina (i.e. “rich” people) was getting money that should be better spent to help the “poor” people (i.e. everyone else). Hiring concessionaires to run marinas may be a bad idea. The city hired a real estate management company (low bidder with no prior marina experience) to run the Boat Basin as a concession. Profits came first, and any remaining monies went to operating expenses. Repairs were poorly done if at all. The city then tossed out the management company and again took over the marina. Because of city contract rules, similar problems occurred for repairs/upgrades a few years later. With inexperienced employees operating the marina, the city ended up often with dockmasters who knew nothing about running a marina, and worse, did not treat the boaters as valued customers n resulting in years of terrible relations between the boat owners and the staff. (It should be pointed out that the city has since leaned a lesson there…. the marina is now staffed by a caring and competent dock master, and an equally competent and hardworking staff…. kudos to them.) Operating a marina has financial risks and long term obligations. One accidental fuel leak onto Greenwood Lake, one new shoal blocking access, one serious storm, one change in EPA or DEP rules for fuel spills or pump out stations, or any number of other items can cost a lot of money. From my perspective, government should not be in the marina business. Gary Oppenheimer West Milford