MARQUETTE - The city of Marquette's Marina Steering Ad-Hoc Committee was formed in September to come up with preliminary design concepts for the Presque Isle Marina, a 40-year-old facility in need of significant repair and renovation.
On Thursday, committee members asked the Marquette City Commission to come up with the total project cost to establish the project's scope and give them some design parameters.
That proved difficult, though, as some commissioners questioned whether it was wise to set a dollar amount before they knew what they wanted at Presque Isle.
"For me, we should determine what kind of marinas we want to have in Marquette, how Presque Isle fits into that picture and what it will cost to bring Presque Isle to that level, not 'well, we can afford this much so design something for this much,'" Commissioner Don Ryan said.
However, Commissioner Fred Stonehouse said by setting a total dollar amount, the commission was simply "moving a plan along" and not necessarily committing to spending the money.
"On any project ... you go into things with a budget and you say 'what can I do within my budget,'" Stonehouse said. "But right now they have no budget."
Ryan and other commissioners said the commission needs to keep Marquette's future in mind, specifically a proposed third marina at Founders Landing.
He said it would be wasted money if the commission spent a lot of money renovating Presque Isle only to have all the boaters move down to a new marina at Founders Landing if one is built in the future.
Of the 85 slips at Presque Isle, only 55 were occupied this summer. That could be due to the harbor's silting problem or other factors, said Karl Zueger, assistant city manager. There is only one person on the waiting list to get into Presque Isle.
In comparison, Cinder Pond Marina was at capacity this summer with about 30 people on the waiting list to get in.
Zueger said trends over a 10-year period have shown that more boaters want to be closer to downtown.
Although there are also boaters dedicated to the Presque Isle Marina and prefer it to the Cinder Pond, commissioners pointed out.
The Presque Isle renovation project, as originally designed, would cost $4.2 million and is designed for about 60 slips. Marquette's Harbor Advisory Committee suggested reducing the project's scope to less than $3 million. On Thursday, Stonehouse made a motion to reduce it even further to $2.5 million.
The city would pay half the cost of the marina project with the other half coming from the Michigan Waterways Commission. When the marina was originally built 40 years ago, it was 90 percent funded by state money. As part of its agreement with the state, the city agreed to maintain the harbor in perpetuity.
The commission also discussed how it might pay for the project. Zueger broke down the cost to operate the marina and the debt service the city would pay to help fund the project with about half paid for through user fees and the other half coming from the general fund. Zueger said the breakdown was preliminary and could be adjusted. Some commissioners argued that the boating community should pay the majority of the cost of renovation.
"We're obligated to fix and maintain it. We know that ... but to a degree the boaters are going to have to bear some of that," Mayor John Kivela said. "To turn it all over to the rest of the taxpayers that aren't enjoying those benefits, I think that's invalid."
The commission voted 4-3 to recommend a total project amount of $2.5 million. Kivela and commissioners Johnny DePetro, Beth Linna and Stonehouse voted in support while commissioners David Saint-Onge, Robert Niemi and Ryan voted against it.
Included in the motion was a directive to increase the 2010 seasonal slip lease fee by 3 percent above the 2009 rate; reduce expenses at the marinas by 5 percent for the fiscal year 2010/11 budget and increase the annual launch rate from $47.50 to $50.