Beaufort officials consider increasing initial phase of mooring field

emoody@beaufortgazette.com

February 18, 2014 

Two boats remain in the area of Beaufort River that is the future site of the mooring field owned by the city of Beaufort on Monday morning in Beaufort.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

  • In other business, council:

    • Approved a noise ordinance waiver for construction related to installation of street lights downtown starting Monday. The work will begin at 7 a.m., instead of 8 a.m.
    • Discussed plans for installation of equipment on city-owned property downtown for Main Street Beaufort, USA's, free Wi-Fi program.
    • Discussed Main Street Beaufort's desire to move the Beaufort Farmers Market to the pavilion in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
    • Heard a presentation from finance director Kathy Todd on finances for the first half of fiscal year 2014.
    • Met in closed-door session to discuss personnel matters related to boards and commissions.

Although Beaufort City Council members continued to have questions and concerns, they generally agreed Tuesday to move forward with a proposed mooring field near the Beaufort River bluff.

That includes putting in more anchors and buoys than originally planned during the first phase in an effort to cut costs down the line.

Council discussed the mooring field during a work session Tuesday night, and could vote to approve additional expenditures during its regular meeting Feb. 25.

The city has permission from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a mooring field with up to 46 buoys.

The current contract with American Underwater Contractors of Tequesta, Fla., is for only 16 of those moorings, but Beaufort Downtown Marina operator Rick Griffin is asking council to consider increasing that number.

"I'm coming to the city to help underwrite this because I'm not the owner of the property and I can't go to a bank to get a traditional loan," he said.

Beaufort has a $100,000 federal grant for the first 16 moorings. As part of that grant project, Griffin, who has a contract with the city to manage the marina, is paying an additional $33,000. The city would kick in $29,600 more, according to grant documents.

Griffin is proposing to pay for 14 additional mooring anchors and buoys, and three marker buoys to show where the field is, at an added cost of about $43,800.

"I think 30 is a great number," Councilman Mike Sutton said of increasing the moorings. "I'd like to see more."

Griffin is asking the city to pay an additional $20,700 to sink the remaining 16 mooring anchors, bringing the total anchorings to 46. Griffin would pay the city back for that cost over time.

The bulk of the cost for a mooring is for getting equipment on the river for the anchorings, and therefore the price per mooring decreases as the number of moorings goes up. The last 16 buoys could be inexpensively installed by divers as needs arise, city officials said.

Griffin also said he's looking at a fee schedule -- including a $20-a-day charge for transient boats, which drops to $15 a day for boats staying a week.

Long-term leases -- which would only be allowed on the moorings Griffin and the city purchase -- would be as low as $200 a month with a yearlong lease. The terms of the federal grant requires that the first 16 moorings be for transient boats.

Longtime boater and licensed captain Robert Morris said a key to making the field successful is finding a way to attract residents to keep boats there. Except for a few busy weeks during the year, Beaufort doesn't have a lot of visiting boat traffic, he said.

"Most of the year ... those 14 transient balls are going to be out there for birds to sit on," Morris said. "... We don't even really pack out. There's very few people who come here for the winter. They pass through, but they don't really stay long term."

It's important to make sure the fees and amenities meet responsible boat owners' needs, Sutton said.

"They will pay that fee, and I think the mooring field will fill up if that fee structure is correct," he said.

On the idea of a reduced rate specifically for residents, Griffin said that isn't being considered.

"We have not historically offered a reduced rate for Beaufort residents, and there's not a plan for that at this time," he said.

Work would take 90 to 120 days and must be done by June 30, according to federal grant rules. City planner Libby Anderson said most of that time will be spent ordering equipment. The actual work would take two weeks or less.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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