2017-09-07 / Front Page

Fort Wetherill boaters want lease extended

Negotiations with town officials have begun

Despite three years remaining on their lease, Fort Wetherill boaters are negotiating an extension with the town so they can begin repairing their marina in Fort Cove.

According to Town Administrator Andy Nota, an agreement with the Fort Wetherill Boat Owners Association is distinct because the boaters are a nonprofit organization. Unlike leases at Dutch Harbor and the East Ferry docks, the town does not have to solicit bids once the boaters exhaust their final renewal. Their corporate status makes them exempt from certain procurement requirements.

The association, which operates roughly 50 slips, has leased the marina since the 1970s. According to its president, Mark Liberati, the longtime relationship stems from stringent restrictions on the property, which makes it challenging to use the land for business ventures.

“There are all these site limitations,” said Liberati, an attorney. “Leasing it for commercial use is extremely difficult to do.”

The boat basin, located around the southern bend of Bull Point, abuts the state’s fisheries center at 3 Fort Wetherill Road. While the marina is state land, there is a federal proviso that limits the property to recreational use. The only reason the docks exist, Liberati said, is because the boat owners were given permission to extend the pier from the bulkhead into the cove. That southern wall, which marks the property line, is owned by the state. The benefits reaped from the town lease are minimal, he said.

“All we get are the riparian rights to access the water along the riprap on the west side of the cove,” Liberati said.

While the association could begin improvements today, the boaters want to ensure control of the marina for the near future. Otherwise, they would be making a six-figure investment without a guarantee to benefit from it, Liberati said. The boat owners would like to repair the floating docks and the “horrible, rickety ramps.”

“The equipment is pretty much falling apart,” he said.

The boaters are paying $30,900 this year to lease the town property, but the contract includes yearly increases per the consumer price index. Liberati recommended extending the lease 10 years with a 10-year option. He also said the boaters would agree to launch a capital fund to repair the pilings and slips.

If the two sides come to an agreement, it will have to be approved by the town council.

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