Council OKs higher mooring and other boating fees

Local boaters will pay 46 cents more per foot for their moorings after the town council approved a budget for the harbor division that includes a 10 percent increase in fees.

The councilors at their meeting Monday unanimously adopted the spending plan endorsed Nov. 8 by the harbor commission. It was recommended by Steven Bois, executive director of the waterfront. The increase applies to moorings, outhauls, beach permits and dock space.

The balanced budget for 2024 is $401,047, which represents a 39 percent increase from 2023 ($289,450). That uptick, however, is misleading because the plan includes $100,000 in capital improvements.

In the past, these outlays were approved on a case-by-case basis and not part of the annual budget. Scheduled for repairs in the ’24 budget are the Dutch Harbor docks and the East Ferry woodpile pier.

Nobody from the public spoke in favor, or against, the proposal at the council meeting.

“As a benchmark, Newport raised their fee structure by 15 percent,” Bois said. “So has Charlestown.”

Along with Newport and Charlestown, Bois studied the mooring fees in Bristol, Warren, Portsmouth and North Kingstown (Wickford and Allen Harbor). Jamestown remains cheaper than six of those sites despite the 10 percent increase. The only municipality with a lower rate than Jamestown, Portsmouth, currently is in negotiations to raise it, Bois said.

Bois’ salary also is included in the spending plan for the first time. Since 2000, the chief of police has served as executive director of the waterfront. Ed Mello, who served in that capacity before he was hired as town administrator in February, successfully proposed for the director to be independent of the police department.

The executive director’s salary, a new line item, is proposed at $56,000. The salary of the harbormaster, however, has been lowered to $22,000 from $43,000. The proposed salary for the assistant harbormaster also has been decreased by $1,000 to $9,000. As for benefits, they will increase by $16,000 for FICA, Blue Cross, workers’ compensation and retirement.

The proposed budget uses $82,652 from the fund balance. No money was taken from the surplus in 2023.

With that transfer, $318,395 from revenues will balance the budget. The breakdown of the increased revenue due to the fee hikes are $7,700 for residential moorings, $13,500 for commercial moorings, $1,788 for non-residential moorings, $1,200 for West Ferry outhauls, $1,100 for Fort Getty, $1,100 for beach permits, $500 for the Fort Getty dock, $800 for club moorings and $807 for the West Ferry dinghy dock.

Resident moorings increased from $4.60 per foot to $5.06. Moorings for non-residents and commercial operations rose from $9.20 to $10.12. Moorings for yacht clubs, a flat rate, increase from $1,365 to $1501.50.

Outhauls, also a flat rate, increased by $60 to $600 at West Ferry and $55 to $605 at Fort Getty. The commercial outhaul rate is the same at both sites. Recreational piers increased from $80 per foot to $88; commercial piers went from $40 per foot to $44.

Beach permits for vessels under 12 feet in length, a flat rate, increased from $63 to $69.30. Vessels over 12 feet increased from $25 per foot of beam to $27.50. The fee to be on the wait list increased from $11 to $12.10 and the late fee rose $10 to $110. Rent at the West Ferry dinghy dock increased by $45 to $495.