Gulfport's mooring field decision will wait another year

The City Council puts off a decision for another fiscal year.
Published August 13 2015

GULFPORT — The decision to construct a municipal mooring field will have to wait. Again.

A $350,000 line item in next year's proposed city budget that would have funded construction of a municipal mooring field in Boca Ciega Bay has been shelved until March.

By consensus vote, the City Council deferred a decision until the beginning of budget talks for the next fiscal year. Keeping the project in the 2015-16 budget, according to City Manager Jim O'Reilly, would have allowed the city to move forward and create long-term docking space in Boca Ciega Bay, a project that has been in front of council, and the public, for more than a decade.

"When we first started talking about this project, my daughter was a young girl," O'Reilly said. "She's almost 17. We've been at this a long time; it might be time to get it done."

Some suggested it was too early in light of other budgeted projects, including renovations to the city's marina store and boater facilities. Mayor Sam Henderson and council member Dan Liedtke were in favor of delaying the decision.

"Now is not the time," Henderson said. "There are too many other projects in the works that I feel take precedence.

"We have the money to do it, now," argued council member Michael Fridovich, a strong proponent of keeping the project in the budget. Fridovich, a former sailor and user of mooring fields, said "it's ridiculous that the city continues to spend an average of $1,200 to pull up, tear down, break apart and dispose of every derelict boat that breaks loose, and comes ashore. There's no way to recover those costs; that money would be better spent creating a mooring field."

Despite the disagreement over the mooring field, the council supported most of the proposed $26.3 million budget: targeted repairs to sewer and drainage systems remain on tap; physical improvements to the Marina District will continue according to plan and, after hikes in previous years, public utility rates will not increase. The property tax rate is likely to remain at $4.04 per $100,000 of assessed, taxable value, though higher property values mean many will have higher tax bills.

"All in all, the city's doing pretty well," O'Reilly said. "We've had two consecutive years of property value growth (6.49 percent last year and 7.24 percent this year)."

The full budget can be found at mygulfport.us. The council will vote on it in September.

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