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Searching for dollars // City looks at marina, golf courses for funds

Saddled with financial problems, the city has begun to consider how itmight raise more money from its marina and golf courses.

This spring, consultants will be studying several possibilities, including the sale of the publicly owned enterprises to private companies.

Officials this week are seeking proposals from five consulting companies on how they would conduct a study of the marina. A consultant will be chosen in March and the results of the study should be ready by late May.

The National Golf Foundation has agreed to study the city's two golf courses.

The studies are part of an effort by the city manager's office to reduce the city's budget problems by better planning. Two weeks ago, officials learned that St. Petersburg faces continued problems balancing budgets through 1996.

Part of the problem, according to the budget office, is slow growth in taxes and fees. The city also is nearing the maximum property tax allowed by state law. At the same time its costs continue to grow from inflation and from payments toward its downtown redevelopment projects.

The marina study would: Examine slip rents for at least 20 similar marinas in Florida, and suggest a rate schedule for St. Petersburg that fits the market.

John Green, director of enterprise and capital projects, said the city charges market rates for some slip categories, but is well below the going rate for others.

Evaluate whether the city is doing all it can to generate revenue from the marina. Officials will ask the consultant to consider several ideas, including expanding the marina.

Help the city decide whether to continue operating the marina, get a management company to run it, lease it to a private company, or sell it.

Green said the golf course study, also scheduled for this spring, would examine the same areas. The National Golf Foundation conducts research for golf courses and helps them plan. Its goal is to increase the number of golfers and improve the game.

The marina contains 610 slips and a 500-foot dock for visiting boats. It is situated along the downtown waterfront and has been operated by the city since the early 1960s.

Rental rates at the marina have gone up four times in the last five years, in average amounts of 8 to 10 percent each time, Green said.

This year they increased 15 percent in one of several steps the City Council took to help balance the 1990 budget.

Monthly slip rentals rose to $139.92 from $121.67 for 34-foot boats, and to $109.50 from $95.22 for 28-foot boats. Tenants who live on their boats pay an extra charge, which rose to $86.25 from $75.

The council also approved an increase in golf fees. They rose $2 per round of 18 holes at Mangrove Bay golf course, 875 62nd Ave. NE, and 75 cents per round at Twin Brooks golf course, 3800 22nd Ave. S.