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Madeira's neighbor may run marina

(ran Beach, East, West editions)

With hopes of turning a larger profit, City Commissioners are negotiating a contract with the mayor of Redington Shores to run the Madeira Beach Municipal Marina.

If J. J. Beyrouti agrees to the deal, he will be paid $120,000 a year, plus a cut of the profits, to manage the city-owned and operated marina.

"I have the intention to take it," said Beyrouti, who owns the neighboring Redington Shores Marina, a 25-slip boat yard he built 17 years ago.

Beyrouti has until Friday to decide whether to sign the contract. City Commissioners will remain the ultimate decision-makers on all policy relating to the marina.

Beyrouti was ranked last of three proposals after city officials advertised for management companies. During the past months, the first two firms backed out of talks because they wanted more money or refused to personally guarantee the operation.

In addition to $1-million in general liability insurance, the contract also calls for the marina manager to put up personal assets.

Beyrouti told commissioners last week that he needs more time to secure additional coverage.

"I can live with it," he said of the personal guarantee.

The marina, which is run as a city department, has been a thorny issue.

For the past year, commissioners have debated whether to lease the marina, sell it or hire a management company.

Anything to make more than the $12,164 profit of last fiscal year.

"The marina could be a money-maker and should be," said Capt. Warren Sturgis, a former city commissioner whose group finished second in the ranking. "Cities need to find ways to find revenue other than raising tax dollars, and the marina is one way they can do that."

This year, the city expects to spend $351,904 to run the marina.

With a management company, commissioners hope to make a $50,000 to $60,000 profit, not the $17,500 they expect in 1996-97.

The biggest yield comes from fuel sales and rental of the 93 slips.

The city, however, has not aggressively advertised for business. The marina is not listed in the Yellow Pages. From Gulf Boulevard, a main thoroughfare, nothing hints at its existence.

The interested management firms talk of advertising in large circulation boating publications and attracting a pontoon rental service and tiki bar operator, among ways to generate more profit.

Beyrouti's application does not list a business plan to generate revenue. That, he said, will come after he examines the operation.

The first order of business, Beyrouti said, would be to streamline staff, which could include laying off the city employee who now runs the marina.

"When government runs something," Beyrouti said, "the red tape and bureaucracy costs more."

Marty Beksha, the manager, does not like that idea.

"For a whole year, my life's been on hold," he said. Beksha is paid an annual salary of $29,213.

His job on the line, Beksha said there is just so much money to be made with a fixed number of slips and a meager advertising budget. An answer, he said, is to build wider boat slips in deeper water for bigger boats.

That could cost the city up to $200,000.

But "it takes money to make money," said Sturgis, the captain whose group bid on managing the marina.

Beyrouti also said he would consider waiving the $2 fee to launch a boat from the marina's ramp.

By doing that, he said, boaters would have an incentive to use the marina and spend money on fuel, bait and other goods.

"The marina has a lot of potential," Beyrouti said.

One city commissioner, though, said he is uncomfortable with Beyrouti serving as the manager because he is the mayor of a neighboring city.

City Commissioner Charles Parker serves on the Barrier Island Governmental Council with Beyrouti.

"I want to ask you if you have a potential problem, any conflict?" Parker asked Beyrouti during a meeting last week.

"I don't see where the connection is," Beyrouti replied.

Later, in an interview, Beyrouti said he has no jurisdiction in Madeira Beach, so a potential conflict does not exist.

If he signs, Beyrouti would agree to a one-year probation, then the contract would renew to three years. He would run day-to-day operations and submit to the city administration daily cash reports and inventory of store supplies and fuel.

The city, in return, would pay Beyrouti $10,000 a month. It also would pay for structural repairs and fuel tank maintenance at the marina.

_ If you have a story idea, contact Leanora Minai at 893-8406 or by e-mail at minaisptimes.com.

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