Staff report sees little traction in privatization of marina, but identifies ‘alternative operating’ strategy

A staff report investigating the potential privatization, either through lease, sale or outsourcing management, of the Barrie Marina recommends not entering those waters as they offer no clear advantage for the City.
Rather, the report, prepared by Gus Diamantopoulos, manager of corporate facility services, presents an alternative operating strategy for the marina, which includes the potential for it to become a “higher service marina,” in part by removing restrictions that prevent non-residents from getting a slip.
“There is demand for slips in the Barrie marina from non-residents who own larger more expensive boats. These boaters are willing to pay higher rates based on the size of boat provided that marina amenities more closely match those of other marinas in the area,” reads the report.
“These enhanced amenities include wi-fi, winter haul-out and storage services, laundry facilities, upgraded dedicated washroom and shower facilities plus community space for barbecues and member get-togethers.”
However, the report recommends no action on this alternative yet, as “staff are continuing to investigate these opportunities.”
In addition to the alternative operating strategy, the report presented three other options: leasing the marina as a public/private partnership, selling the marina to a private operator, and outsourcing marina operations to a management firm.
Requests for expressions of interest received no responses for selling or leasing the marina, and one from an American marina management operator.
The report is in response to a May 9, 2016 motion that called on staff to “investigate and update the feasibility of privatizing the City of Barrie Marina and/or Marina operations through lease or sale and report back” to general committee.” 
Also, during the Barrie Waterfront & Marina Strategic Plan, Baird & Associates were asked to specifically comment about the advisability of selling or leasing the Marina to the private sector. The following is an excerpt from the Baird & Associates Plan, states the report.
“In our view, there would be no significant advantages to the City. Given the marina’s central placement in the waterfront and the opportunities that surround it for future public benefits, the disadvantages associated with losing control outweigh any benefits.” 
The Waterfront & Marina Strategic Plan also recommended maintaining public ownership and operation of the marina. This recommendation was accepted by council through motion 13-G-274.
The City has managed the marina since 1971. Prior to that, it was leased to a series of private operators with the City being responsible for all capital investment and renewal, with the primary focus being to provide “seasonal marina services to Barrie residents for small to mid-sized boats, and transient boat slips for visitors. 
Staff refer to it as a low-fee, low-service marina compared to other such facilities in the region.
“On average the City marina fees are 20 to 40 per cent lower than other local marinas. The marina offers the basic services essential to the boating community including a gas dock, waste pump-out, boat launch, potable water supply, shore power and minimal restroom/shower facilities.”
However, the report doesn’t go into the additional costs marina patrons pay, including winter storage, parking, lift in/out, that are covered by fees paid at other marinas. These additional out-of-pocket expenses bring the overall costs of keeping a boat at the Barrie marina closer to the fees paid at other marinas which include such services in overall costs.
The marina is self-sufficient, with all operating and capital costs coming through fees and at no cost to the “tax fund.” It operates with an annual surplus. Weaknesses identified include distance from the Trent-Severn system and related boat traffic, limited boater amenities, lack of parking, lack of winter storage, and limited capacity to accommodate larger boats.
Opportunities detailed include rate increases to support upgrades to the marina and “immediate vicinity,” expanding launch, pump-out fees, and masting fees to all users; currently, only non-residents are charged a launch fee.
Other opportunities identified include expanding services, including wi-fi, laundry facilities, winter storage and commercial opportunities.
“A broad range of commercial opportunities including sailing and fishing charters could be supported out of the marina.”
Threats listed include access to capital and resistance from marina users. “There is a general resistance from the marina’s current seasonal lessees, 98 per cent of which are City of Barrie residents, to pay more than a marginal rate increase for an enhanced level of service.”

 

 

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