OSWEGO, NY – The Port City and the Port Authority are continuing to work out a deal where the city would purchase the International Marina from the port.
On Monday night, members of the Administrative Services Committee approved a resolution that would lay the groundwork for the city to purchase the westside marina by the end of next June.
Proponents see it as a money-making move that will enrich the city’s future.
One alderman, however, sees it as “a pipedream” that has the potential to over-burden taxpayers and destroy the city’s future.
Jonathan Daniels, executive director of the port, needs to have an answer from the city by the end of the month. So, the resolution to purchase the marina for $2.1 million will be on the Common Council’s next agenda.
“We appreciate the opportunity to work with the city about this potential,” Daniels told the committee.
For the last 18 years, the port had an agreement with an outside contractor to operate the marina. The deal has since expired, Daniels noted.
“We now have 69 docks in four different configurations. Some have electricity, and some that do not,” he said.
The deal would also include the three-story building currently leased by the Oswego Yacht Club, Daniels added.
The club has a series of five-year lease agreements for up to 20 years; that would roll over to the city, he said
The reason why the port is looking to divest itself of the marina is because recreational boating isn’t its core mission – commercial shipping it, Daniels explained.
Under the terms of the resolution, the mayor would be authorized to sign a lease (good through June 2011) for about $5,900 per month. He would also be authorized to sign the purchase agreement.
The city needs to find a funding source for the tentative agreement; one possibility is a Bond Anticipation Note.
Adding more debt to the city’s financial woes didn’t sit well with one alderman.
“How much more debt is going to pile on to our taxpayers for pipe dreams and more nonsense that wastes taxpayers’ dollars?” asked Bill Sharkey.
“I think the city would have a missed opportunity if we didn’t actually purchase the marina,” said Councilor Connie Cosemento. “Our marina (Wright’s Landing) has made money consistently, mainly because we have a knowledgeable workforce down there and our operations run smoothly; not perfectly, but smoothly.”
“We should engage in this contract because we gain more opportunity for revenue because we can take larger boats. That is one of the concerns of a lot of boaters, we don’t have slips in Breitbeck for the larger boats. We would with the International Marina,” she continued. “It would take only approximately one more person (to run the marina). We owe it to our city taxpayers to try this.”
“We still have nearly $40 million in debt and are facing an $87 million consent decree for in the next 12 years,” Sharkey said. “We have to stop investing in pipedreams and stop wasting money. Our taxpayers deserve better than this.”
“I’d like to say that our Breitbeck brings us in over $100,000 net every year. And when we acquire (The International) marina, we have to spend some money to make money. And it would not take that many years to turn this around,” Cosemento said. “I’m convinced that there are enough people who still continue to boat and use the water that are going to fill enough of those slips up that we’re going to make money.”
The city doesn’t have to invest much labor, she added.
“This is revenue. This isn’t just a service. This isn’t giving away city services,” she said. “This is buying a business for the city to make money, and allow our own citizens to have more waterfront.”
DPW Commissioner Mike Smith also supports the purchase.
“It has the opportunity for numerous revenue streams,” he said. “It’s fairly self-sufficient as it is.”
He added that it would provide the city with a location (its current marina doesn’t) for a coffee shop or souvenir store, “something where we could promote the city, the city’s tourism.”
“This kind of opportunity doesn’t come along very often,” he added.
Councilor Shawn Walker agreed having a offee/sandwich shop or a small bait shop at the marina would be a big hit with the boaters.
“If it was such a moneymaking bonanza, the port authority wouldn’t dump it,” Sharkey said.
“Life is about timing. And every once in a while, you get a chance to make what I think are very, very important decisions in your lifetime. And I think this is a very, very important decision in this city’s future,” Alderman Ron Kaplewicz added. “This city’s past was based on its waterfront and I still believe its future will be based on its waterfront.”
The city has an opportunity to purchase a prime piece of waterfront “that they don’t make every day, they don’t create every day,” he said. “We’ll all have a great regret in our life if we don’t take a step.”
It may cost money up front, but it will be a money-maker for the city he pointed out.
“Life may be a bit of a pipedream. But, if you don’t dream a little bit, you don’t get anything,” Kaplewicz said. “I whole heartedly support the city’s purchase of the coal trestle, the ramps, the parking lot and the area where all those $1.6 odd million have been spent (by the port) building brand new slips that are state-of-the-art. I think we’d be foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity.”
The public will have a chance to weigh in on this, and other city topics, later this week.
The Common Council will hold a town hall meeting on Thursday, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the McCrobie Civic Center on Lake Street.
The meeting is open to the public to discuss community issues.