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City of Powell River finance department proposes increase in harbour rates

Inflationary adjustment of 2.5 per cent planned for regulations bylaw
INCREASE SUGGESTED: City of Powell River councillors will consider adjusting rates in the north and south/Westview harbours in 2022.

Amendments are being proposed to the north harbour and south/Westview harbours, which will include an inflationary increase of 2.5 per cent to moorage and electricity rates.

At the November 25 finance committee meeting, manager of accounting services Mallory Denniston said the finance department had come up with the 2.5 per cent increase number because it aligns with the city’s financial plan increase, and there has been investigation into what inflation might look like.

She said secondly, the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ wage increase is two per cent and labour is a “decent portion” of operating costs of the harbours.

For the north harbour specifically, the reserve policy states the optimal balance is $1.5 million, and at the end of 2020, that reserve was sitting at $1.26 million, so an increase would allow the city to move closer to the optimum balance.

Denniston said proposed changes to the bylaws are to improve operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Among the proposed changes is that a $100 wait list fee be charged for people applying for moorage in the north harbour, and to people currently on the wait list. According to a report by Denniston to the finance committee, the fee has been added as a tool to defer people who are not serious about taking a contract.

There is also wording that allows the wharfinger to bump someone on the list back to the bottom if they turn down a suitable slip.

“I know these might sound like punitive changes, but to give the background on the purpose behind them, is to increase customer satisfaction and operational efficiency, because in speaking to the wharfinger, she has mentioned that the wait list is 400 people long,” said Denniston. “One problem she faces is that when a slip becomes available, it takes about 20 days for her to fill it because she needs to give each person on the list 24 hours before awarding it. This is resulting in a slip being open, unfilled for a number of days, when there is high demand.”

Regarding liveaboards in the north harbour, one boat was grandfathered, but the owners no longer live aboard, so the exception has been removed, and there will be no liveaboards in the harbour.

Looking at financial impact, Denniston said there will be no direct impact other than the 2.5 per cent increase. She provided a profit and loss statement for the north harbour from 2018 to 2020 that showed a profit averaging about 21 per cent being made on the north harbour over those three years. The profit goes to the north harbour reserve.

The south and Westview harbours have been operating at a loss for the last few years, according to Denniston. In 2020, the loss was about $60,000. She said revenue was down because transient traffic was lower due to COVID-19.

“Projecting forward, we’re thinking with the 2.5 per cent increase we could almost be at a break-even situation,” said Denniston. “That was one of the goals.”

Elliott sees revenue opportunity

Councillor Cindy Elliott mentioned that some people go away from the north harbour in the summer, leaving their slip empty. She said it is an opportunity for revenue and would perhaps alleviate pressure on the south harbour if those spaces could be leased in the summer for transient boaters. She asked if there was any thought going into that idea.

Wharfinger Jenn Kinahan said spaces can be sublet during the summer.

Director of infrastructure Tor Birtig said if people are subletting, it is done by the wharfinger, not the boat owners.

“What they are supposed to do is come to the wharfinger to do that subletting for them,” said Birtig.

Mayor Dave Formosa asked if there was a split in revenue from subletting.

Kinahan said half goes to the boat owner and half goes to the city.

Elliott asked if somebody has a boat in the north harbour and sells it, whether they can also sell the space with it.

Kinahan said the contract is with the person and not the boat.

Daily rates concerns councillor

Councillor Rob Southcott said if he is correct, this is the first rate increase for the harbours since 2015.

Denniston said there was an amended bylaw for the north harbour in 2020 increasing rates and one for the south and Westview harbours in 2018.

Southcott said he is concerned about the $1.03 daily per foot rate for pleasure and commercial non-fishing vessels in the south harbour.

“That is an amazing deal compared to what else is available,” said Southcott. “It’s not unusual to pay $1.25 per foot, which would be cheap. You can pay $1.40 to $2 per foot per night for premium harbours.

“I think $1.50 to $1.75 is what I would expect to pay here. I’m not happy with this rate of just over $1 a foot per day. I’d like to see it quite a bit higher than that.”

Denniston said the city wanted to stay competitive with competing wharfs. Birtig said there are marinas that charge higher rates but the city has looked in comparison with the harbours on the Sechelt peninsula and in the Comox area.

Denniston said she could get that information for councillors and circulate it.

Southcott said the city is being generous with transients, and these are people who can afford to pay.

City CFO Adam Langenmaier said in the financial plan, there is an allocation to do a harbour rate analysis and that work has not been completed yet.

“What we wanted to do with this bylaw is bring up the rates slightly so we at least match inflation,” said Langenmaier. “In 2022 we hope to get the information back from the harbour rate analysis and really dive into what harbour rates can do.”

The finance committee gave consent to send the proposed amendment bylaw to city council.

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