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Battery Park committee wants live-aboards phased out

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

The Apalachicola city commission is weighing a series of recommended changes to the Battery Park marina and boat ramp, including phasing out live-aboards, a modest increase in rates and a series of proposed improvements and repairs.

At Tuesday evening’s commission meeting, Jim Brown, a former head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s division of law enforcement who has retired with his wife to live full-time in Apalachicola, outlined the unanimous recommendations from the Battery Park Committee.

Also serving on the committee are Grayson Shepard, William Avery and Tom Gray.

Charter Captain Doug Scarabin, with Gulf Coast Extreme Adventures, prepares to leave on a fishing trip Wednesday morning from Battery Park.

Brown began by outlining the committee’s recommendation to no longer allow live-aboards at the marina, and to set a date certain in which the existing live aboard boats would have to depart the marina.

The commissioners agreed to consider the timetable in more depth beginning with their October meeting.

Brown said the committee was pleased its second general recommendation, to repair the outdoor restrooms in the community center and use ramp collection fees to pay for cleaning, had already been implemented by City Manager Travis Wade and staff.

He said the committee reviewed marina rates at nearby facilities, including the one in Port St. Joe destroyed by Hurricane Michael. He said demand to use the Battery Park marina has increased as a result, and that rates here are lower than neighboring facilities, and often lack comparable amenities.

Brown said the committee has recommended a restructuring of slip rates, with an increase of monthly rental fees to a base rate of $100 (above the current $65) and adding $5 per foot for every foot over 30 feet. “This is well under the rate of the three marinas (the committee looked at),” he said.

The committee is proposing an increase from $50 to $75 on the fee for non-Franklin County registered boats. Boats registered in Franklin County and are city of Apalachicola residents are exempt from this fee.

The fee for utilities, required if the vessel uses electricity or water, would rise from $20 to $25, with a 10 percent discount to those who pay a year in advance. Brown said the majority of bats are not using electricity.

“There are a few boats, seven to nine, using air conditioning,” he said. “A few are paying the live aboard fee of 200.”

No change has been proposed to the $200 live-aboard fee, or for the rates charged those who just stay overnight.

Brown said any additional monies realized by the increase would be committed to ensuring adequate maintenance of the facility.

The boat ramp rates would also increase, with the addition of an annual launch fee of $25 (or $5 per launch) for Franklin County registered not-for-hire vessels, which would encompass all recreational and commercial boats.

There also is a proposed a $75 fee for Franklin County for-hire vessels, or $5 per launch. This would be for boats registered in Franklin County. Boats registered outside the county would have an annual launch fee of $125, or $10 per launch.

Brown said the committee would like to make the new fees effective Jan. 1, 2021.

He said the committee would like to see specific plans drawn up, in conjunction with the city engineer, on how to best allocate parking, which is often used by guides, their passengers and others who come by to meet them. “Vehicles get stuck there regularly,” Brown said.

The committee also made a series of recommendation for capital outlay projects for fiscal year 2020-21. Brown said these would likely consume the monies built up in the Battery Park fund, but which have not yet been spent on ongoing improvements.

The proposal includes repairing the north side bulkhead, adjacent to the boat ramp, and adding a boarding dock. The committee also seeks to add a fish cleaning table and running water to the boardwalk on the river side, which could be used by charter clients to clean their catch.

A fish hanging board on the boardwalk, emblazoned with "Apalachicola," could be added to enable photographs, Brown said.

The committee also recommended adding walkways and parking barriers along the shore side slips to protect the existing seawall from damage and provide a safe walking area. They indicated they would like to see an assessment of the condition of all docks and slips, and identification and repair of any apparent safety issues.

Repair of boarding docks at the ramp, and of damaged slips and electrical connections, was also recommended.

Following removal of the current collection stations for fees, the committee said it would like to see an electronic boat ramp/camper collection station in a high ground location and out of vehicle traffic.

“It’s pricey but it would be easier to pay,” said Brown. “Like a parking meter for boats.”

He said the city currently brings in about $5,600 to $5,800 in slip fee revenue per month, and that the increases, if approved by the city commission, would increase revenue by $1,500 per month.

“We are going to be looking at next the rules and regulations, that would go into the contracts for slip holders,” Brown said.