Marina improvements could be on the horizon

by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor

The Great Lakes Cruising Club will be arriving in July with many boats and people, along with money.

The Nautical City wants to be ready with a freshly-painted, well-maintained facility with hospitable staff for them when they arrive.

The marina was part of a lengthy discussion during the Rogers City Council’s workshop session, Nov. 4.

City manager Joe Hefele wants to encourage boating visitors to make Rogers City a regular part of their itinerary. He believes the council needs to consider making changes to the way it is operated.

“Over the past several years, the marina has become more and more of a drag on the other funds of the city,” said Hefele.

The budget deficit grew from $948 in 2012-13 to $47,838 for 2014-215. Revenue fell during that time from $262,666 to $220,450. Part of that can be contributed to the late winter.

Hefele said members of the Harbor Advisory Committee came up with a list of improvements as did harbormaster Roger Wenzel and Hefele.

Hefele highlighted some proposed improvements he believes can be completed before July. “They are not big cost items,” said Hefele. “They are things that we can do with the manpower we’ve got…if there was ever was a time to make that a happy place versus a run down place it would be by July.”

Among the immediate improvements are striping of the parking lot and launch ramp; replacing rotting and warping boards on the floating docks; purchase anti-slip stick ons; and clean and upgrade the pedestals to 50 amp.

“I think we are still waiting to hear from the Cruising Club just to see what our expectations should be for how many are going to need the 50 amp,” said Hefele. “The life rings, I don’t know how old those are. I guarantee they won’t save anybody. I think, if you touch them, they will fall apart.”

There’s also a need for a modern defibrillator. “Ones that are real simple to use that staff can be trained on,” said Hefele.

“We did have one down there, but it was so outdated, I had to give it back to (police chief Matt Quaine) because it did not work,” said Wenzel.

Hefele said the diesel fuel gas pump hoses are getting brittle and one of the two sewage waste pumps is not working. “If the other one goes down, there would be no way to pump,” he said. “With the Great Lakes Cruising Club coming in, it would be just our luck, that’s when it would go down.”

There’s also a need for sharps waste containers.

Additionally, staff wants to do some cosmetic work with the boaters’ lounge at comfort station. The work raft needs to be repaired. That will be fixed during the winter and ready for spring, said Wenzel.

“I can get a more exact number as we get a lot further along with this,” said Hefele. “What you are seeing most is labor.”

Hefele also touched on marina staff, including the assistant harbormaster’s position.

“It seems to me that we switched from 40 hour work weeks to 24 hours,” said Hefele. “We hired more people and worked them fewer hours. I think it is just common sense to expect that, perhaps, you are not going to get, and this is no knock on anybody who was working, but your best opportunity to get the very best people is to pay them a reasonable amount of money over the summer. If they are able to make more by working somewhere else they are going to leave us.”

Mayor Tom Sobeck believes the marina, as well as the entire city staff should receive some type of hospitality training.

“I do think that it is important to have someone in charge down there, whether that’s an assistant or not. I think there has to be a go-to person,” said councilman Scott McLennan. Wenzel also believes it is important to hire a person who can relate to the young marina staff as well as boaters.

Hefele wondered if $12 an hour for the assistant harbormaster would be the right direction.

“Once you get the right ones, it’s worth it,” said Nowak.

“Sometimes you need to spend a little bit to get that positive return,” said Hefele. “I think there are fewer boats out than were out there 20 years ago as a result of the economy. So, you really need to make this a good experience in hopes that we can get them to return. At $12 an hour, that’s $1,300 more than we are spending. I just think the likelihood of getting a better, quality assistant harbormaster, if we raise that level somewhat over $9.40, is greater to me.”

McLennan would like to get survey forms to boaters as well. “They are our customers.”