Rental rates for slips at the Erie Basin Marina are going up next year, but boaters say they have been left in the dark about whether they will even have a place at the marina for the upcoming season.
City officials assured lawmakers Tuesday that the docks will be open in time for spring.
The confusion comes as the Common Council prepares to discuss the terms of a new five-year contract with Smith Boys to operate the marina this season, as well as a new fee schedule for resident and nonresident boaters. The contract will be discussed during a committee meeting next week.
Fees have not increased since 2002. The average annual increase is 8 percent for city residents and 16 percent for nonresidents over the life of the contract. The increases take effect in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
For residents, new fees will range from $750 to $1,700 in 2015 – depending on the size of the boat – up from $750 to $1,450 in 2014. For nonresidents, fees will be $1,050 to $2,150 in 2015, up from $825 to $1,580 this year.
Smith Boys was the only company to submit a proposal for marina operations when the city put it out to bid following a Comptroller’s Office audit that alleged prior operator Brand-On Services owes the city money.
Normally, boaters have submitted their payment for the new season by now, but they say they do not know whether they will be able to rent a slip because they can’t get any answers from City Hall.
“I beat down their doors and they totally ignore us,” said John Dailey, who advocates on behalf of his fellow slipholders.
Boater John Hake, of Alden, said the uncertainty at the city’s marina has prompted him to call around for a slip and he hasn’t been able to find a new one to rent in the size he needs. He has been on the floating dock at Erie Basin Marina since 2007, and worries about ownership of that dock, because it was purchased by Brand-On.
Patrick Curry, executive assistant in the City Comptroller’s Office, said unequivocally Tuesday that the floating dock will be up and running for the 2014 season.
The city has been dealing with the fall-out of a comptroller’s audit of the marina that showed Brand-On owed the city $343,245, a number that has increased by $45,808 with the comptroller’s audit of the 2013 season.
The company has disputed the amount owed, and said that much of the money it deducted from its rent was for work done at the direction of the city.
The city and Brand-On – which also operated the Hatch waterfront restaurant – are engaged in arbitration to settle the dispute. The city has sought new operators for both businesses.
In other action Tuesday, the Council approved a four-month contract extension with Rural/Metro Medical Services without debate. The extension continues the $29,166 franchise fee the ambulance company pays the city and ends June 30.
Jay Smith, the company’s division general manager, was prepared to speak in Council Chambers but was not called on. Smith said he hoped the company would have the city’s business for years to come. It currently has an exclusive contract to operate.
Rural/Metro is competing with two other ambulance companies for a longer-term contract, which the city hopes to have in place at the beginning of its fiscal year, July 1.
Members of the company’s staff and of Teamsters Local 449 also attended the Council meeting in support of the contract extension.
Public speakers are allowed during public hearings and committee meetings, but generally do not speak during Council meetings.
The Council also refrained from trying to compel members of the federal government to testify about a short-lived exploration of moving truck traffic off the Peace Bridge because of concerns about air quality and the health of West Side residents.
North Council Member Joseph Golombek had wanted to subpoena federal officials, but Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said that the measure likely won’t go anywhere, and he didn’t want to test the Council’s subpoena power in the courts on a case that had little chance of succeeding.
The Council instead voted to invite five federal officials, four from the General Services Administration and one from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to speak to the Council at 5:30 p.m. March 11.
The Council also approved new towing rates and contracts with three firms for tows the city is unable to perform with its own trucks. Elite Automotive Service, Riverside Towing and South Buffalo Towing will bring cars to the city’s impound lot on Dart Street. The city accepted bids for the contract until July 29.
The rates for standard tows, which comprise more than 95 percent of the city’s tows, will increase from $50 to $60.