FAIRHOPE – Improvements proposed for the city-owned Fairhope Docks Marina on Sea Cliff Drive would cost about $6.6 million, according to city reports.
On June 8, Lynn Maser, Fairhope special projects manager, told City Council members that some of the costs could be paid through the federal Gulf of Mexico Energy Securities Act, or GOMESA.
The city took over the marina in 2017 and has been working for the last 32 months to improve the facility, she said, but more work is needed.
So, yes, $6.6 million looks like a lot. It isn’t something that we’re expecting to do overnight or within the next 24 months. It will take time to accomplish this, but this is the vision that we have. This is what we’re recommending, the direction that we take,” Maser said. “We are after all repairing 30 years of neglect so it’s taking time and it’s taking a lot of thought and a lot of work.”
Part of the first phase of work is a dry-storage facility to allow boats to be taken out of the water and stored.
She said the dry storage site and a forklift to move the boats would generate enough money to pay for itself in four and a half to 12 years, depending on demand for the service. Demand, however, is high in other areas.
“It sounds scary, but when we looked at dry storage, they mostly and 90 to 95 percent capacity and there’s no reason why we wouldn’t have the same,” Maser said. “To think that we would have a building with only 50 percent capacity is silly. The demand is out there for the dry storage.”
Other projects include new bulkheads along some docks and larger finger piers. One proposal to build a social area for boaters, nicknamed the “Poor Man’s Yacht Club,” has been made an option instead of part of the plan.
Maser said the proposed site is being used for boats and another area is being as a social area.
“We did rebuild the hangout area down there,” she said. “It’s larger and greatly improved and that has been a significant area for our boaters to gather socially and now with the larger space, I think that’s going to take care of the social issues for the boaters for some years to come so that while visually wonderful and I loved it, the Poor Man’s Yacht Club is something that we can wait on.”
Council members expressed support for the dry storage area, but did not agree on some other proposals, such as building a replica lighthouse on the beach near the docks.
Councilmen Robert Brown and Jimmy Conyers liked the lighthouse plan, but Council President Jack Burrell questioned the cost.
“Let me be clear, I like lighthouses,” Burrell said. “I just don’t know that I like $365,000 for a lighthouse.”
Maser said that since taking over the facility, the city has reached a point that the docks are generating most of the operating costs, selling $535,891 in fuel and collecting $456,500 in slip rentals.
“In two years and eight months at the Fairhope docks, we’ve had a revenue of almost $1 million, versus expenses of $1.318 million and I think for that period of time, we’re really happy that we’ve been able to add that much to cover our costs of operation down there and those expenses are everything from capital investment to personnel,” Maser said.
She said reaching a point where the site brings in enough money to pay all the costs will require more investment.
“Our goal is to be self-sufficient,” Maser said. “There’s no reason for city marina’s not to be, but it takes some effort and some investment in the first place.”