Rising tide: Selectmen OK higher beach. marina fees
Updated 4:57 pm, Thursday, December 15, 2011
The selectmen on Wednesday approved daily parking permit fees at Compo Beach that will rise from $20 to $30 weekdays, while permits on weekends and holidays will increase from $40 to $50. The Parks and Recreation Commission proposed the fee increases.
Rates for seasonal parking permits would remain unchanged at $35 for Westport residents.
"We have tremendous attendance at the beach both for residents and non-residents," said Parks and Recreation Department Director Stuart McCarthy. "We believe the markets will support these fees."
McCarthy described the Compo Beach daily parking fees as "on the high end" compared to other area beaches. In Fairfield, for instance, the fee is $25 for weekend parking permits at Jennings and Penfield beaches. He attributed the Parks and Recreation's Commission recommendation to boost fees to additional beach operating costs and rising attendance at Compo. If current ticket sale numbers hold, the parking fee hikes could generate $120,000 in additional revenue for the Parks and Recreation Department, he said.
"I'm comfortable with these rates," said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. "We can adjust them if need be, and we can even adjust them mid-season."
While daily parking permit sales fell in the first year after a 2008 fee increase, sales in 2011 exceeded the 2009 total by 10 percent, McCarthy said. The town frequently sells more than 200 daily permits at the beach, he added.
On busy days at Compo Beach, the sale of daily permits will be periodically suspended for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half to regulate attendance, McCarthy said. The beach has a parking capacity of approximately 1,200 vehicles.
Resident Gerald Romano was the sole member of the public to comment on the fee increases. He expressed opposition to the fee hikes after McCarthy told him that Compo Beach would remain profitable without the fee increases.
"So you're just doing this to have more money in the coffers," Romano said. "There's not really any greater purpose than to have extra money to spend on something that you don't know what you're going to spend it on yet."
McCarthy replied that the fee increases would help to reduce an annual subsidy of approximately $160,000 that the town budget provides to the Parks and Recreation Department, whose approximately $4.25 million budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year is mostly financed by user fees. Counting Parks and Recreation employee benefits, however, the town's annual obligation to the Parks and Rec Department rises to more than $1 million.
"To me, it's more revenue for the general town, not even for Parks and Rec," added Selectman Charles Haberstroh, in support of McCarthy.
The selectmen also quickly moved to back the fee increases proposed for docking boats in the town's two marinas at Compo Beach and Longshore Club Park. Fee raises range from a $40 hike from $360 to $400 for rowboats up to 16 feet in length to an approximately $500 jump from $1,940 to $2,450 for larger vessels.
The boating fee increases would generate about $100,000 in additional revenue that would finance capital improvements such as the replacement of T-heads and boarding fingers at the Compo Beach marina, McCarthy said.