Boat slip holders likely to shoulder dredging cost

WESTPORT — The Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach will be dredged — clearing sediment from the channel and marina — with the majority of the cost to fall on level boat slip holder fees.

In a lengthy heated debate, the final town vote green-lighted the $1.2 million dredging of 20,727 cubic yards of sediment. At the Representative Town Meeting Tuesday night, members overwhelmingly supported the dredging, citing safety and quality needs. But the issue of how the town will shoulder the cost sparked contentious debate, narrowly in favor of mostly using funds collected from boat slip renters’ fees.

By just one member, the RTM chose to recommend 80 percent of the funding come from slip rental fees, the alternative proposal that slip users shoulder none of the cost. Those for boater funding characterized it as an issue of internal allocation, highlighting fees will not change. Some also expressed concern for a tight budget planning process ahead.

“If you’re a boater, this is a good deal,” Jack Klinge, District 7, said. “You’re not going to pay more for your boat; you’re going to get a dredged channel.”

He later said the boat slip users should “play by the same rules” as other town services such as golf or tennis where improvements are often funded through user fees.

“This is about principle,” Catherine Calise, District 2, later countered. Calise proposed recommending none of the cost be covered from slip holder fees.

Members against boater fee funding focused on public and police use of the marina and channel or likened the area to town infrastructure. Kristan Hamlin, District 4, called using the boat slip holder fees “offensive,” “unprincipled” and an unfair precedent to set for how the town allocates funding, claiming the slip renters are minority users of the area.

While several slip holders turned out to advocate the dredging but ask funding not flow from their fees, Compo slip holder and RTM member Jay Keenan, District 2, supported funding from the fees, highlighting rates would not change.

“None of the slip holders are going to feel it,” he said. “It’s staying the same rate.”

The Board of Finance approved the funding in December, but with a recommendation boat slip holders cover 100 percent of the cost, spread over the next 15 years. The Parks and Recreation Commission and the department’s director, Jennifer Fava, have advocated an 80-20 split, with most of the cost on slip holders and the remainder through other town revenue sources. Fava told the Board of Finance at the time of its vote that boat slip users’ fees would not rise from shouldering the cost.

The town’s Finance Director, Gary Conrad, told the RTM Tuesday he would consider any recommendation but found the 80 percent burden a reasonable split.

Westport last dredged the Compo marina and channel in 1993.; @LauraEWeiss16