NEWPORT BEACH — With harbor mooring administration costs nearly tripled from previous years, a third dredging project on the horizon and revenues in the city still down, city officials said it's time for Newport Harbor users to pay the piper.
"The harbor fees, some of them haven't been changed in decades," said Councilman Steve Rosansky. "I don't feel we're doing a good job as a city if we're not keeping pace with what the market tells us is the fair value of the services."
Though fees vary, one example of the varied pricing is $5, the lowest cost for an overnight mooring. Fees haven't been raised in about 20 years.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, the council created an ad-hoc committee to look into increasing various harbor fees, including mooring rentals, permits for living on boats and pier fees.
The three-member committee is Rosansky, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Henn and Councilman Ed Selich. In the coming months, the men will review costs associated with the harbor, with any revenue from increased fees expected to go back into the harbor or offset its maintenance.
Rosansky said the group will likely tackle mooring fees first. The numbers are considerably lower than other similar harbors, and the Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol nearly tripled its fee to oversee the moorings this year, officials said.
For more than 20 years, Newport Beach has paid $110,000 annual for the Harbor Patrol to oversee mooring administration. This year, the city signed a five-year contract with the Sheriff's Department that will bring the cost to $290,000 by the fifth year.
Increased mooring fees will help offset that, city officials said.
"All our costs are going up, but our revenues are not going up," Rosansky said.
Fees will be judged on fair market value comparing them to similar setups in other harbors, while others will be based on the cost of providing the service.
"Let's face it, anytime you raise fees you're going to get a push back, especially now in a recessionary environment," Selich said. "No one's going to like it. But are they going to have a big problem with it? If it's fair and equitable and goes back into the harbor, probably not."