By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
FULTON, Ill. —
An outcome for the city’s marina was still uncertain as the City Council went into another executive session to discuss the possible purchase or lease of the property.
Several marina users flocked to the council meeting on Monday looking for answers, but found none.
“The city will not be able to make a decision on the marina tonight,” City Administrator Randy Balk said.
Winter storage was a major concern to the boaters who attended the meeting. One boater mentioned that marinas in the area are filling up fast. This has left many of them eager to find out what will become of the marina and whether they will be able to keep their boats there.
“We want to do what is best for everyone, but at this time we are still negotiating,” Mayor Larry Russell said.
The city is hoping to have a decision made within a week or so. It has been an especially rough summer for the marina with the drought, according to Balk.
Marina Mechanic Don Saiter said that he needs to know the outcome so he can put in winterize orders, which were due last week.
Current marina operator Pete Harkness announced a few months ago that he will leave at the end of his lease in December.
Several options are being considered by the marina committee and City Council. If they decide to stay with a private operator, the city may either strike the best deal possible with Harkness requiring full disclosure of 2012 and future income and expenses, or have Harkness or any interested party submit proposals.
Another option would give operation responsibilities to a city steering committee similar to the way the Windmill Cultural Center is operated. An on-site manager would have to be hired out of marina proceeds. Officials would expect to know more about the overall cash flow and in-kind compensation after a year.
Operating the marina by the city's public works/parks department for one year is a possibility. This would also require hiring an on-site manager out of marina proceeds.
The city is also considering shutting all of the marina area except for the boat ramps indefinitely. The Public Works Department would then put grass on the Fourth Street frontage and improve parking for the Kiwanis Park baseball diamonds and planned retention area soccer and football fields. If this came to be, the city would also secure an advisory referendum for the November ballot asking residents if the city should convert the marina to a general park for fishing, boat launch, parking and recreational vehicle sites.
A decision is expected in seven to 10 days. Marina users will be notified by mail of the outcome.