TRAVERSE CITY — Boaters often refer to their vessels as a hole in the water into which they throw money.
That also might be a fitting analogy for Traverse City’s Duncan Clinch Marina, since city officials expect the taxpayer-owned facility to lose money for at least another couple years.
Nearby publicly owned marinas make money for their municipalities, but Traverse City’s marina reported a net operating loss of more than $182,000 for the past two years combined. City officials do not expect an improvement in the current fiscal year, or next year, either. They project combined net losses of $182,300.
“The marina fund is having difficulty and has had difficulty,” said city Treasurer Bill Tweitmeyer. “It is very hard-pressed.”
Mayor Michael Estes said he’s argued in past years that the city needs to raise its marina rates. The facility also has drawn Commissioner Ross Richardson’s interest.
“We can’t afford to give the History Center any money ... but we can afford to subsidize the marina,” Richardson said. “Do city residents even get preference on renting seasonal slips?”
Almost 200 names remain on the city-owned marina’s waiting list for its 119 slips, and city residents receive no preferential treatment, said Barry Smith, marina dockmaster.
Estes and Richardson said they’ve been told the city already charges the highest rates allowed by the state, but that’s not the full story. A review of city memos shows the city charges the highest allowable rate for seasonal slip rental, but officials could charge more for transient slips, those that are available on a day-to-day basis and which account for half the mooring spaces in the city marina.
“We are just trying to stay competitive with some of the other marinas because if we are priced too high we can lose all of it,” Smith said.