As of Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The Port of The Dalles has backed away from earlier plans to replace the current water system at The Dalles Marina with a seasonal system and intends to give tenants a chance to compare features and costs for seasonal and year-round systems.
Marina tenants filled the audience at the last two port meetings, most interested in seeing a year-round system installed. At an earlier meeting, the port commission had agreed to have a seasonal system installed to minimize cost and avoid the challenges the existing system has faced.
“The current system is neither seasonal or nonseasonal, it just is,” said Kathy Norton after the Oct. 9 meeting. Norton oversees the marina for the port. “In the wintertime we leave it on.” Tenants who don’t use their oathouses during the winter have their service shut off, leaving responsibility for water bills during that season to those who continue to use the marina.
That has become a bigger problem in recent months as water and sewer prices have increased, the number of leaks have grown and the City of The Dalles has quit forgiving the cost of a portion of the leaks.
“The water leaks are huge,” Norton said. “Up until the September meeting, the city has been forgiving half of whatever excess water we use because of the leaks.” At its September meeting, the city said it will no longer make those adjustments.
Tenants interested in year round water service asked the port commission to reconsider at its Oct. 9 meeting.
“The way I look at it is, it’s our system because we’re going to be the ones paying for it,” said Steve Switzer. The port finances most improvements in the tenant area of the marina through rent, a portion of which is placed in a reserve fund.
Winter water users could face some water bill shock this year as a result of the ongoing leaks.
“We’re making sure they all understand that the water bills are not going to run $20 to $30 a month,” Norton said. “They’re going to be maybe exponentially larger.”
Commissioners had already solicited quotes for installation of a seasonal system and only one contractor had bid, Norton told the commission, but others have expressed an interest in the year-round system. Commissioners agreed to open a second request for proposals for a year-round system.
A seasonal system would not need to be winterized, Norton explained, and would be run along the dock above ground, unlike the current system, which runs through the water and under decks and boathouses.
That makes it difficult to see where water leaks are occurring and has substantially increased the amount of time required by port workers to locate the increasing number of leaks this year. Of the nine leaks found this year, seven have been between the main line and the boathouse — on the tenant side of the connection.
A year-round system would have to be winterized, which could add another $40,000 to $50,000 to the $60,000 cost of a seasonal system, Norton said. Right now the marina reserve fund contains about $80,000. Of that figure, $30,000 is already earmarked for an electrical system project. The port will have to tap a portion of the remaining $50,000 to pay the water bill.
“We’re still negotiating on the bill,” Norton said.
Once proposals have been collected, tenants will be able to consider which system they prefer and the majority’s choice will be implemented, said Bob McFadden, commission chair. McFadden tasked the group with forming a marina users association to look into how the tenants can help with the marina operation.
Commissioner Mike Courtney offered another option for marina tenants.
“The Port of Umatilla has given their marina away,” Courtney said. “If you guys want to set up an association among the boat owners and want to take it off our hands — we put way more staff time than we really want to into this.”
Another tenant, Garrett Booth, responded, “That is a great opportunity to start looking at.”
The public docks would stay in port ownership, Courtney noted, because of the port’s obligations to the Oregon State Marine Board.