August 25, 2013

City considers running its own marina


PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh councilors agreed to look further into a plan that could lead to a lucrative waterfront project.

“This is a good chance for the city make a lot of money and keep a great piece of lakefront property,” John Ducatte told members of the council’s Infrastructure Committee on Thursday night.

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The city is exploring the idea of developing the waterfront property it owns at the end of Dock Street near Plattsburgh Boat Basin. There are docks in the water now that were installed to aid the several fishing tournaments that are held on Lake Champlain each year, but there is no management of them.

“People want to dock there — now they do it for free,” Ducatte said.


Earlier this year, the city entertained two proposals from private companies to manage the waterfront property. Plattsburgh Boat Basin and Navtours both offered to provide boat moorings, dock space, kayak and small-watercraft rentals, as well as food service and other recreational amenities.

The council voted in favor of negotiating with Navtours, a Canadian-based company, which has been in business on the lake for 15 years, but no deal has been struck.

Ducatte works for the city’s Public Works Department but has extensive marina experience, having worked at marinas around the world and spent time in the Coast Guard.

He submitted a plan that features a city-run marina that he says could generate as much as $3.2 million over a 10-year period.

The proposal calls for installing up to 80 moorings over time and renting out the dock space that exists. The moorings would be divided between the Dock Street site and Wilcox Dock to the north.

With rents starting at $50 per foot, and most boats being about 30 feet, Ducatte said, the city could see revenue of about $1,500 per season per boat to start with. Rental fees would increase gradually over a 10-year period according to his plan.

“Mooring rentals require zero labor except for the first day and the last day,” he said.

“Otherwise, it’s just people giving you money.”


The dock space would be rented out for day use or overnight stays.

The plan calls for one full-time and one part-time employee to be hired.

After investing in equipment and labor, the first year is projected to yield the city only $774, Ducatte’s plan shows. 

But revenue would jump to $83,599 the second year, $199,801 the third year and $234,624 the fourth year, he estimated.

The projected eventual profit for 10 years is $3,228,950.


Navtours offered the city annual rent of $12,000, plus 10 percent of marina revenues, which the firm estimated to be about $10,700 per year for a total annual payment to the city of $22,700.

Recreation Department Superintendent Steve Peters said he spoke with his counterpart in Ogdensburg who runs a municipal marina. He said that operation, and many other municipal marinas around the state, seem to work well.

“It is done by others around the state, and the labor involved is not terrible,” Peters said.

“This is worth a shot, in my opinion.”

Peters said the public often seeks ways to utilize the lake inexpensively, and this plan would help provide more access.

“The challenge for us is to find a way to get people to the water, which is not that easy to do,” he said.


Public Works Superintendent Mike Brodi said controlling the waterfront property has its advantages for the city.

“It’s not like the hotel site that we have no control over, and we can’t get out of that deal,” he said, referring to an agreement the city made in 2003 with a Syracuse developer to build a waterfront hotel that fell through.

The case is tied up in legal action, preventing the city from going forward with any alternative plans.

“If we run it (marina) ourselves, then we can change it any way we want,” Brodi said.

Councilor Chris Jackson (D-Ward 6) said he wants the city to take advantage of the waterfront property, but he was concerned about competing with private marinas on the lake.

“But we do need to manage that property better,” he said.

George Rabideau (R-Ward 3) said the city already competes with private enterprise with its gym and garbage collection.


Mark Tiffer (D-Ward 2) said he would support looking into a city-run marina, but he wants to see a comprehensive plan for the city and how such a waterfront development would fit in.

“We need to answer a lot of questions first, and right now we are just talking,” he said at the meeting.

“There is no guide.”

After the session, Tiffer elaborated, saying it is difficult to gauge how a waterfront plan would affect the rest of the city without a deeper look into the future.

“We need a comprehensive plan for the waterfront, for downtown, for the entire city,” he said.

“We don’t know the feasibility of plans like this (waterfront plan) until we know all of that, and that needs to be a priority.”

Jackson said no decisions will be made until more research is done and discussions held.

“But we will pursue this,” he said.

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