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Mooring Fee Increase Likely

Posted in: Bourne News, Front Page Stories
Nov 28, 2008 - 12:57:29 PM

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BOURNE- Bourne residents will be asked to approve higher mooring fees at the Spring Town Meeting. In order to align mooring rates with Massachusetts general law, the shore and harbor committee voted 5-1 in favor of recommending a $20 hike in annual mooring fees for residential permits.
The recommended fee change would also mean an $80 rate cut to non-residents who rent moorings in Bourne.
Selectmen unanimously agreed to accept the recommendation this week, and an article asking voters to accept the fee hike will be placed on the Spring Town Meeting warrant.
According to Massachusetts law, towns must charge the same mooring fees to non-residents as they do to locals.
Currently, town residents pay $50 for moorings while non-residents pay $150.
“Mass general law tells us we can’t have a two-rate system, but the town continued to [have one],” said Natural Resources Department Director Timothy V. Mullen.
Under the current fee structure, the town collects $118,850 per year through the 1,516 moorings it rents to residents and the 287 moorings it rents to non-residents.
Though the fee increase recommendation passed by a wide margin, it did prompt some debate from committee member David R. Wiggin.
Mr. Wiggin asked why, instead of raising fees, Mr. Mullen could not instead impose a flat $50 fee across the board.
“What is the reason for the increase?” he asked.
“So we don’t lose any income,” Mr. Mullen answered.
A flat $50 rate would leave the town about $28,700 short of its current revenue return from mooring fees.
“If we were to bring everything down to $50, we wouldn’t be able to pay to maintain the harbors,” Mr. Mullen said.
The town would pull in $126,210 with a $70 flat fee.
Mr. Wiggin asked if some of the increased fee burden could be spread to commercial boat owners.
“I think the increase should be equal across the board, rather than putting it all on [residential] recreation permits,” he said.
Currently commercial boaters pay $150 per year to moor their vessels in Bourne.
Mr. Mullen said he would not be comfortable raising that rate.
“They’re already paying $150, in my opinion, that’s substantial,” he said.
With potentially higher fees, Bourne’s would still be among the lowest on Cape Cod and the surrounding area for residents to moor a vessel. 
By comparison, Falmouth charges a $50 mooring rate, plus an additional $1.25 for every foot of the boat’s length.
Dennis charges a $125 rate with an extra $6 per-foot charge, and Wareham charges $60 with a $1 per-foot charge.
After voting to recommend the fee increase, committee members unanimously agreed to accept mooring regulations drafted by Mr. Mullen.
Mr. Mullen explained that most of the regulations he suggested were not actually “new,” rather, they were a stated commitment to enforce older regulations that had traditionally been ignored.
For example, Mr. Mullen said, mooring renters will be required to annually reapply for a mooring. In the past, mooring renters only had only to apply once, and could renew their rental each year by simply submitting the fee.
Also, he said, potential mooring renters will now have to pay a $10 fee to renew their spot on the town’s mooring wait list. 
Mr. Mullen added that, to the dismay of some boat owners on a mooring waiting list, it is essentially impossible for him to draft any “use it or lose it” mooring regulations.
He said that, as long as a permit holder still owns a boat, they have the right to keep their mooring.
Also, the new regulations impose a three mooring maximum on renters. However, Mr. Mullen said that anyone who rents more than three will not be forced to give any of their moorings up.
Committee member B. Paul Bushueff Jr. asked if a “hardship exception” could be put in place for those who could not afford to pay their fees by August 1.
“Nothing in the regulations deals with hardship, but it’s all up to the harbormaster’s discretion,” Mr. Mullen said, suggesting that he would consider a boat owner’s inability to pay their fee on a case-by-case basis.
Unlike the new fees, the regulations do not need the approval of Town Meeting.
After receiving the approval of selectmen this week, the new regulations will be put into place at first of the new year.