Portsmouth mulls fee for Sandy Point Beach

The Town of Portsmouth currently doesn't charge local residents to use Sandy Point Beach. The Town of Portsmouth currently doesn't charge local residents to use Sandy Point Beach.

PORTSMOUTH — Town residents may someday have to fork over $25, $50 or even $80 annually to use Sandy Point Beach.

The Town of Portsmouth currently doesn't charge local residents to use Sandy Point Beach.

The Town of Portsmouth currently doesn’t charge local residents to use Sandy Point Beach.

At a budget workshop Monday night, the Town Council discussed ways to close the revenue gap at the town beach, which has been a consistent money-loser. In 2013, the expense of running the beach was $62,142, but it brought in only $9,329 in revenue.

Use of the beach is free to town residents, and $7 during the week and $12 on the weekend for non-residents. In addition, non-residents may purchase an annual pass for $50 and a packet of four one-day passes for $25. Beach manager Tim Dunbar said residents make up about 85 percent of the people who use the beach.

“It’s incumbent upon us to do something to balance the equation,” said Town Council President James Seveney, noting that the cost of running the beach is almost as expensive as a police officer’s salary.

Council member Kevin Hamilton estimated the town could break even by charging residents about $80 for an annual beach sticker. Or, it could raise the fees for non-residents to helped close the gap, he said.

Mr. Dunbar said any additional revenue could also help fund improvements to the beach bathhouse or a small playground.

Carol DeCosta of Middle Road pleaded with the council to keep Sandy Point free to local residents.

“I’ve been a resident of Portsmouth for 49 years,” she said, adding that taxpayers should be allowed to enjoy the beach with their children and grandchildren at no charge.

The council approved a provisional budget of $66,350 for Sandy Point Beach for the 2015 fiscal year, a slight increase over the current spending plan.

No action was taken on a fee for residents, but that could change next year, Mr. Seveney said.

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