Bristol expects new marina will pay for itself

Town believes marina will be net positive, with more slips, higher fees and big boats tying up in Bristol

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 2/25/21

The Town of Bristol has a plan to pay for its upcoming $3.5 million marina expansion. Through a combination of more slips, higher slip fees, profits from a new fuel depot and fees for luxury boats …

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Bristol expects new marina will pay for itself

Town believes marina will be net positive, with more slips, higher fees and big boats tying up in Bristol

Posted

The Town of Bristol has a plan to pay for its upcoming $3.5 million marina expansion. Through a combination of more slips, higher slip fees, profits from a new fuel depot and fees for luxury boats tying up in Bristol for days or weeks, they expect the marina will pay for itself — and then some.

According to a five-year financial projection that Harbormaster Gregg Marsili presented to the Bristol Town Council last Wednesday night, the marina will be net positive in its first full year of operation, in 2022. The town expects the fuel depot to grow to at least $80,000 in profit within the next few years, and most significantly, it expects transient dock fees, mostly from large yachts, to grow from $23,000 per year to $350,000 per year within the next five years.

Mr. Marsili submitted the financial projections along with a request to approve increases in the annual per-foot fees to be charged to boat owners for renting slips in the marina. He said the whole program is designed to keep the marina’s cost burden off of taxpayers.

“We want to make sure that the marina is not a burden on the taxpayer,” he said.

Those proposed increases, discussed at the Feb. 7 Bristol Harbor Commission meeting, would be $60 per foot for both recreational and commercial marine business vessels (up from $52 per foot); and $44 per foot for commercial fishing vessels (up from $42 per foot.)

“They seem to be fine with it. They didn’t give me any objection to it. I just want to give them ample notice, as we move forward, that their fees are going to change, between now and next year’s billing cycle,” Mr. Marsili said, of slip owners who have been made aware of the pending increases and the reasons behind them.

The changes would not take effect this year, but will be reflected in the January 2022 billing.

In response to a question by Councilor Tim Sweeney, Mr. Marsili noted that town rates remain very competitive. “Most of the private marinas right now run over $100 a foot,” he said. “And we’re not trying to do that, we want to keep our robust fishing fleet, we want to get recreational boats in there, we want our commercial marine businesses to do well; this is still well below average.”

The council unanimously approved the request to increase the fees.

The five-year plan

Mr. Marsili’s five-year plan outlines several anticipated sources of revenue in the next few years. The biggest growth would be in the transient slip rentals, increasing to nearly $350,000 in year four (see chart below).

“Over the past seven years we have had a steady growth of transient boaters and have had to turn a lot of people away because we did not have the dock space,” said Mr. Marsili. “There has been an uptick in the number of big boats, 45-feet-plus, that want to stay, and our current transient pier only allows two or three boats that size to fit comfortably. In addition, when a 100-foot boat wants to come in, we do not have room for them or the power requirement.”

The expanded marina will have more room for the big boats, plus the utility infrastructure to meet their needs.

“We are also exploring the idea of having a more long-term transient rate, which would include a rate for Bristol residents if they want to rent a spot for a week or two,” he said.

Seeking the big boats

The marketing strategy for bringing the transients to town includes advertising in a few different boating magazines, and the town also uses a company based out of Newport called DOCKWA for reservations and additional advertising.

“The best marketing tool is word of mouth,” said Mr. Marsili. “Boaters enjoy going to places where they feel welcome, have access to services and an easy walk to restaurants and shopping. A lot of our visitors are repeat customers who tell their friends about Bristol and the word spreads quickly.”

Another projected source of income is the fuel pier, with $80,000 in net revenue anticipated by year four. Mr. Marsili based those numbers on data from the town fuel pier in Sandwich, Mass., a comparable community marina.

“Their net income for one year was approximately  $191,000; we are conservatively estimating numbers based on that,” he said “When the marina is open in the Spring of 2022, that will increase the number of boats that will be visiting and using this service, which will increase the net income, and after a couple of years we will be able to have a more accurate projection.”

The town’s financial analysis includes the cost of long-term borrowing to pay for the new marina, estimated at $235,000 per year.

Shown below are excerpts from the town’s five-year plan for the marina. Factoring in increases in salaries (a couple of new positions in the harbormaster’s office) and annual debt payments of $235,000, they expect expenses to level off within a couple of years, but revenue to grow significantly during the same period of time. They expect the marina will be producing nearly $300,000 of net income by year four.

The five-year plan to pay the bills

REVENUE

Current

Spring 2022

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

New resident slips

$78,000.00

$78,000.00

$78,000.00

$78,000.00

Transient slips

$22,750.00

$66,382.00

$295,450.00

$349,900.00

$349,900.00

Fuel Pier (Net)

$50,000.00

$60,000.00

$70,000.00

$80,000.00

NET INCOME

$84,470.00

$132,472.00

$234,077.00

$291,190.00

$293,430.00

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