Falmouth Town Landing boasts the largest mooring field in the state. Now the town wants to increase mooring fees to help cover the cost of operating the harbor. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

FALMOUTH — Mooring fees at Town Landing not only don’t cover the full cost of operating the harbor, they also haven’t been significantly increased in two decades.

Police Chief John Kilbride, whose department oversees operations at the harbor, is hoping the Town Council will approve an additional $40 per mooring for 2020. That would bump the resident fee up to $100 and the nonresident fee to $300 annually.

The mooring field at Falmouth Town Landing also includes the adjacent Handy Boat and Portland Yacht Club. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

The town harbormaster also oversees the mooring fields at the adjacent privately owned Handy Boat and Portland Yacht Club. Fees for both of those would go up to $120 a year under Kilbride’s proposal.

The Harbor/Waterfront Committee supported the fee increase at its meeting June 20 and Kilbride said the plan will now go to the council for review and implementation.

That process will include at least one public hearing, but no date has been set for the council to consider the issue.

Kilbride said harbor committee members understood the need for a mooring fee increase, especially since there hasn’t been a substantial change in the cost for more than 20 years.

He said the town receives almost $166,500 in annual mooring fees, which falls short of the harbor’s $179,000 annual operating cost.

In all, Kilbride said, there are almost 1,100 moorings that require monitoring each boating season. Falmouth has the largest recreational mooring field north of Marblehead, Massachusetts, according to the town website.

The shortfall in fees also means money is not being put aside for capital needs, including the replacement of infrastructure, from floats to the pump-out station to new technology, such as web and mobile harbor management software, Kilbride said.

He said the current mooring fees are “well below market value and the proposed increase is still lower” than what other communities charge.

For instance, Kilbride said, Yarmouth charges residents $155 annually and Freeport charges residents $96 a year, plus an additional $2.25 per foot for each boat.

Kilbride argued that a mooring fee increase is also warranted because Town Landing provides “amenities, a high level of service and access like no other mooring field in the area.”

Fishing, swimming, sunbathing, dog walking, kayaking and sightseeing are just some of the many activities our residents and visitors can enjoy,” he said.

Even with a $40 increase in each mooring permit, Kilbride said the additional funds would not cover the spending gap. However, he said some of the gap would be made up through property taxes, since landlubbers can also enjoy most of the amenities at Town Landing.

Kilbride said “there was some thoughtful dialogue” at last week’s harbor committee meeting. “Most members … understand the rising cost of labor and materials in a marine environment.”

He said some on the committee also suggested “a more comprehensive fee structure” overhaul in order to charge more to frequent users, including commercial lobstermen.

Kilbride said only seven lobstermen routinely use Town Landing to land their catch.

We completely understand nobody wants to pay more, but it’s my responsibility to recognize not only the issues occurring today, but ensuring financial stability for the future of the harbor,” he said.

The challenges associated with “rising tides, severe weather, warming waters and (other) unusual environmental changes will continue to put a strain on how we manage and maintain this incredible resource,” Kilbride said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected] Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins. 

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