Cape Charles Gives Watermen a Break on Harbor Rate Increases

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An occupied slip at Cape Charles Harbor is seen with the concrete plant in the background. Photo by Jim Ritch.

By Stefanie Jackson – Cape Charles Town Manager John Hozey responded to concerns of town residents and watermen regarding the proposed new harbor rates and on Feb. 18 presented an alternate proposal that gave them bigger discounts and won the unanimous approval of the town council.

“There are still rate increases, and again I want to make the case that we’re not bringing in sufficient revenue to cover all of our operations and the major maintenance required,” Hozey noted.

The purpose of the private Cape Charles Yacht Center taking over management of the public harbor starting Jan. 1 was to help the harbor become financially “self-sufficient,” he said.

The harbor rates proposed Feb. 18 would result in smaller overall increases for watermen and town residents compared to the rates proposed in January.

The proposed discount for watermen was increased from 40% to 50%. Instead of watermen paying nearly 15% more to dock at the harbor, they would pay about 7% more.

The proposed discount for Cape Charles residents who are seasonal slip holders was increased from 20% to 30%. They would pay overall docking rate increases of about 9%.

As for the matter of watermen refueling at the harbor outside of regular business hours, Hozey said he discovered that was not permitted under current state code unless an attendant was on duty.

The watermen had fuel access cards that allowed them to refuel at the harbor overnight, but those cards were deactivated after the yacht center took over management of the harbor and a computer software incompatibility was discovered, meaning the harbor would no longer be able to track how much fuel each waterman was pumping after hours.

The watermen now must make arrangements to refuel at the harbor during regular business hours.

Hozey indicated the change should have a minimal impact because records showed that only two watermen refueled at the harbor overnight a total of six times in 2020.

The proposal for new electricity rates at the harbor had not been changed since January. The proposed new rates were $5 a day or $35 a month for 30-amp service, $15 a day or $105 a month for 50-amp service, and $25 a day or $175 a month for 100-amp service.

The only significant increase in any of the electricity rates was the monthly rate for 50-amp service, which increased from $50 to $105. Hozey said the rate of $50 a month never had been approved by the town council, and the rate of $105 a month was based on actual electricity costs.

The town council approved the new electricity rates with one condition requested by Mayor Smitty Dize: the town will investigate how much it would cost to repair the electric meters at the harbor so boaters can be required to pay for the exact amounts of electricity they use.

The harbor loses money by charging flat rates for electricity, Dize said.

He noted that The Oyster Farm marina charged each client around $5 or $10 a month for electric hookup, which covered the cost of meter maintenance.

The town council unanimously approved all the new harbor rates, with several corrections or changes, including the mayor’s suggestion regarding the electric meters.

Other changes included giving a waterman a seven-day grace period before charging the rate of $30 a week to use a 20-foot by 20-foot storage area for nonmotorized commercial fishing equipment and gear.

There also will be no charge for pressure washing; a rate of $10 per pressure washing had been proposed.

In another matter, the town council unanimously voted to appoint Katie Nunez as a part-time, interim zoning administrator.

Nunez was Accomack’s deputy director of planning and zoning and before that she was Northampton’s county administrator.