Chincoteague Continues Making Harbor Improvements

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By Carol Vaughn —

Mike Tolbert and the Curtis Merritt Harbor harbormaster, Vernon Merritt, made a virtual presentation for a Virginia Port Authority grant application Feb. 9, including an update on this year’s grant-funded project, which recently was completed.
That project included construction of 20 additional boat slips, with a projected increased annual income of $14,580, Tolbert said in a report at the Chincoteague Town Council meeting Monday.
“All the slips were rented by the time they were completed. … We stressed the increased economic activity — that’s what it takes to get this grant from VPA,” Tolbert said.
This year’s project is to replace another pier with a floating dock, at a cost of $168,945, with the town paying $42,236 to match the grant if it is awarded. The project would improve safety ad accessibility and would add seven new boat slips, with annual slip rentals totaling $6,150 and a likely increase in fuel sales.
More than 100 people are on a waiting list to receive moorings at the harbor.
The harbor has 142 boat slips ranging from 25 to 50 feet. Twenty-two are reserved for transient boats and 120 are year-around rentals.
The harbor also is used to support NASA and Navy operations, and an offshore fishing fleet provides charter services. Additionally, 19 boats from six different tour companies operate 50 to 60 tours daily in season from the harbor.
Meals tax collections for February continued to be behind previous years, but transient and occupancy taxes “were well above last February’s numbers as well as the three-year average,” according to Tolbert’s report. The increase is in part due to a 1% increase in the transient and occupancy tax rate that went into effect Jan. 1.
The building and zoning department remains busy, with 38 building permits issued and 67 inspections conducted in February.
“Activity is still high on the island as far as building,” Tolbert said.
Playground equipment for the Brianna Kindness Park has been ordered, with construction set to begin in early March, according to Public Works Director Harvey Spurlock.
Construction is underway on the final phase of a multi-modal trail on Maddox Boulevard from Chicken City Road to Eel Creek and the traffic circle.
Chincoteague has had just two new COVID-19 cases since Feb. 15, for a total of 148 since the pandemic began, and now has a test positivity rate of around 6%, according to Bryan Rush, director of emergency services.

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