Glynn County is on its way to arranging for more than $200,000 to fix the St. Simons Island Marina, but one of the things commissioners wanted before approving the spending is for the St. Simons Boating and Fishing Club to make it clear that the marina is public.
At a Glynn County Commission work session in March, club board member Walt Koran asked the commission to help pay for repairs to the marina, most of the damage being inflicted by Tropical Storm Hermine and Hurricane Matthew.
“I always thought it was a private club, the way it was set up,” Peter Murphy, county commissioner for St. Simons, Jekyll and Sea islands, said. “When the hurricane came, and they had substantial damage to the property, they came to the commission and said ‘your property has been damaged.’”
The club spent around $900 replacing signs to better reflect the public nature of the marina at Gascoigne Park. Prior to the change, signs were branded with the name of the club. They now say “St. Simons Island Marina.”
Jimmy Maupin, another member of the club’s board of directors, said they were unaware of the issue. The intention was never to indicate the marina was private.
“It’s always been open to the public, and no one’s had any reason to think otherwise, we never turned anyone away,” Maupin said.
Marina staff said the same, but Maupin said they would do anything the commission asked them to do because the club operates the marina at the commission’s pleasure.
Murphy raised other issues as well, such as a lack adequate casualty insurance, unpaid rent and a failure to provide the county with annual audits.
The lease calls for the club to have some form of casualty insurance that covers all improvements on the three-acre parcel of land. Murphy said he understood insurance can be prohibitively expensive for marine assets.
Murphy also said the property was at one point looking somewhat unkept, but most of those concerns have been addressed since March.
“That’s what should make it attractive to the residents of the county, is that you can launch a boat there. Almost anyone can launch a boat there,” Murphy said.
The boat lift at the marina can put boats up to 26 feet long in the water. Fees are charged based on length, starting at $14 and topping out at $20. Those fees can be cut in half with a club membership, which is $85 a year. The lift is first come first serve, regardless of membership status.
Glynn County entered into a lease over the property in 1949. The facility now features more than 500 feet of concrete docks with boat storage, two launching areas, a club house, office and fishing and cleaning areas. It sells gas, oil, bait and ice, but generally isn’t allowed to make a profit due to a deed restriction, marina staff said.
“That, I think, is a real message to the residents and visitors of Glynn County, that this is a prime location and boating facility,” Murphy said.
A contract for the repair work has already been accepted with Intron Technologies out of Jacksonville. Hurricane Matthew did a number on the marina. Most of the south dock came loose and had to be towed back and tied down. Segments of the north dock were also damaged. In all, the county is looking at more than $200,000 in repairs.
Around 75 percent of the money is coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Public Works Director Dave Austin said. The remaining 25 percent will come from state assistance and a local match from the boating and fishing club.
Maupin said they are in the process of collecting donations from their members and hope to have $26,000 by September.