Tide rises for Tisbury’s mooring fees

Select board member questions paying for mooring upkeep with private mooring fees.

Tisbury mooring fees will increase by 10 percent. — Rich Saltzberg

Following an April 20 hearing, Tisbury’s select board voted unanimously to raise mooring and dockage fees. 

Harbormaster John Crocker said the increase was 10 percent, and has been endorsed by the waterways committee. “The rates depend on the length of the vessel, so if you have a larger vessel, you pay a higher mooring permit fee,” Crocker said.

Crocker provided the select board tables to review. Those tables showed, for example, the yearly fee for a private mooring for vessels under 20 feet was $105.50 in 2021 and will be $117 for 2022, a $11.50 increase. For vessels 100 feet and over, the same class of mooring had a $735 fee in 2021, and will be $809 in 2022, a $74 increase.

Waterways committee chair Jeff Canha later told The Times private or “residential” moorings in Tisbury are privately owned, noncommercial moorings in the town-controlled waters of Lake Tashmoo, Lagoon Pond, and Vineyard Haven Harbor. In contrast, Canha said, commercial moorings are owned by enterprises and are “used to conduct their business.” Canha said Gannon and Benjamin and Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard are enterprises that have commercial moorings. 

Per Crocker’s tables, commercial moorings in the inner harbor were $420 per year in 2021, and will be $462 in 2022, a $42 increase. Town-owned moorings for the summer season on vessels under 30 feet were $1,050.50 in 2021 and will be $1,156 in 2022, a $105.50 increase. The same mooring in the winter ran $604 in 2021, and will be $665 in 2022, a $61 increase.

Canha described town-owned moorings as basically municipal moorings for lease. 

Canha said private mooring revenue goes into the waterways fund, and town mooring revenue goes into the general fund, “never to be seen again.” 

Canha said the town’s harbor department took $28,000 from the waterways fund recently to maintain the town-owned moorings. “Why are those town moorings not self-supporting?” he asked. 

At the hearing, Crocker put that figure at $35,000, though it wasn’t clear if that sum was totally for mooring maintenance. 

Also at the hearing, select board member Roy Cutrer questioned the circuitous manner in which town-owned mooring upkeep was paid for: “If we are running at a deficit, if we are using private mooring money to subsidize the town moorings because they’re not making a profit, or they’re not covering their own expenses, then I think it’s something that should be looked at.”

“I can tell you that the town-owned moorings are more than covering their own expenses,” Crocker told Cutrer.

“Cool, so somebody can get me those numbers, right?” Cutrer asked.

“Be happy to,” Crocker said.

Crocker said a few years back, town-owned mooring maintenance funds came from the harbor department budget, but that was changed to the waterways fund. 

“So prior to a few years ago, it did come out of the general fund,” Crocker said. “It was paid for by the taxpayers. It is not now.”

Select board chair Jeff Kristal said he believed the switch was made as part of budget-tightening to avoid an override. 

“You know what?” Kristal said. “It absolutely could and should probably go back to the general fund …”

Kristal said he believed the town took in $77,420 from its 62 town-owned moorings, and $332,000 in overall department revenue.

Kristal said Crocker “might get some pushback from the finance team” if he tried to pull $332,000 from the general fund. 

“That’s, I’m going to call it, a political decision,” Crocker said. “As long as we have the money to maintain the moorings, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me.”

“It’s not a political decision,” Cutrer said. Cutrer described it as a “conflict” to be paying for town-owned moorings with private mooring revenue: “If we’re using their money for the town moorings, and the town is collecting an income from the town moorings, it just seems like a conflict to me.” 

“Yup, I think you’re right, Roy,” Kristal said. “I think we should look at putting this back into the town budget for the mooring maintenance on the town-owned moorings, and not tap the waterways fund.” 

Also on Crocker’s tables, transient mooring fees jumped $20 from 2021 to 2022. The fee had been $50 per day, and is now $70 per day.

Dockage fees went up $5 per hour across the board. Vessels under 25 feet were charged $5 per hour in 2021, and will now be charged $10 per hour. On the other end of the scale, vessels over 40 feet had been charged $25 per hour, and will now be charged $30 per hour.