An idea that was dead in the water just three months ago got unanimous support from Citrus County commissioners Tuesday, who say the best way to raise funds for boating improvements is with user fees.
During a workshop, commissioners directed County Administrator Randy Oliver to develop an ordinance charging boat ramp fees to pay for “boating-related activities and facilities.”
They hope to have the system in place by Oct. 1.
Here are some answers to questions about the proposed fee program, based on Tuesday’s board discussion:
Q: How much are the fees?
A: The suggested fee is $10 per day or $50 for an annual pass.
Q: Will county residents receive a discount?
A: No. According to County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn, the fees must be uniform to all users regardless of where they live.
Q: Will all county boat ramps have a fee?
A: Yes. The fees, as proposed, would be collected at boat ramps on both the coastal and lakes areas of the county.
Q: I have a kayak. Am I paying the fee, too?
A: Yes. Anyone who launches any type of boat, motorized or not, from a county boat ramp would pay the fee.
Q: What is the county going to do with the money?
A: From commissioners’ discussion, the highest priorities are adding parking to busy boat ramps, particularly Fort Island Gulf Beach, Fort Island Trail Park and the Homosassa ramp at MacRae’s.
Q: Why should I pay a fee for launching at one of the smaller ramps in the lakes chain?
A: Commissioners said they will ensure the lakes region is not left off the projects list. Funds from fees could be used for boat ramp repair, or even for aquatic vegetation removal to open canals or lake channels.
Q: You mentioned MacRae’s. How can the county improve parking when the area is already congested?
A: Commission Chairman Jeff Kinnard, who first floated the fee idea in November, said the county could possibly buy property from willing sellers or partner with property owners to expand parking.
Q: How much does the county expect to receive from the fees?
A: That hasn’t been determined. Commissioner Scott Carnahan estimated $200,000 to $250,000 a year, but Commissioner Brian Coleman thinks it’ll be more than that. Coleman said there are 17,000 boats in Citrus County, plus an unknown number of tourists who will launch as well.
Q: Won’t the fee scare off tourists?
A: Not at all. Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr., who chairs the Tourist Development Council, said he posed that very question to tourism business owners and was told tourists won’t think twice about paying the fee.
Q: How exactly will the county collect the fee at each boat ramp?
A: That hasn’t been decided, either. Oliver suggested a hybrid approach, using pay stations at the busier boat ramps as the city of Crystal River does, and the honor system at lesser-used boat ramps. The details haven’t been worked out.
Q: What about using the fees for other projects, like kayak trails or artificial reefs?
A: That’s what Kinnard had in mind when he first suggested the idea, but he found no support on the board. Commissioners all said they heard from boaters who wouldn’t object to a launch fee, so long as the money went to improving what the county now has. They found little interest in using the money for new projects.
Q: What’s the timeline for all this to happen?
A: Before anything goes on the books, the county commission needs to hold a public hearing for the ordinance, which hasn’t been written yet. Commissioners said they want the fee in place by Oct. 1, the start of the county’s fiscal year.