Citrus County commissioners are divided on whether to have launch fees at four popular boat ramps, but the plans are headed to a public hearing regardless.
Commissioners Brian Coleman, Ron Kitchen Jr. and Chairman Jeff Kinnard indicated support in a Tuesday morning workshop for boat-ramp fees designed to raise funds to improve ramps and parking.
Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Jimmie T. Smith were opposed, saying the county has enough money for projects from a tax base that continues to grow.
“It’s all about priorities,” Carnahan said.
Kinnard first raised the issue when he was named chairman in November. Commissioners at first dismissed the idea, then supported it after hearing from the public.
Citrus has about 17,000 registered boats and about 500,000 tourists who visit annually.
The proposal is to charge $10 a day or a $50 annual pass for motorized boats and other boats on trailers, and $5 a day or a $25 annual pass for kayaks on vehicles with carriers. The annual fees for seniors over 65 and veterans would be half that.
Fees would be collected by kiosks at Fort Island Trail, Fort Island Gulf Beach, MacRae’s and Hernando Beach boat ramps.
At Kinnard’s suggestion, the county would also offer a one-day annual discount to buy the pass at half price. While the county cannot charge a separate fee for residents, Kinnard said the one-day discount would likely benefit Citrus boat owners more than out-of-towners.
A county staff report estimated the fees would net close to $300,000 annually, though County Administrator Randy Oliver said discounts could cut into that amount.
Coleman, Kitchen and Kinnard all said boat-ramp improvements, including the need for additional parking and dredging at the Fort Island Trail Park ramp, should be funded by users and not taxpayers countywide.
Carnahan noted, however, that the county doesn’t charge Little League fees to use baseball fields even though not all taxpayers utilize those fields.
Coleman said the comparison doesn’t work.
“We’re talking about children, not people with hundred-thousand-dollar boats,” he said.
Kitchen said the Tourist Development Council unanimously supported the fees, and he has heard nothing but support from the public.
“The vast majority of these fees will be paid by tourists,” he said.
Oliver said an ordinance will likely come to the board for a formal vote by the end of September.