Monroe County commissioners proposed new mooring fields and upgraded boat ramps as possible ways to spend $1.5 million of surplus boater improvement funds.
The county's Marine Port Advisory Committee will discuss possible uses for the funds when it meets Tuesday night in Marathon. The County Commission will discuss the issue when it meets in September, county Marine Resources Director Rich Jones said.
The County Commission briefly discussed uses for the $1.5 million in boater improvement fund reserves when it met Thursday in Key West for a budget hearing. County Growth Management Director Christine Hurley announced the $1.5 million in reserves and then asked commissioners to start thinking about projects the money could be used for. Hurley also gave the commissioners a map detailing the locations of boat ramps in the Florida Keys.
Commissioner Kim Wigington supported using the money for improving existing boat ramps.
"I think it should be a priority before we start on new projects," Wigington said. "A lot of the boat ramps are in disrepair and are not very user friendly. Boat ramps are something a lot of residents want. Boat ramps are a way to make that money go a long way."
Commissioner George Neugent has been pushing for more managed mooring fields for liveaboard and transient boaters. He has long argued that managed mooring fields will help resolve water quality issues and keep the county from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars removing derelict vessels. The county spends roughly $270,000 a year removing abandoned vessels.
"The creation of managed mooring fields is the number one priority," Neugent said.
The county has also discussed the possibility of partnering with a private company to oversee the managed mooring fields.
Boater improvement funds are raised through locally collected boat registration fees. The fees are split between Keys municipalities and the county. In the past, the county has spent a large portion of its funds removing abandoned vessels.
The Marine Port Advisory Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Marathon Government Center.