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When there’s a public perception that government offers favorable treatment to some, while neglecting others, something needs to change.

Such a perception is exactly what’s wrong with the Havre de Grace Municipal Yacht Basin. For decades, the perception has been that people who are well-connected get first crack at the bargain boat slips in the marina.

While anecdotal evidence for this is legion, very little can be documented, largely because documents don’t exist that would show one way or another how, for example, waiting list issues were handled.

The mayor and city council of Havre de Grace have lately been pursuing a way, in the words of Councilman Jim Miller, to “get it [the marina] back under control.”

They’ve got their work cut out for them.

Former city councilman Stephen Gamatoria, who recently completed a yearlong stint as interim marina manager, recently offered a report with more than 50 recommendations for improving the operation of the marina, and these recommendations need to be given serious consideration.

Though privatization has sometimes been discussed, it’s financially not practical. Over the decades, the yacht basin has received large sums of money from the Maryland Waterway Improvement Fund, which is funded by a tax on the sale of boats. The cost of making the marina private would involve paying this money back to the state. Furthermore, the marina can’t be divided from The Promenade and Tydings Park.

Councilman Miller has suggested the marina be run by a commission of appointed citizens, presumably akin to the city planning commission or the board of zoning appeals.

There’s a possibility this could work, but Miller’s assertion that “It takes the politics out of it ...” doesn’t necessarily carry the day. Certainly the planning commission and appeals board have faced criticism that they were showing favoritism.

An option not often mentioned that might be feasible is putting the marina’s operation out to bid and allowing a for-profit business to handle the day-to-day affairs by contract with the city.

As is the case in any venture, there isn’t likely to be an option with no down sides. However the city ends up dealing with the marina, meaningful change needs to take place and that change needs to include making the details of the operation of the yacht basin open to the general public.

Anything less will just perpetuate the public perception that slips in the marina are doled out to those who are politically well connected in Havre de Grace.


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