About a year after taking over management of the moorings from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol, creating the Harbormaster position and team, the city is considering reorganizing the division and creating a new department.
All members of Council expressed support for the proposal.
“This is, in my view, absolutely needed to maintain and improve the harbor, one of our most valuable assets,” said Councilman Brad Avery, a former Harbor Commissioner. “There’s a lot that needs to be done.”
Currently, there are two sections that handle harbor-related issues and projects: Harbor Operations, the on-water operations, and Harbor Resources, the permitting and land-side branch. Both report to the Public Works Department.
Staff proposed moving away from PW and creating a brand new city department, Harbor Operations, that would report directly to the city manager.
Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs presented the idea during the 2018-19 budget highlight discussion during the City Council study session on Tuesday.
“As this is the ‘Year of the Harbor’ we thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look and, after a year’s worth of experience out there, to really define what we want the harbor to be, how we want to provide services out there,” Jacobs said.
The proposed 2018-19 budget for the new department is $2.1 million. This would include the addition of five new full-time employees.
Code enforcement is critical to the safety of users, enjoyment of the harbor, and responsibility to the residents, Harbor Commission Chairman Bill Kenney noted. More employees are needed in order to adequately respond, he explained.
Kenney reported the proposed changes to the Harbor Commission meeting on Wednesday.
“It’s exciting that we’re continuing to refine this program,” Kenney said.
Under the proposed restructuring, the harbormaster would also be the “harbor director,” underneath whom would be an admin assistant. The department would then split into the two sides, with the current harbor resources manager leading up one branch and a new position of “dockmaster” heading up the other. The city currently has an outside contract for a dockmaster, but the proposed plan would bring the position in-house. A new position for code patrol would also be created.
“It makes a lot of sense to do this kind of structure,” commented Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill.
This system, handled by the city, is vital, Avery added, and will help people maximize their enjoyment of the harbor. It’s evolved over the past year and it will continue to evolve, he said.
There still needs to be some discussion on how to divvy up responsibilities, Jacobs noted.
Staff will return at the May 22 Council meeting to introduce a proposed ordinance incorporating the changes.
“We have never really managed the harbor in totality,” Avery pointed out. “This is something that’s been needed for a long time.”