CONNEAUT – A small “microhouse”—for lack of a better word – set up along Naylor Boulevard near the observation deck, offering kayaks and paddles, could add a lot in terms of drawing more tourists to the Public Dock.
So suggested Port Authority member Wally Dunne at the Port Authority’s first meeting of the year Jan. 19 at the Port Authority’s Broad Street office.
Dunne said that offering kayaks in a tiny building either built by local crews or purchased is a relatively inexpensive investment that could yield good dividends.
When asked by fellow Port Authority members who would run the small operation, Dunne said that a phone number could be posted on the shed and someone could be there in minutes.
“People will see that and see that there’s a lot going on in Conneaut harbor,” he said.
Currently, kayers pay $5 to set out from the launch ramp; setting off from the sand bar is free. Fee for jet skiers is also $5.
“Kayakers could walk to the deck and step into the kayak. It’s a plus. It’s very shallow there,” Dunne said, as Port Authority Chair Joe Raisian projected a rendering of the operation on a wall screen.
That led to a short discussion about the need to rebuild the 25-year-old observation deck, which was repainted last year.
Raisian said a small concrete pad could easily be put down as well.
That offering could be ready for the 2017 boating season, whereas the repurposing of the old fisheries building, no longer used for storage and maintenance, is still a long way off.
Dunne and Port Authority Harbor Master Denver Spieldenner met with architects, including Smolen, who looked over the building, but stressed that the invitation is open for other architectural firms to take a look.
A new roof is just one major project needed to turn the building into a restaurant/nightspot. With windows on one side of the building blocking a prime view of Lake Erie, Smolen suggested installing garage doors on the north which can be opened for “al fresco” dining facing the water in good weather.
“I felt like [Smolen] was anxious to do it,” Dunne said. “He sees potential. People could boat over here from Erie and Fairport Harbor, pull up their boats and enjoy a meal.”
The Port Authority will set a meeting to discuss the exterior – some new vinyl siding resembles masonry -- windows, and a metal roof.
“So it looks nice,” Dunne said.
Raisian commented that if Port Authority restaurant plans do not progress this summer, the former dockfront fisheries building might be used for indoor storage next fall and winter.
In other business, the Port Authority discussed the time-consuming system of moving dock renters dissatisfied with their dock locations to new docks.
Spieldenner said that too often, when Port Authority Clerk Debbie Vendely calls dock holders with a new spot, they turn it down in hopes of getting something better. Other dock holders fail to return calls in a timely fashion.
“She just goes back-and-forth, back-and-forth with them,” Spieldenner said.
Spieldenner suggests that once dock holders turn down a new spot, their names move to the bottom of the list.
Spieldenner said that prospective dock holders pay $25 and can be on a wait list for up to three years. Current dock-holders do not pay to be on a list to change docks.
Port Authority member Bill Cooper suggested that boaters call Vendely to check on the progress, rather than the other way around.
“Maybe it could be on their dock lease receipt to call. People who want the docks will call,” Dunne said, and Cooper replied, “I like that.”
Spieldenner said that smaller docks are so hard to fill that he is considering adjusting some docks to accommodate more larger boats, which would generate higher fees.
“Food for thought,” he said. “It would have to be done at the end of the season.”
Raisian noted that unlike some marinas, Port Authority has room to expand and add more.
“There’s a long permit process, but people want to get in there,” he said, describing the popularity of a Rocky River marina adjacent to condominiums.
The Port Authority expects to be receiving a grant for lights and buoys. It was turned down for a navigational aid grant from Ohio Department of Natural Resources.???
Spieldenner reported that the harbor is full of debris, which will require caution during early season boat launches.
A piece of siding blew off the west end of the old fisheries building, he said. Spieldenner noticed a few small leaks at the Harbor Street building following recent heavy rains. That building’s roof was repaired during the building renovation.
A section of F dock has come apart over the winter and will need to be repaired.
He also asked the board about spending $700 on a one-time software upgrade for Public Dock security cameras. With the purchase, subsequent upgrades are free.
Spieldenner said that the Port Authority’s maintenance crew will start seasonal work Feb. 13.
“We need to clear out the old maintenance building, get a dumpster, tear off the deck and re-do it,” he said. “That means by July and August, the crews should be down to three days a week. There won’t be as much work then for them to do.”
Spieldenner said the Lake Erie water levels are above average and are predicted to remain above normal in the spring.
Finally, Spieldenner read a letter from the Walleye Association that is proposing Conneaut host a Walleye Tournament 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 19, with a rain date of Aug. 20.
Spieldenner and Dunne said that the huge crowds at the D-Day Event of Aug. 18 and 19, make the tournament out of the question because of a lack of parking, although Raisian said, “The more the merrier.”
Because the Port Authority is interested in the event on a different date, and might offer a donation for prize money, Spieldenner will contact the Walleye Association about different dates.
The Port Authority has two openings with the resignations of Bob Best and Luke Gallagher. Conneaut City Manager Jim Hockaday recently interviewed five candidates interested in the paid positions.
The Port Authority will meet 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, at its office at 929 Broad Street.