MARTINEZ -- The city has asked the Attorney General, state Department of Finance and Department of Boating and Waterways to revive a dormant committee to oversee efforts to revitalize the ailing local marina.
A similar city-state committee was established in 1964 to oversee the development and leasing of the marina, but it hasn't met in more than 20 years, according to a letter the city recently sent to the three state agencies. Underscoring the urgency of the situation with the marina, city leaders want to hold the first committee meeting this month.
The city scrapped plans for an ambitious makeover of the marina into a first-class destination on par with modern facilities in other Bay Area shoreline communities. But even a scaled-back version of the marina with only a few docks and a launch ramp soon could be out of reach.
"We are out of options, we're out of money," Councilwoman Lara DeLaney said during discussion of the letter. "We're going to have to take a look at whether we can even have a marina anymore if this fails."
The deteriorating conditions at the marina have hampered the city's ability to repay $4.1 million in outstanding state loans. Revenue is down largely because boats sit in the mud at low tide, leaving half of the usable 256 berths empty. Last August, there was only enough cash in the marina enterprise fund for a $71,266 interest-only loan payment to the state. The marina ended 2012 nearly $79,000 in the red, according to the city.
"The marina has reached a crossroad (sic); it must be closed, severely reduced in its scope or revitalized with the infusion of substantial sums of money accompanied by (the Department of Boating and Waterways) extinguishment of the suffocating debt that has prevented the marina from becoming self-sustaining," the letter says.
For the past few years, the city has had a strained relationship with the Department of Boating and Waterways, which in 2011 refused to lend Martinez any more money for the marina until the city pays down the existing debt to less than $1 million. The agency also rejected the city's request to restructure the loans or defer payments for three to five years. Mayor Rob Schroder said the council doesn't expect the state to forgive the entire debt, but they are looking for some relief.
Martinez is technically in default on all its loans except one, according to Gloria Sandoval, spokeswoman for the Department of Boating and Waterways. The agency doesn't have the authority to forgive loans, Sandoval noted.
"The hope is to continue working with the City of Martinez on this issue. It is important not only for them but also to the state of California and to taxpayers," she wrote in an email.
The marina also has been a drain on the city's general fund. Martinez has loaned the marina $624,592 since 2003 to cover dredging, operating costs and a state loan payment. Acknowledging that the marina isn't generating enough revenue to repay the city, the council agreed last month to write off the outstanding balance of $473,849.
The problems at the marina stem largely from the silt flowing through the gaps in the dilapidated eastern breakwater wall, which the city doesn't have the money to fix. A partial dredge last year opened the marina up to most boats at low tide, but a lack of funding prevented the city from rebuilding docks as planned. Despite the dredge, boaters haven't returned and the marina remains short of cash, Schroder said.
"It's coming down to the point, because of deterioration and time marching on I think we don't have much time left for the marina," he said. "We've probably got three years, and if nothing happens we'll probably have to let it go back to its natural state."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.