TOWN OF EVANS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Along the shores of Lake Erie, dozens of concerned community members stood shoulder to shoulder holding signs reading “Save Sturgeon Point Marina.”
“All these people who are here today own this marina, and they own the lake too,” said former Town of Evans Supervisor Bob Catalino. Cartalino was the Evans Town Supervisor in the 1970s and 1980s. He was on the board who helped purchase the marina for the Town of Evans.
“It has never been shut down before,” he said.
But for the past two years, the Sturgeon Point Marina has not been fully operational.
“If the supervisor had her way, this marina would have been closed last year,” said Peter Bogulski.
Bogulski, who lives a stones-throw away from Sturgeon Point Marina, has been leading the effort to fully open the waterfront to boaters. He says last year, members of the community dredged the boat launch for free. This year, those same members say they offered the Town of Evans $34,999, $1 short of the town’s earmarked money to do the same work, but instead the job was put out for bid.
Town Supervisor Mary Hosler says the town needed an official bid, on the books, and ultimately West Herr Automotive bid on the job, donating the work to the town for $162,000. The dredging was completed by West Herr’s donation in late May, allowing the Sturgeon Point boat launch to fully open.
The frustration by residents is aimed at Hosler, who tells 7 Eyewitness News last year’s community dredging only lasted six weeks. Hosler says the group who offered $34,999 did not submit a formal bid.
“West Herr was very clear they wanted it done legally, procedurally correct,” she said of the bid. “I could not accept the $34,999 and I told them as such. He (Bogulski) evidently doesn’t care about procurement policies or laws, I have to follow those.”
According to Hosler, West Herr’s job helped to remove 28,000 cubic feet of sand that was blocking the marina’s entrance.
But members of the community say their real frustration is that the more than 200 boat slips are not available for rent this year. The rent on each slip brings the town an estimated $200,000 in revenue.
“It’s a safety issue for our members,” said Diane Steel, who is part of the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association. Steel says her members, who usually dock at Sturgeon Point are being forced to go elsewhere. She says it’s not only costly, but dangerous.
“It’s 30 miles from Buffalo to Dunkirk to seek safe harbor,” she said. “That would be a huge area to cover if you were under mechanical failure.”
We took these concerns straight to Hosler, who says she feels like a “broken record” talking about the marina’s plans over and over.
Hosler says fall storms in 2018 and 2019 severely damaged the outer breakwall and other parts of the marina including electrical wires. Hosler, who formed a Sturgeon Point Stakeholder Committee back in 2016 says the group has applied for several FEMA and state grants to fund the breakwall job. She says the town is waiting on the FEMA money from the 2019 storm before going ahead and repair the wall fully. She wants the job to be done at once.
Hosler says many of the boat slips are damaged as well, and can’t be put back in the water until repairs are made. She says her parks department is working on those repairs this summer.
When asked if the town is losing money not renting the slips, the supervisor had this to say, “no because our expenses aren’t that great either.”
Hosler expects the marina to be fully operational again by 2022. She says her group has worked diligently to secure grant funding with Congressman Chris Jacobs office as well as Senator Charles Schumer’s office and has bi-partisan support. If all goes well, Sturgeon Point could receive upwards of $2 million in congressional funding for a coastal study and reconfiguration of the boat slips. She says the money could come by this fall. Hosler says if it doesn’t, there is a plan b.
“We’re preparing a grant as well. It’s a $1.9 million project, the reconfiguration of the inner harbor, the replacement of those old docks. The patches, the welding, it’s not holding,” she said. “We replace two or three slips every year.”
The town supervisor says her goal is to make Sturgeon Point a destination for years to come. She says if that means taking a year off, that’s the sacrifice that must be made.
“Give us a year, sometimes you have to take a small step backwards to take a big leap forward,” she said.