QUINCY — When August started, the Art Keller Marina seemed destined to die a slow death during the next year.
As August nears an end, boaters and members of the Quincy Park Board appear to be working toward extending the marina’s life for years to come.
John Frankenhoff, president of the Quincy Park Board, and commissioner Jeff VanCamp will meet Tuesday, Aug. 30 with 10 local boaters to discuss how to keep the marina operational. Only two commissioners will attend the closed meeting to avoid violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
“What’s been clear in the last couple of weeks, since this has all been stirred up, is that it’s not a situation of we — meaning the board or the Park District — versus the renters and voters,” Frankenhoff said. “It’s collaboration. What can we do to help? What options do we have? How can we make things better?”
When the Quincy Park Board met Aug. 1 for its annual planning session to provide a road map for upcoming projects, Frankenhoff told local media outlets that commissioners pledged to continue operations through 2023. No plan for 2024 and beyond was determined except to close the facility.
“We don’t have an exit strategy other than to say it would be closed,” Frankenhoff said at the time. “The phrase we agreed on was ‘unless something drastically changes.’ What could happen to change our mind? That is hard to define. We spent quite a bit of time on it, and we were just spinning in circles. I can’t put a finger on it and say, ‘If this and this happens, we’ll keep the marina open.’”
The number of slips bought at the marina has gone from 194 (out of a possible 222) in 2011 to 115 in 2022. A capital needs assessment showed more than $450,000 worth of work is needed during the next 10 years to keep the marina operational. Efforts to find private management to take over the marina have been unsuccessful.
Frankenhoff’s announcement appears to have lit a fire under the boating community.
Local boaters Darren Smith and Chris Griggs addressed the Park Board at its Aug. 10 meeting, offering their help to keep the marina open. Frankenhoff also said the board had received plenty of constructive feedback from other boaters.
“Since all that, during this month, there have been a lot of good conversations within the board and staff and amongst the boaters and renters,” Frankenhoff said. “I would describe it as, you know, productive.”
Frankenhoff said approximately 45 local boaters met Thursday, Aug. 24 at the Quincy Boat Club. They selected 10 from that group to meet with Frankenhoff and VanCamp.
“You’re talking more than a third of the renters were represented at this meeting,” he said. “That’s very positive.”
Frankenhoff said he wasn’t ready to publicly discuss the ideas to be floated during Tuesday’s meeting. However, he believes additional meetings could be held before he brings any proposals before the Park Board at its Sept. 14 meeting.
“People have ideas and put things forward that are worth consideration,” he said. “Most of (the boaters) are willing to work with us, and we are willing to talk and work with them. I am cautiously optimistic about where we’re headed.”
Frankenhoff said he has been trying to dispel rumors about the marina’s operation. The first is that Park District has previously transferred revenue from rental slip fees and used it elsewhere.
“It technically is possible,” he said. “I’ve clarified that with our auditor. But with that said, it has never happened in my 20 years on the board. In fact, just the opposite is true. We’ve had to move tax dollars into the marina fund to balance the budget and pay for insurance and some of the incidental expenses.”
Frankenhoff also has heard from boaters who want to pull up at the dock and gas up their boats themselves, rather than have an attendant paid by the Park District handle it. He said Illinois Department of Natural Resources rules mandate for an attendant to dispense gas.
“Missouri does allow self-serve gas, so people get confused because they can do it at Mark Twain Lake or the Ozarks,” Frankenhoff said.
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