Tuesday, May 15th, 2018
Business owner seeks OK to use boat cleats
By William Kincaid
CELINA - Headed into her busiest season of the year, a lakeside business owner once again has no docks to meet the parking needs of seafaring customers.
Julie Fleck, owner of Bella's Italian Grille on West Bank Road, addressed city council members at Monday night's regular meeting. She pointed out the floating docks installed last summer about 100 to 150 feet away from the restaurant have not yet been reinstalled, causing one pontoon carrying four people on Monday to turn around and leave.
With 60 percent of Bella's business occurring in a three-and-a-half-month time frame, it's essential for boaters to be able to dock near the restaurant, she said.
City safety service director Tom Hitchcock replied the floating docks were removed last year largely because of damage due to wave action. Additional parts are on the way to better stabilize the docks and they should be back in place the week before Memorial Day, he said.
Still, Fleck said she would prefer to use boat cleats or rings to allow boaters to dock in front of the business. Last May, councilors had taken immediate action authorizing Fleck to reinstall boat cleats to help the business while some property owners awaited the installation of the new docks, as long as she assumed all liability.
"Not one boat or not one person was damaged or hurt by having the cleats there," she said.
Mayor Jeff Hazel agreed that Bella's and West Bank Inn are in a unique position whereas docks cannot be installed immediately in front of the businesses because strong wave action would likely destroy them.
"For us, truly, cleats or rings make the most sense, and it's the cheapest option for the city," Fleck said. "I have signed waivers each year for the last couple years with all of you for liability. I am still willing to sign a liability waiver. I am willing to pay for any damage done to the docks."
She and councilman Jeff Larmore then engaged in a back-and-forth over the use of cleats or rings. In the past, Larmore has objected to cleats because, among other reasons, he fears possible boat damage and personal injury. He also doesn't like the idea of boat cleats being installed on a taxpayer-funded walkway.
He reiterated that objection again on Monday night, pointing to fluctuating water levels and underlying rocks that could damage pricey boats and hurt people.
"That's one of the reasons why we went with the floating docks was because of the liability and everything else," he said. "We wanted to make sure it was going up and down and people not jumping down inside their boat or crawling out of their boat at different lake levels."
Councilman Mike Sovinski, though, said he supports Fleck's idea of installing rings. Most boaters, he said, are aware of fluctuating waters and deploy bumpers to protect their boats against the seawall.
Councilors ultimately handed off the decision to city administrators, telling them to consider cleats or rings outside the business and to contact Fleck.
City officials last summer installed floating docks along West Bank Road, providing 32 slips.
Previous city officials had committed to replacing at least 21 boat docks that were removed from north of the spillway several years ago in preparation of the walkway's construction.
In 2006, former administrators signed a 25-year lease with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to construct the walkway. The agreement stipulated the city own and maintain all docks.
Shinn Brothers, the sole bidder, was awarded a $114,900 contract by the city's board of control to build floating docks.
The project was paid with $1.285 million from the state capital budget bill awarded to Celina in 2014 to develop three softball fields at Westview Park and complete the walkway.
Property owners who had a dock removed before the walkway's construction had the first chance to lease a space, Hazel had said.