The Flagler Beach pier’s balance sheet is struggling this year, with a $23,000 deficit the city government–which administers the pier–is trying to close before the end of the year. One idea: starting the first Saturday in September (Sept. 6), the pier will be open to fishing through the night, but for a $6 charge–the same rate fishermen must pay during the day.
The pier is open 365 days a year from 6 a.m. to midnight. Occasional walkers pay $1.50 for a day pass. Fishermen pay $6. An annual pass is $100.
“A lot of fishermen, they love to fish when there’s a full moon,” Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Camplell said. “I’m not sure that’s something I’d want to do but if they want to do that’s great.”
The idea isn’t Campbell’s, but that of Robert Beams, the bait and tackle shop attendant better known as Beamer. He approached Campbell a couple of weeks ago and laid out the plan. It fit right in with the city’s push for more revenue. Or fresh ideas.
The city had budgeted $351,000 in revenue from its pier operations this year. The operations include pier visits and the bait and tackle shop. But two things have hurt revenue. In June, the city wrote a $141,000 pier insurance check, increasing that cost from $80,000 because the city didn’t want to be self-insured at 50 percent. The higher cost lowered the self-insurance ratio to 25 percent. “I warned you of this back in our mid-term review that that was going to happen, because we paid that big lump of insurance back in June,” Campbell told city commissioners Thursday evening. “We of course consciously made that decision last year, we wanted to get away from being 50 percent self-insured and increase that. We will close that gap, we’ve got three months to close it.”
Yet revenue on the pier is down 14 percent this year: to date, the pier has generated $213,600. Annualized, that would leave the pier fund with a $30,000 deficit at the end of the year. The city intends to spruce up its bait shop, revamp its t-shirts, and come up with new ideas to generate dollars. Moonlight fishing is one of those.
“I think it’s something we should try,” Campbell said. “I don’t know how many people we’ll have, we’ll find out if it’s worthwhile or not. But this is another one of those things which we’re trying to throw against the wall. This is an idea that staff came up with, it’s not my idea, and I think it’s a fun thing to try and there’s really no risk.”
Commissioners asked about safety and police presence. The city manager doesn’t see much of an issue there, saying “there’s not a whole lot of unusual heavy lifting” during overnight hours, but that the police department would be aware of the fishing and likely provide a nearby presence when necessary. Campbell is not wanting to start the midnight fishing before September to have time to advertise the new access. The pier will close at midnight that night, for five minutes, so it can be cleared of people, then re-open for those who want to pay the overnight $6 fee and fish on.
Campbell stressed in an interview this morning that the so-called deficit masks a much brighter picture overall. The pier, before the city took over the bait and tackle shop three years ago, perpetually ran a $100,000 deficit every year. That’s no longer the case, Campbell said: it runs a profit, which only this year was dented by the big insurance expense. “We’ve swung from a $100,000 loss to being on the plus side” every year, Campbell said, “so with the change we’ve made we’re still $60,000 on the plus side.” At least in the long run.
“The pier fund has been good for us, the guys have done a good job there for us,” Campbell said, “and hopefully come the end of the year, hopefully we’ll be able to sneak out a bit of a plus side and certainly erase the results of that big check we wrote in June.”
Moonlight fishing is not exactly a craze across the country, but it’s offered in a few places. In Los Angeles County, for example, moonlight fishing is offered at the Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale, Calif., for $10 per person the first Friday of every month.