Marquette’s flagship gets 3-year lease fee waiver

MARQUETTE – The Marquette City Commission on Monday approved a three-year lease agreement waiving the boat slip rental fee for Marquette’s flagship, Coaster II.

The 80-year-old ship, which sails the Great Lakes under the direction of Nicholas Economides and his family, has moored at the city’s Lower Harbor for the last few years.

Under two previous one-year agreements, the city has provided the space rent free in exchange for goods and services equal to fair market value.

The Coaster II, in exchange, acts as a flagship for Marquette, displaying the city flag and sharing information about the city.

Commissioners Don Ryan and Fred Stonehouse said the flagship has been a valuable city tool for years.

“The cost is immaterial,” Ryan said. “The whole issue was that it made sense in the beginning to say this would be great if the city of Marquette had its own flagship on the Great Lakes.”

The city’s agreement to waive the slip rental fee means the owners of Coaster II will not be required to pay $6,080 annually into the city marina fund.

“It’s costing us nothing to have the boat there,” Stonehouse said. “It’s income unrealized, but that is based on what we choose to charge. It’s not like we’re paying money from the general fund out. We’re not.”

But Mayor Pro-tem Robert Niemi, who voted against the motion, said that’s exactly what the city should be doing. He said the marina fund is struggling and the situation will likely get worse in the near future.

“I think the flagship idea is kind of a cool idea, but what we ought to do is we ought to pay for it out of our general fund if we want to,” Niemi said. “We shouldn’t use the marina to hire a flagship for the promotion of the city.”

Commissioner Sara Cambensy praised the ship, but also said the city should assess the value of the arrangement.

“It’s much easier to buy services with actual money than to give one group privileges – free rental, free space – over another,” she said. “If we value it that much, I think we should pay for whatever services we want.”

The motion to waive the Coaster II slip rental fees for three years was approved 5-2, with Niemi and Cambensy voting against it.

In other action, the commission approved a design for a new inclusive playground to be constructed at Presque Isle Park. The plan – crafted by the Presque Isle Park Advisory Committee with assistance from U.P. Engineers and Architects and the MooseWood Nature Center – calls for the creation of a new playground between the island store and MooseWood.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.