- Story by Lisa Monti
As the Bay St. Louis Municipal Harbor reached its fifth year of operation this month, local officials announced plans to add more slips to the popular harbor. Work is expected to get underway sometime this fall to add Pier 5 with 43 slips. Work is slated for completion six months later.
“Right now we are at capacity,” said harbormaster Chuck Fortin. “There’s nothing available for long-term lease, and the majority of boats we are turning away are 50-foot plus.”
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Fortin said the harbor has experienced growth in occupancy and fuel sales since it opened in June 2014. The popularity of the harbor among boaters has brought customers to downtown restaurants, shops and galleries and has spurred new business growth and expansions, city officials said in making the expansion announcement.
According to the city’s economic projections, the harbor generates approximately $30,000 per year in Mississippi sales tax and $9,000 annually in state fuel tax. In the last fiscal year, it also generated $314,000 in slip fees, $75,000 in utilities and $298,000 in fuel sales. Transient dock age and ice were another $5,000.
The addition of Pier 5 with 80 percent occupancy will generate an estimated annual revenue of $81,192 for the harbor and $5,683 in State sales tax revenue, according to a statement from the city.
The last major project was adding a wave screen to reduce the wave action inside the harbor.
Hancock County committed $1 million to build the new pier, which is expected to cost around $1.5 million. Tideland funds will make up the difference. In announcing the partnership with the city, Board of Supervisors President Blaine LaFontaine said, “The expansion of Bay St. Louis Harbor will continue to invest in our downtown and assets at a time where we are seeing unprecedented growth and tourism in Bay St. Louis.”
Fortin said the majority of slip holders are from out of state, with most of those from Louisiana. Others are from Texas, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee. “It’s their getaway. It’s almost like a second home for a lot of folks. Some people get a cabin in the woods or a house on the beach, and some people get a boat.”
Boaters stay overnight or for three to four weeks. Many will boat over to a barrier island or to Biloxi casinos. Recently a few boaters left their Bay St. Louis slips and headed for visits to Florida and the Bahamas.