LOCAL VOICES: Sailing club great, but only part of Sandusky's picture

Sandusky must survive as a community. A community must use its assets to its advantage. A community must deman
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Sandusky must survive as a community.

A community must use its assets to its advantage.

A community must demand a fair return on assets loaned (or leased) to others.

The Sadler Sailing Basin is owned by all Sanduskians.

The Sandusky Sailing Club is a wonderful group.

The club does a great job teaching kids to sail.

Sandusky has frequently stated that it wants the club to remain.

When times are tough -- like now -- a community needs to rally and accept change.

85 percent of club's members no longer live in Sandusky.

Total rent paid by club members to Sandusky since 1978: $0.

These statements are indisputable. Yet the public discussion regarding the club has focused only on it being a wonderful organization that teaches kids to sail. But just as the Sadler Sailing Basin lies at the center of a larger piece of Sandusky's future, the great things about the club must also be considered in the larger context.

Sandusky wants and needs the club to remain at the center of the proposed Marina District for several reasons:

The club has a proud history and a sense of community that provide a critical foundation for this area.

It brings in people, who will support restaurants and shops and possibly move here.

It brings color and activity.

Club members, although largely not residents, are important stakeholders in Sandusky's future.

This brings us to two larger questions: who should be considered stakeholders in Sandusky's future? And what are the responsibilities of various stakeholders?

The answer to the first question includes: voters, taxpayers, all residents and especially children, people who work here but live elsewhere, people who have invested here but live elsewhere, people who recreate here, and future residents. Except for future residents, each contributes to the necessary costs of municipal government -- principally police, EMS and fire. Some stakeholders contribute with income taxes, others with real estate taxes, and others through admission and hotel taxes. Although not perfect -- some residents demand more in services than they pay and some pay more but use little -- it is workable.

Occasionally an imbalance can occur. We do not question the city granting a rent-free lease to the SSC back in 1978. Water was higher, more club members were residents, and the facilities required investment. Club members charged themselves (for dockage), spent the city's money, and spent it on the club. Club members call this "sweat equity" -- but it's better described as money that the club collects in the city's name. The club was then free to spend the money in almost any way that it saw fit. Members moved, but families largely retained their memberships.

Today's question is what the city does with its periodic right to modify the lease, which occurs next year. It is clear that the 1978 agreement has become a sweetheart deal and must be modified if we are to serve as good stewards of our community's assets. If the value of the Sailing Basin is $1 million (and it is at least that as demonstrated by a recent purchase offer), and if 5 percent per year is a fair rate of return, then $50,000 would be fair rent. Certainly, as a community, we may decide that we want to subsidize the club. But if we do so, then we should do so with candor, and insist on flexibility in return.

The club's trustees understand this, and have bargained in good faith to secure the club's future with a long-term lease. They also respect and appreciate how important this site is for the city's future. To those who oppose change, we suggest that it is much easier to do so if one is not compelled to deal with the reality of economic distress and the responsibility to assure that Sanduskians receive a fair return on their assets.

For the time that we have been entrusted with responsibility for all of Sandusky's stakeholders, we are obliged to address these issues.