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Madeira Beach at odds with marina operator

The city says the marina has the sloppy appearance of a used car lot and wants the operator to run a tighter ship.


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 6, 2000

MADEIRA BEACH -- From used cars for sale in the parking lot to low fuel in the gas pumps, city commissioners have a lengthy list of concerns about the municipal marina.

They laid out those concerns at a meeting last week with marina operator Fred Pugliese, who leases the facility from the city. Commissioners decided the city should take a more active role in overseeing marina operations because they fear Pugliese is not adequately supervising his employees.

"Your management technique is not tight enough," Commissioner Charles Parker told Pugliese. "You're just not running a tight enough ship over there."

Among the problems at the marina, according to commissioners, are the lax rules for live-aboards, people who reside on their boats. Pugliese failed to keep all the live-aboards in the area designated for them, and also allowed them to sell their cars from the marina parking lot.

In addition, boats and trailers are parked, as one commissioner described, "willy-nilly" around the parking lot. Others said they have heard complaints about unqualified staff and problems with fuel.

Live-aboards' cars, some without license plates, sat in prime marina parking spaces for weeks, city staff noted.

Commissioner Roger Koske said "all he needs is flags" to resemble a used car lot.

Pugliese said he would make sure the cars are removed as soon as possible and admitted his policy toward live-aboards is somewhat "easy-going."

Still, he said, "we're not running an auto lot over there."

Pugliese defended his employees and management style, saying he doesn't think the city should get involved in how he runs his business.

"As long as it's within code, I don't feel that the city should have such a hand in telling me about our operation," Pugliese said.

Commissioner Doreen Moore disagreed. "It's not being supervised on a regular basis," Moore said. "That marina is owned by the city, and it represents the city, and my concern is it's not being supervised."

Commissioners urged Pugliese not to be defensive about their criticism and assured him they are not trying to back out of the contract that allows Pugliese to run the marina. Pugliese pays the city nearly $11,500 per month in rent, or about $138,000 annually.

The city also pays $30,000 to $40,000 per year in maintenance costs, City Manager Mike Bonfield said, bringing the city's income from the marina to $100,000 annually.

At one point during the meeting, Pugliese asked commissioners if they consider him "the devil in disguise." He said the marina was in poor condition when he took it over.

"It wasn't a rose garden that we received," Pugliese said. "I'm saying, don't hold my feet to the coals."

Moore said she wants to see city staff take more interest in activities at the marina. "I, personally, am just not overwhelmed with the way it looks and the way it's been handled."

In October, the county health department cited the city for several violations at the marina.

A health department representative cited such violations as "typical" for privately run marinas, but City Manager Mike Bonfield has said that because the marina is owned by the city, the operators should be careful to comply with state laws.

"As long as everything goes smoothly and the place is neat and clean," Koske told Pugliese, "that's all I'm looking for."

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