City council to consider $5 fee on rentals of personal watercraft

March 19, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — Personal watercraft rentals soon may be $5 more expensive in Bullhead City.

At tonight’s meeting of the Bullhead City Council, council members will consider amendments to the city code and comprehensive fee schedule to collect $5 per rental, to be earmarked for funding the city’s river safety program.

The council’s regular meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the city council chamber, 1255 Marina Blvd. in Bullhead City. Meetings are streamed live on the city’s website and broadcast on Channel 4 on the Bullhead City Suddenlink cable system.

City Manager Toby Cotter said the new $5 fee likely would be paid for by consumers, although the up-front cost will be borne by the 12 licenses watercraft rental businesses operating in the city.

“(The businesses) would buy (consumer advisory forms) from city hall,” Cotter said. “I imagine that it will wind up that the customer will pay the addition $5” when renting a watercraft.

The fee would be associated with the consumer advisory forms, previously authorized by the council, that all watercraft rental businesses are required to provide for each rental.

“Over the past decade, the City of Bullhead City has seen an increase in watercraft on the Colorado River within jurisdiction of the city,” Cotter wrote in a council communication supporting the river safety ordinance and fee schedule amendments. “A large portion of these watercraft are personal watercraft rented from one of the 12 liveries registered to conduct business within the city. According to Arizona Game and Fish statistics, this portion of the Colorado River was ranked as one of the top three most dangerous waterways in Arizona in 2015 and 2016.”

Cotter said that in 2016, there were 51 watercraft accidents within the city’s jurisdiction with 21 involving injuries and two resulting in fatalities.

In 2018, with Bullhead City police and Contemporary Service Corporation personnel patrolling the waterway, there were 50 accidents on the river. Safety personnel assisted on more than 380 public assists and more than 300 rescues. The assists and rescues included saving potential drowning victims, providing help for operators whose watercraft had run out of gas or developed a mechanical issue and responding to emergencies.

“The Colorado River continues to be busy and congested with city residents and visitors,” Cotter wrote, noting that the collaboration between the BHCPD and CSC, which for two years provided contracted lifeguards, likely reduced the number of incidents and the number of injuries. CSC notified the city last fall that it was discontinuing the contract with Bullhead City; the city began searching for a new provider and came up with Water Rescue & Safety, LLC., a company that is expected to utilize many of the same personnel and resources as CSC. CSC’s decision to end the contract, Cotter said, was because the river operation wasn’t one of the company’s primary services.

Cotter said that in the past two years, the city council — and city taxpayers — have underwritten the safety program involving CSC. He said the decision to charge the $5 fee for the consumer advisory form was to redirect a majority of the cost to those who use and benefit most from the safety program — renters of the watercraft.

“Visitors to Bullhead City would primarily pay the fee,” Cotter wrote. “The collection of this fee is estimated to substantially cover program costs.”

He said the city estimates there are about 50,000 watercraft rental transactions annually; the fee would generate $250,000.

Also on the agenda is an agreement with Water Rescue & Safety, LLC, for contracted services not to exceed $261,780. The agreement would cover 17 months, from May 1 through Sept. 30, 2020.

CSC’s contract was paid out of the Bullhead City Police Department’s budget.