In a 6-1 vote, the council voted Monday to purchase and install a system that will detect and alert officials at the marina of stray electrical currents.
Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Hardenbrook asked the council for the system Monday after highlighting the city's recent check on all of the marina's electrical wiring and system, which he said are up to code.
The request stems from a death in Traverse City of a boater who died as a result of a stray electrical current, Hardenbrook said.
While the City is up to code on its electrical systems, he said often the boaters actually put themselves at the most risk by using cords that are sometimes frayed or not grounded.
The ground fault monitor allows the marina to be monitored for any stray currents. The system will alert the harbor master and park staff to any such currents, allowing them to put a stop to it by unplugging the cord and/or alerting boaters about the risk, he said.
The monitor will cost $2,700 and the installation is $3,170, making the total project $5,870. Hardenbrook said the project was planned for in the original budget but he requested the council approve it now so he may have it installed before boating season begins on April 1.
Council members discussed the cost a great deal, expressing concerns about not having budgeted for it.
Councilwoman Jean Weipert suggested since the City's equipment is up to code, maybe boaters should be assessed for the cost, which would alleviate the financial burden from the City.
Councilman John Stempfle said that such an assessment would not be all that expensive if it were divided among all of the boaters over three or four months.
City Manager Pete Dame cautioned council about assessing just the boaters for a marina related project, saying it could set a precedent for renovations and updates that will be needed in the coming years.
Council members also inquired about whether having such a system would decrease insurance rates because it is a safety precaution. Dame said in the long run it's likely to have such an effect, especially if it leads to saving a life.
"I don't want to pass the cost onto all taxpayers when it seems to be a boater issue," Weipert said.
Councilman Chris Boettcher said he could not vote in favor of such a project because the council had not budgeted for it and there are still a variety of potential hazards involving water and electricity that could lead to the death of a boater despite having such a system.
Mayor Dale Scrace, who commented he was trying to refrain from the conversation because he has a boat in the marina, said he would hate to see the city not have the system installed because council wants to figure out how to recover the costs.
Dame had told council if they did not approve it now, he intended to put it in the 2012-13 fiscal year proposed budget that is to come before the council in the coming months because the system is something the administration is recommending as a tool for the marina.
Ultimately, the council voted 6-1 to approve the new system. Boettcher voted against it.