Morro Bay may consider shake-up in harbor administration

Spurred by the retirement of veteran harbor director Rick Algert, the Morro Bay City Council on Monday will discuss options for reorganizing his department.

Algert, 52, retired Friday after 20 years at the helm. The departure of a department head gives the cash-strapped city an opportunity to reshuffle job descriptions in order to save money.

City staff recommends that Algert not be replaced. Instead, they say his duties should be redistributed to other senior department employees, such as harbor operations manager Eric Endersby. An office assistant could also be hired. This would save the city an estimated $45,000 a year.

Staff recommends against combining the harbor department with the fire department, another cost-saving move that had been suggested. This was based on an examination of 23 other coastal agencies in the state, particularly Redondo Beach, which combined its two departments 15 years ago.

City Manager Andrea Lueker said the research showed that combining the two departments “will be more costly than the existing service mode and in some cases less efficient as well.”

The $45,000 savings gives the city the option of using the money to hire consultants for specialized work, such as fisheries issues, Leuker said. The plan also allows the city to fill the harbor master position at a later date if its finances improve.

Algert was hired as harbor manager in August 1990, soon after a fire destroyed the city’s south T-pier. Rebuilding that facility was his first major accomplishment.

He saw a lot of changes over the years, including a severe reduction in commercial fishing. Commercial fish landings dropped to $1.9 million in 2006 from $8.4 million in 1995.

Although the fishing industry is beginning to rebound somewhat, the city has lost many of its marine-related businesses. Retaining the fishing fleet and traditional waterfront uses has been a big challenge, Algert said.

There have been positive developments, as well. In 1995, Morro Bay and its environs were designated as one of only 28 national estuaries, a recognition that has brought grants and research funds to the area and boosted the city’s standing as a tourist destination.

“Morro Bay environment hasn’t changed much, and it’s still the same small town, which is nice,” Algert said.

Algert said he will initially spend his retirement fixing up a home he bought with his wife, Nancy, in west Templeton. Eventually, Algert said, he will look for consulting work or even a new full-time job.