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Longtime harbormaster out as complaints about troubled Vero City Marina mount

Photo: Vero Beach Harbormaster Tim Grabenbauer to retire in February.

The Vero Beach City Council doesn’t seem able to agree on what course to chart to fix the troubled city marina, but one thing has become clear: Longtime Harbormaster Tim Grabenbauer soon will be sailing off into the sunset.

After a meeting with City Manager Jim O’Connor in the wake of the Nov. 22 council meeting where a long, unhappy and inconclusive discussion about the marina’s woes took place, Grabenbauer said he will retire in February, when he will have logged 22 years with the city.

A short time later, the marina director position was posted on the city’s website – “full-time, $75,000 annually.”

Grabenbauer has taken increasing heat over the marina’s dilapidated condition in recent years, and the latest delays in repairing one of two restrooms and completing other projects seem to have been the last straws.

The top floor of the marina’s main building is rented as a private residence; the main floor houses a boaters’ laundry, lounge and restroom facilities on the north and south ends. Each end contains a men’s and a women’s 3-stall bathroom and shower.  

The south restrooms are currently open, although, according to a marina resident, a toilet seat in the women’s side remained broken until a private individual purchased and installed a new one.

The north restrooms are in much worse condition, with a “Closed for Renovations” sign stuck to the door. Several of the stall panels remain stacked against the exterior wall, and, say residents, still-uninstalled panels are languishing inside.

While funds have been designated for these essential repairs, the project has moved at a glacial pace, though Grabenbauer said on Dec. 4 that the north restroom plumbing is going in and “they’re putting in drywall right now.”

With 100 or so boats currently using the marina dockage and facilities, and high season approaching, the loss of half the restrooms and showers could hardly have come at a more inconvenient time.

During a conversation with a marina resident in the boaters’ TV lounge (“We put our own TVs in,” he said), another boater, Kathie Grove, entered. “I can’t even get a drink of water. The water fountain’s still broken,” she announced gloomily. Apparently, it hasn’t worked in months.

The lounge, too, looked a little sad – and empty. The live-aboard explained that several tables, chairs and shelves had been removed, hopefully to be replaced at some point.  “Where’s the furniture?” he wondered, and added that one of the two pump out boats was not operating.

Grabenbauer said he is preparing to replace the out-of-service boathouse pump-out equipment, funding for which he obtained, in part, through a Clean Vessel Act grant via the FDEP.

As for the next couple of months, Grabenbauer said, “I’ll do my job to the best of my ability ’til I retire.”