OCEANSIDE — There was no reportable action from the City Council’s closed session discussion on the award of the dockside lease currently occupied by Helgren’s Sportsfishing, which has had the lease for decades, but plenty was said by residents during the meeting’s public comments period on Wednesday.
Close to 30 people requested to speak on company bids for the lease, and express their support for Helgren’s Sportsfishing.
Fishermen, harbor business owners and community watchdogs spoke in support of the sportsfishing company.
Speakers talked about the longevity of the company, personal memories aboard Helgren’s boats, and its fleet of newer, larger boats than the rival boat company vying for the lease.
Those who took to the podium also shared that Helgren’s is a successfully run business, which directly and indirectly supports other city businesses. Speakers asked that the City Council take another look at Helgren’s and at minimum find a compromise so the long-standing company can stay.
“The revenue issue is huge here for the city, and businesses in the harbor,” James Gardner, owner of the harbor bait boat, said. “Helgren’s is a huge chuck of the industry of the bait company, I don’t know if I could survive without them.”
Emotions ran high as speakers shared personal and business impacts the closure of Helgren’s Sportsfishing would create.
Between the first two speakers, a woman in the audience shouted out comments. Mayor Jim Wood reminded her of meeting decorum, and then asked the police officer present to remove her from the City Council chambers.
A recess was called while she exited, and Joey Helgren, the owner of Helgren’s Sportsfishing, addressed the audience during the break to thank supporters and request that decorum be followed.
The following speakers were delayed until all other council items were heard. Most waited through several hours of other discussions to add their public support for Helgren’s Sportsfishing.
When the public comments period resumed, Scott Compos, owner of the Mobile gas station at the harbor, apologized that his wife’s emotions overcame her and she spoke out of turn.
“To take away Helgren’s family business, is like taking away my own business, it’s almost unspeakable,” Compos said. “Helgren’s helps out the community with the time they’ve been there, money they bring in, whale watching trips for kids.”
Other harbor and city fishing industry business owners said they have had an excellent relationship with Helgren’s Sportsfishing. Some added Helgren’s is where they got their start.
Longtime customers also shared their support.
Speaker Erik Perez said he drove two hours to attend the meeting. Like many speakers, he said Helgren’s Sportsfishing is part of his memories growing up, and something he wants to share with his children. He questioned if another company could bring the same commitment, and knowledge of the harbor.
“It’s more than an icon for the city, it’s memories,” Perez said. “You can’t replace it, it’s home, it’s why we go here. I grew up on those boats.”
Other speakers included David Wells, who’s father helped build the harbor, Dana Corso, president of ACTION community group, and several generations of the Helgren family.
“We’re all for improving the harbor,” Joey Helgren said. “We don’t want to go anywhere else.”
Between speakers Wood interjected that the city is “trying to think of every possibility” for the harbor.
Following the meeting Wood said he hopes there can be a compromise to allow Helgren’s Sportsfishing to remain.
“The public really supports him, that says something,” Wood said.