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$4.7 million in passenger tax funds allocated by Finance Committee

Posted: May 24, 2012 - 12:08am

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee approved a plan to spend $4.68 million in funds expected to come from Juneau’s Marine Passenger Fee in 2012.

With nearly 1 million cruise passengers expected to visit Alaska this summer, the city is already slicing up its piece of the pie for projects and programs in fiscal year 2013.

City Manager Kim Kiefer presented her plan to the Assembly Finance Committee on Wednesday night.

Under the plan, passenger fee funds will go to help maintain flower beds and grass, fund crosswalk guards and reimburse special training of city safety and emergency workers that deal with cruise ships or cruise passengers. Funds go to beef up security along the waterfront and to keep public restrooms clean.

Capital City Fire and Rescue typically recoups only 36 percent of costs incurred in rescue of cruise passengers. Kiefer budgeted $25,000 to help offset these losses. Another $50,000 is dedicated to offset emergency response costs incurred by the non-profit Air Rescue Northwest.

Injured and sick cruise passengers have helped put many miles on Juneau’s ambulance fleet. On one ambulance in particular in 2011, 465 out of 482 transports were related to the cruise industry. $175,000 in 2012 passenger fees will help purchase a new ambulance.

Half a million dollars is earmarked for upgrades to the city’s steamship dock. The dock needs a new anti-corrosion system. Juneau’s waterfront walk project is set to receive $671,810 for continued design.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Assembly Member Jesse Kiehl moved to remove from the list a $25,000 appropriation for repairs and improvements to a retaining wall owned by Franklin Dock Enterprises.

“I’m trying to find a line, I’m trying to find a limit,” Kiehl said. He compared it to private retaining walls at Juneau residences holding back Mount Roberts.

Assembly Member Ruth Danner asked City Manager Kim Kiefer if the allocation was just “maintaining other people’s stuff?”

Kiefer said the project was funded last year and the company is asking for additional funds to finish. The stabilization of the slope and other improvements is needed, now or in association with the Sea Walk project.

“To me it is a very close tie to infrastructure that we want to do,” Kiefer said. “It’s a close tie to where we spend our money anyway.”

The sea walk project is in the public interest, Assembly Member Randy Wannamaker said.

“I believe it is an appropriate use in these circumstances,” Wannamaker said.

Assembly Member Ruth Danner said in contrast to last year when Juneau’s private docks received similar sums from the passenger fee fund, about $600,000 each, this year the AJ dock has a substantially larger sum. The culprit, she said, is a $175,000 atrium entrance to the dock. Danner asked if the allocation was appropriate.

Kiefer said she and her staff deemed all of the projects on the list as appropriate use of marine passenger funds.

”Otherwise they wouldn’t be on the list,” Kiefer said.

Mayor Bruce Botelho said the city never worked under the assumption of parity. All are equally welcome to submit projects, he said. But screening must be consistent and any given year “one would assume some difference of allocations,” Botelho said.

The committee passed Kiefer's final determinations on to the full Assembly without objection.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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