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Harbors delays multiple trailer permit decision

Members: More discussion, advance notice is needed

Posted: November 30, 2012 - 12:07am

The Docks and Harbors board of directors debated the policy under which boat trailer permits are sold but ultimately decided to refer the issue back to committee Thursday night.

The board’s Operations Committee motioned at its Nov. 13 meeting to direct harbor staff to require that a separate permit be sold for each boat trailer. Port Director Carl Uchytil said letters were sent out to notify users who hold multiple trailer permits in advance of the board meeting, but acknowledged that they were not notified until this week.

“Admittedly, I thought we could get the letter out notifying the multiple holders earlier than we could,” said Uchytil. He added, “If it’s the will of the body, the discussion could wait until December.”

Uchytil said the goal is to clarify the policy. He said permits have been issued inconsistently, with some users paying a fee per trailer and others paying the fee just once and receiving complimentary additional permits for each of their trailers.

A number of users submitted written testimony, with most protesting the idea of having to pay to permit each of their multiple trailers.

In his written testimony, North Douglas resident John Bohan also argued, “Insufficient public notification was given to allow public testimony of the affected users. … Due to such short notice I am unable to attend this meeting and therefore have to write this testimony.”

Speaking as a member of the public at the meeting, Thomas Hanley sided with the majority of the written testimony.

“I think the system has worked really well,” said Hanley, who said he has been paying one launch ramp fee to permit his two boat trailers. “I think it’s consistent with the idea of a user fee rather than a trailer tax.”

But Dennis Watson disagreed. He charged that harbor staff have shown favoritism to certain users by granting them permits for multiple trailers for one fee and said he wants each user to pay per trailer.

“I think if you have two trailers, you should pay for two permits,” Watson said. “If you’re going to use a trailer, it should be permitted. I think that’s appropriate.”

While Uchytil said at the outset of the discussion, “As I read the ordinance … it infers that one trailer, one permit is kind of how the ordinance is written,” board member Eric Kueffner said his interpretation of the boat launch ramp fee ordinance is not the same.

Kueffner said, “I think this ordinance tells me that if I have a launch ramp permit, I can use the launch ramp.”

Kueffner also rejected the idea that the way the permits have been sold has been deliberately selective.

“It does seem unfair that it hasn’t been applied evenly, but it’s certainly not malicious,” said Kueffner. “I reject the suggestion that it’s been out of favoritism to particular people. It’s just not something that anyone thought about.”

Tom Donek, Budd Simpson and Mike Williams agreed with Kueffner’s interpretation of the ordinance.

But Williams said he is undecided on what the policy should be, though he contended that if people can receive multiple permits for the cost of one fee, they can potentially obtain permits under their name for trailers that they do not own.

After telling a story about how he lent his permit to a friend one time, Williams said, “Issuing three stickers to one household or individual, they’re going to start going other places to people that have not paid for it, or where they shouldn’t go. And that is going to get abused, because I have done it. I have done it.”

Greg Busch, chairing the meeting, favored the idea of a “one-permit, one-trailer” approach. “The simplest is to follow the same way you would for a car,” said Busch. “It’s a one-for-one. When you register a car, it doesn’t matter how many cars you own in your household. You’re paying the fee. You’re registering the vehicle. You’re paying the full amount. You’re not getting any special deals for owning multiple cars per household.”

Busch also echoed Williams in citing the “potential for abuse” in issuing multiple permits.

Simpson said he was “concerned” by the short notice of the issue.

“I’m concerned in the end that the notice didn’t get out until a couple of days ago, and I think we ought to continue to think about this, look for some solutions, and bring it back next month and try to address all these competing issues,” said Simpson, suggesting the discussion be put off until next month.

Busch agreed that it should be referred back to the Operations Committee, which will meet next on Dec. 11.

Donek said he believes all permit owners should be notified of the issue.

The board also voted at the meeting to revalidate its support of the Statter Harbor Master Plan, the blueprint for development and construction of the Don D. Statter Harbor facility in Auke Bay.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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