No consensus on how to spend cruise tax money

Museum expansion, waterfront updates among ideas debated

Posted: Friday, January 05, 2001

Public testimony was "all over the map" and no consensus was reached Thursday evening on the city manager's recommendations for how cruise ship passenger fee proceeds will be spent in the next fiscal year.

City Manager Dave Palmer said about a dozen citizens spoke at the meeting of the city's Passenger Fee Proceeds Committee.

"Expansion of the city museum grabbed the majority of the attention" at the meeting, Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska's Don Habeger said today. "Three or four people spoke in favor of that being funded. ... There was no consensus. There was a range of acceptance and/or variance on issues in the list presented. Comments were all over the map."

City engineering director John Stone said the Juneau Assembly appropriated $3.2 million last year from passenger fee proceeds and port dues for various projects, and the projects being discussed at these meetings would be funded with about $2.5 million of expected passenger fees. The approaching tourist season is anticipated to bring about the same number of cruise ship passengers, 600,000, to Juneau as last year, he said.

Palmer read a list of items being considered for funding in fiscal year 2002, which begins July 1. They include:

Funding for open space waterfront land acquisition.

Marine Park/library area traffic circulation design.

Marine Park rest rooms.

Lightering float modification.

Main Street to Willoughby Avenue pedestrian improvements.

Auke Bay commercial loading facility and electrical upgrades, chiefly for use by charter boats.

Mount Roberts Trail and all trail maintenance.

One item listed was the construction of dockside pumping connections for cruise ships that would link their wastewater systems with downtown Juneau's sewer plant. "We learned that this was a non-issue," Habeger said.

"Tom Dow with Princess testified that it is not cost-effective to spend money to do this because the ships are retrofitting to be self-contained and won't need these connections within two years," Palmer said.

"We talked about a different approach to some of the large projects: Issuing a revenue bond for some of the big-ticket items," Palmer said. "We would borrow money for 10 years and then make payments from two sources, the passenger fees and the tonnage fees that ships pay for tying up to the dock."

Tonnage fees bring in about $1.5 million a year, he said.

There will be a lot of changes from the list read Thursday evening, Port Director Joe Graham said.

"Some of the language of the line items was not clear; the language that described the projects was inadequate or poorly phrased," he said. A item called "Douglas Boat Harbor improvements" really referred to the reconstruction of Savikko Road and expansion.

Empire reporter Fernand Chandonnet contributed to this story. Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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