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After living in his boat for eight years at Harris Harbor, Jeff Kemp said he would consider leaving if a city fee proposal goes through.
At its Thursday meeting, the Juneau Docks and Harbors Board accepted its finance committee's recommendation to consider raising the monthly liveaboard fee from $36.74 to $93.73.
"I paid $785 for a 38-foot-long boat last year. Now I am looking at $1,045 a year," said Kemp, who lives on the Seascape with his dog. "I might as well rent an apartment or buy a house. At least a house would appreciate."
Liveaboards are not the only ones who would be affected by the fee increase. Port officials plan to raise most of small boat user fees by 30 percent a year for the next five years. The goal is to increase the fees by 250 percent by 2010.
Port Director John Stone said the fee increase is necessary to operate and maintain aging city harbors.
"The current harbors' budget is adequate to provide services and minimal maintenance but doesn't include enough funding to repair and replace facilities and do capital improvement projects," Stone said.
Stone said although the state gave the city $7 million for deferred maintenance when the city took over harbors from the state, the city needs $25 million to reconstruct Harris Harbor, refurbish Statter Harbor and replace the primary gangways and shore power feeds at Aurora Harbor.
The city also needs money to expand Statter Harbor in Auke Bay, as the board unanimously authorized a subcommittee Thursday to negotiate purchase of the adjacent DeHarts Marina.
To make more revenues, the board decided to apply for an electric utility certification so the city can sell electricity to the boaters and use the revenues for its capital improvement projects.
Stone isn't sure when the city would receive a certification to sell electricity. But if the board approves the fee increase, the new fees would kick in July 1. The moorage fee would increase from $5.25 to $6 per foot in July and $12 by 2010.
Port officials said that in five years Juneau's moorage fee would be the same as what Fishermen's Bend, a private marina at Auke Bay, is charging now. Compared with the harbors in Washington state, Juneau's moorage would be about half what the port of Seattle currently charges and about the same as the ports of Bellingham and Olympia.
But boater Rick Turner said officials shouldn't compare a public harbor with a private marina or ports in other states.
"The board is not a for-profit organization. It should provide service to the citizens," Turner said.
Turner, who has lived on a boat at Aurora for two years, suggests that the board charge the monthly liveaboard fee by the size of the boat and the number of people living on it.
Boater Damon Cruz said he supports the increase but recommends that the board do a better marketing job. "The board should ask boaters what their priorities are," he said.
The Docks and Harbors Board is accepting comments and will make its final decision Feb. 24.