The Juneau Docks and Harbor Board's efforts to establish a sustainable harbor system should be supported. As a user, I appreciate having a place to tie up. I appreciate the convenience of community services (electrical, water, garbage) at the harbor, and more important, because the facilities are here, I can actually have a boat and enjoy life in Southeast Alaska.
The fact is these assets are in terrible shape. Most are at, or past, their useful life. For example, most of Harris Harbor is 37 years old. Two floats were built in 1962. Aurora and Douglas also have floats of this vintage. When Statter Harbor gets tired, it will be a big deal to fix. They all need attention. They need a financial foundation to be sustainable.
A new paradigm for Juneau needs to be defined. The state is not going to make Juneau's harbors or any other communities' harbors a priority. We can ignore it, but it won't get better and nothing will change; except that when they become a big personal injury liability, someone will have to decide to close them. The board's proposal is financially sound, but politically volatile. Someone needs to pay. Is it going to be harbor users, Juneau taxpayers, statewide taxpayers, federal taxpayers? If the 2,000-3,000 boaters in Juneau can persuade others in Juneau that property or sales taxes can help, the rate increases can be reduced or the implementation period extended. I hope our community will continue to support bond and special sales tax finance proposals for harbors, just like we do for other recreational facilities.
I expect the Harbor Board to address this problem and encourage them to be bold, think big, and persevere. They are living up to my expectations. I expect our Assembly to consider the quality of life the harbors bring to the community and support the use of other local taxes, to help with capital costs for harbors because most harbor users also pay these taxes.
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