Assembly approves port fee increase

The hike is expected to generate $900,000 in '05, $950,000 in '06

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Despite objections from the cruise ship industry and a private dock manager, the Juneau Assembly on Monday approved increasing a tourism fee for port development.

By this tourist season, every arriving passenger has to pay $1.18 at a private dock and $3.18 at a public dock. By 2007, both fees will rise to $3. Before, a passenger paid 18 cents at a private dock and $2 at a public dock.

The increase is expected to generate $900,000 in 2005 and $950,000 in 2006. The Assembly plans to use the revenues to pay off the costs of building the Steamship Wharf and Marine Park Plaza and fund some projects in the Long-range Waterfront Development Plan.

"We have lots of projects in the waterfront plan that are going to require more money than the fund can generate," Deputy Mayor Marc Wheeler said. "The seawalk project will tie all the waterfront development together. Hopefully, the cruise ship industry can see the benefits."

The ordinance doesn't apply to vessels that carry 12 or fewer passengers, noncommercial vessels and vessels operated by federally organized Indian Native tribes.

Six out of the eight present Assembly members voted to approve the increase. Assembly members Merrill Sanford and Johan Dybdahl voted against it. Assembly member David Stone was absent.

"We would do better by being an active team member with the cruise ship industry and the citizens of Juneau to figure out a way to increase the incentives to have the boats stay longer, which would mean more sales tax and more money for the waterfront project," Assembly member Merrill Sanford said.

The cruise ship industry had opposed the increase, saying that the Assembly should have worked with the industry to identify the projects the city wanted the industry to fund, as the city had done with the Marine Park Plaza project.

At the Monday meeting, Chris Wyatt, executive director of Juneau Chamber of Commerce, urged the Assembly to work with the cruise ship industry before rushing to pass the ordinance. But a motion to table the ordinance failed.

Franklin Dock management said that the fee increase violated the Tonnage Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

City Attorney John Hartle said although the Tonnage Clause gives the shipping industry a measure of special protection from state and local taxation, it doesn't apply in this situation.

"The fee increase is not intended as a general revenue measure," Hartle said in a memorandum to the Assembly. "The resolution would impose fees for the purposes of constructing facilities outlined in the Long-range Waterfront Plan that benefit the cruise ship industry."

Reed Stoops, manager of Franklin Dock Enterprises, said he wouldn't further challenge the legality of the ordinance. But he said he would closely follow the projects listed in the waterfront plan.

"It wouldn't be fair if the city used the money they get from a private dock to build a public dock," Stoops said.



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