City debates passenger-fee spending

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2002

Funding for a heliport study, the city's long-range tourism plan, trails and a boat-loading facility is undecided as Juneau Assembly members debate the best way to spend this year's passenger fee revenue.

The city collects $5 per cruise ship passenger "to address the impacts caused by the marine passenger ship industry," according to city code. The city expects to see about $3.5 million in revenue this year and sets aside about 25 percent for general government services.

The Juneau Assembly Finance Committee reviewed spending proposals from the city's passenger fee committee, Deputy Mayor Ken Koelsch and Assembly member Marc Wheeler on Wednesday. No action was taken.

All three proposals include money for Capital Transit, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, open space acquisition, downtown rest rooms and crossing guards. They differ on funding for the Marine Park-Steamship Wharf redesign project, flightseeing noise research, a boat loading facility at Auke Bay, trails, city tourism staff and a proposed long-range tourism plan.

Koelsch's proposal concentrates on flightseeing noise and congestion - the two biggest impacts of cruise tourism in Juneau, he said. It would put $500,000 into the Marine Park-Steamship Wharf project, $300,000 into Princess Cruises' shoreside power project and $500,000 into a heliport study, quiet technology and floatplane infrastructure.

The proposal doesn't fund trails or a boat-loading facility at Auke Bay that would serve fishermen, charter boats and freight vessels. Funding for trails is covered by other city departments, Koelsch said, and the Auke Bay facility isn't completely tourism-related.

Wheeler said his proposal spreads the money throughout the community instead of focusing on the downtown waterfront. It includes money for trails, the Auke Bay boat facility, an emergency generator at Centennial Hall and a downtown shuttle study. It would put less money into the Marine Park-Steamship Wharf project and flightseeing noise research than Koelsch's proposal. It doesn't include money for the Princess shoreside power project.

"I need to be convinced to see us keep paying when it's already completed," he said of the power project.

Tom Dow, vice president of public affairs for Princess Cruise Lines, said the power hookup reduces air pollution and benefits Alaska Electric Light and Power ratepayers.

"Last year we asked for $300,000 ... and we said we'd come back again," he said. "We're fully committed to this and we think it's an appropriate use for mitigating the direct impacts of cruise ships."

The $300,000 would go to AELP to reimburse Princess for the $3 million it spent on shoreside infrastructure for the power project, according to Kirby Day, director of shoreside operations in Juneau for Princess. Another $2.75 million went to on-ship infrastructure, he said.

Assembly member Don Etheridge supported using passenger fee funding for the Auke Bay boat-loading facility. The number of visitors using Auke Bay harbor has grown and they have displaced local harbor users, he said.

"I believe a large portion being asked for for the commercial loading facility should be covered by the fund," he said. "I agree there might be other sources, but I do believe it's a critical use for Auke Bay."

Mayor Sally Smith suggested the Assembly designate money for general city tourism planning instead of earmarking it specifically for a Juneau Tourism Partnership, as proposed in an unadopted long-range tourism plan. She asked for more time to digest the passenger fee funding proposals.

"I think we have to be careful how we use it. It's to mitigate cruise ship tourism, not just tourism," she said.

Assembly Finance Committee Chairman Jim Powell said he couldn't divorce trail use from tourism. He suggested some money be spent on trail maintenance and a Montana Creek bike trail.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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