Seward pushes for fees on tour boats

Revenue would cover harbor upgrades

Posted: Friday, August 11, 2000

SEWARD -- Looking for a way to raise money to pay for harbor upgrades, Seward officials are considering a fee for passengers on fishing charters and wildlife tours.

Passengers would pay an extra $1 to $2 per ticket, under the proposal by city officials and some harbor businesses.

The proposed fee would bring in about $300,000 a year in revenue and be collected in the same manner as a sales tax, said City Manager Scott Janke. The money would go to a designated harbor capital improvement fund, he said.

Many charter and tour boat operators are concerned the city's south harbor may not be upgraded. The $3.12 million Seward received after assuming ownership of the harbor from the state last year was earmarked for north harbor improvements.

That leaves out the harbor's most heavily used areas: those used by many of the major tour companies and the fish cleaning station at the head of a float.

Janke will submit a proposal to the city council within the next few weeks to obtain a $2 million revenue bond to include a south harbor float replacement in the north harbor improvement package.

The bond would be retired over 15 years from $200,000 a year in passenger fees, leaving $100,000 a year for other harbor improvements, Janke said.

``We're trying to move pretty rapidly on this,'' Janke told the Seward Phoenix LOG. He said he'd like to begin collecting the passenger fee early next year.

The real issue is not a passenger tax, but how to upgrade the south end of the harbor, said Tom Tougas, president of Kenai Fjords Tours.

``Users would work with the city to collect the port fee, which would be dedicated to those improvements,'' he said.

User groups have opposed a general head tax that would go into the city's general fund, but favor a plan that upgrades the harbor, Tougas said.

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