My Turn: Harbor live-aboards oppose big fee hike

Posted: Friday, December 07, 2001

I am writing to call all members of the Juneau harbors liveaboard community to a meeting to discuss the planned 86 percent increase in the monthly live-aboard fee. Live-aboards are meeting this Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 in the downtown library conference room to talk about ways to convince the Harbor & Port Authority to take a more honest and reasonable look at the proposed increase.

At its Nov. 29 meeting, the Authority scheduled a Dec. 27 public hearing and vote on final approval of the rates. In response to some complaint about the ill timing of this schedule, the chairman and port director Joe Graham have said further hearings would be held, but the 86 percent rate increase is still planned.

Authority members provided no substantial backing for this huge rate increase, only some vague and inconsistent explanations. Information from the Authority indicates that the new live-aboard fee of $36.74 (up from $19.17 per month) includes only half the trash collection charge shoreside residents pay. If the comparison was meant to suggest live-aboards are getting a break of some sort it is misleading and irrelevant. Live-aboards produce far less trash per residence than almost any shore-dwellers. In the harbor where I live the trash collectors make stops at three Dumpsters, not at every home, and suffer no risk of injury from trying to pick up an innocent-looking trash can with someone's discarded anvil in the bottom.

Worse, the harbor Dumpsters are regularly and illegally used by many landlubbers avoiding their own trash collection bill, but city authorities make no effort to stop these criminals. One may be sure, if the proposed fee increase is adopted, live-aboards will.

Authority member Romer Derr gave a vague explanation about the cost of keeping water lines running to the harbor all winter and indicated that his rates subcommittee had apparently considered shutting the harbor waterlines off for the winter. This is the worst outrage in the Authority's plan and basic thinking. It can hardly compare live-aboards to shoreside residents to suit its purposes in one case and then suggest an action (turning off a basic utility) that would never be contemplated for the landlubbers on the other.

Live-aboards get absolutely no city or harbor services for the current fee they pay that are not available for free to anyone who rents a mooring from the city. We are regularly praised by the harbormaster as a practical, comprehensive, free security service for everyone's boats. I have no doubt that we are the most low impact, environmentally conservative segment of the Juneau community with the exception of street people. I have had a solar panel on my boat for about 10 years and my electric bill is rarely more than $15 per month during the summer.

In the interest of further contributions to the community I would be happy to accept a 26 percent rate increase (to $25/month) but the increase proposed by the Authority amounts to punishment for our contributions to date and must not stand.

Bob Tkacz lives aboard a boat in Aurora Basin.

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