Harbor fees, rule changes debated

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2001

The Juneau Docks and Harbors Board will spend more time discussing proposed rate increases after hearing objections from liveaboard owners and other harbor users Thursday.

Under a new schedule, fees for moorage, electricity, launch-ramp use and lightering would increase. The monthly fee for people who live aboard boats would jump from $19.14 to $36.74, not including tax.

The liveaboard fee got much of the attention during public testimony Thursday, along with proposed changes in the city harbor department's liveaboard agreement. The proposal includes new requirements for liability insurance, sewer treatment and restrictions banning tarps in the summer.

Paul Kinslow, who lives aboard a 32-foot boat in Aurora Harbor, spoke about the liveaboard fee on behalf of the Juneau Liveaboard Association. The group asked the Harbor Board to hold off on a rate increase until the city received $7.2 million in state funds for harbor repairs. If the state funds aren't sufficient, the group suggested the board increase the monthly liveaboard fee $5 a year over the next three years as improvements are made.

"My wife and I choose to live on a vessel. It's our home," he said. "All we are concerned about is that we be charged fairly and reasonably for the services we receive."

Greg Hayes, who lives aboard a boat in Aurora Harbor, said the proposed liveaboard agreement "looks like an assault to get rid of liveaboards." People who have modified their boats or own wooden boats may have trouble getting liability insurance, he said.

As for provisions about appearance, Hayes said the city doesn't regulate how RVs, trailers or motor vehicles look. As long as tarps are fastened so they don't hurt anyone, they have no material impact other than to protect boats and keep them warm, he said.

"Talk about preserving the right of happiness and so forth," he said. "That's a personal choice."

Harbor Board Chairman Loren Gerhard said the rate changes will get more discussion at a Jan. 15 Harbor Finance Committee meeting and at January's Harbor Board meeting. People are welcome to submit written comments, he added.

Moorage increases based on linear footage likely will get more review, Gerhard said.

"I know a number of us are uncomfortable with the quantum leap the rate takes when you reach some arbitrary foot level," he said. "I think we need to work that over a little more."

Harbor Board member Romer Derr, chairman of the Finance Committee, said it's been a long time since the harbor department raised liveaboard fees. Liveaboards contribute to water and garbage costs at the harbor, he said.

"The goal is to make it equitable up and down the line," he said. "We don't want to take advantage of one group to give something to the others. It's kind of a tightrope. We're trying to increase out revenues so we can dedicate it toward projects."

As for the tarp restriction, Gerhard said it was probably tied to concerns about derelict vessels in Juneau's harbors.

"I personally think it's the wrong way to approach it, which is why I'll probably be voting in favor of something that modifies that," he said. "If you have an old hulk that's covered up with a tarp and never moves, then that's not what the harbors are for. But we have other regulations that address that."

The liveaboard agreement will be discussed at an upcoming operations committee meeting, he said.

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

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