Seward officials pushing harbor passenger fee

Posted: Friday, August 11, 2000

SEWARD (AP) -- Looking for a way to raise money to pay for harbor upgrades, Seward officials are considering imposing 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.

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

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

Those upgrades are scheduled to begin in October.

That leaves out the harbor's most heavily used areas: E-float, which is used by many of the major tour companies and the fish cleaning station at the head of B-float.

City Manager Scott Janke will be submitting a proposal to the city council within the next few weeks to obtain a $2 million revenue bond to include E-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 Peninsula Clarion. 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.

''The plan is for a group of charter and tour boat operators to work with the city on an upgraded design of the south harbor, including a five-year plan that would bring the south harbor to the same standards at the north harbor,'' Tougas said.

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

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



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