Kenai council: Collected fees not that much

Posted: Sunday, September 12, 2004

A Kenai City Council member wants to make the Kenai River dipnet fishery more affordable for Kenai residents.

At the council's Sept. 1 meeting, council member Joe Moore said he'd like the city to explore the idea of giving Kenai residents the option of purchasing a pass for using facilities at city beaches and boat launches during the July fishery.

"I would like to see some sort of season pass for the citizens of Kenai," Moore told the council.

Moore's comments came during a discussion of the popular fishery in advance of this Wednesday's release of a final report by the city's administration.

The report is expected to show that the city made a profit of approximately $100,000 during the 23-day fishery.

Other council members said the money generated from the fishery is a benefit to the city's bottom line but pointed out the city has a number of additional costs related to operating the fishery.

"A lot of people have said to me, 'You make too darn much money,'" council member Jim Bookey said. "In reality, we didn't make too darn much money."

The money raised from dipnet fees goes into the city's general fund. However, council members said they are firm in their desire to see that the money goes toward continued improvements of city facilities at the beach.

"The money to make improvements should come out of this," council member Pat Porter said.

Porter noted that the city also incurs hidden administrative costs that aren't included in the overall numbers and said the city already has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to make improvements to existing parking facilities.

Porter said the public needs to keep in mind all that the city does before thinking Kenai is sitting on a gold mine.

"We're not putting out enough information," she said.

Despite the administrative costs and plans for future improvements, the city still seems to be coming out ahead from the fishery. City finance director Larry Semmens said most of he users of the fishery come from outside Kenai city limits, meaning Kenai residents are the ones who benefit.

"It's not a bad thing to make a hundred thousand dollars on the dipnet fishery," Semmens said. "Most of that hundred thousand comes from Anchorage."

Kenai mayor John Williams also pointed out the fact that the fishery taking place in Kenai has the added benefit of bringing tourists to the Kenai business community.

"Ten thousand people don't walk around with empty pockets," he said.

The dipnet fishery is sure to come up for discussion Wednesday, when the city administration releases its final report.

On Saturday, Moore said he plans to continue pushing to give Kenai residents a break on fees. After all, he said, the local residents should not have to pay each time they access their own beaches.

"The idea is to give a financial, monetary break to the local people," he said. "It would be cheaper for the citizens of Kenai to go dipnetting."

Moore said he plans to have the city administration look at the plan.

"I've already got the city administration working on the legal aspect," he said.

He thinks there should be no problem with allowing Kenai residents to have their costs reduced when accessing the fishery.

"It would be no different than resident-nonresident fishing licenses," he said.

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