Shane Krause, left, who lives aboard a boat in Juneau, testifies in opposition to a 9% increase in docks and harbor fees during an Assembly meeting on Monday night as Deputy City Manager Robert Barr, City Manager Katie Koester and City Attorney Robert Palmer listen. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Shane Krause, left, who lives aboard a boat in Juneau, testifies in opposition to a 9% increase in docks and harbor fees during an Assembly meeting on Monday night as Deputy City Manager Robert Barr, City Manager Katie Koester and City Attorney Robert Palmer listen. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

9% increase in nearly all docks and harbors fees approved by Assembly

5-4 vote comes after some residents express concerns about costs to liveaboards and fishers.

The Juneau Assembly by a 5-4 vote approved a 9% increase to nearly all docks and harbors fees effective Jan. 1, following an intense debate about the need for infrastructure improvements versus the cost to users such as liveaboards who may no longer be able to afford to remain on their vessels.

The increase applies to more than two dozen fees including resident surcharge rates, launch rates, parking rates and daily shore power fees. One exception is monthly moorage fees, which will be phased in with a 3% increase during the next three years, a recommendation made by the Docks and Harbors Board “because the moorage fee affects nearly all harbor users,” according to a summary of the proposed regulations.

A rate study completed in September of 2022 recommended the increases, with numerous public meetings following including an Oct. 4 Docks and Harbors Board where members approved sending the proposal — with the phase-in of moorage fees a response to public comments — to the Assembly.

[Docks and Harbors board OKs 9% increase for nearly all fees]

Carl Uchytil, the city’s port director, emphasized the increase is to pay for long-term harbor improvements being sought by the community rather than everyday operations.

“It’s a true statement to say we are not broke,” he said. “We manage a good department. We are in the black for harbors. We need more revenue in our fund balance…to give what the community wants and desires.”

The revised regulations include “various fee provisions (that) also give the Board authority to adjust the fees in 2024 based on changes to the Consumer Price Index,” according to the summary of the proposal.

CBJ harbor fees have broadly remained unchanged since 2008 and cruise ship fees since 2005, Harbormaster Matthew Creswell said at a meeting earlier this month.

Testifying against the increase was Clayton Hamilton, a local fisherman who has spoken against the proposal earlier, who said higher fees will hurt fishers and others who are key economic contributors. He also spoke in support of liveaboards, noting the city is going through a housing shortage crisis, especially places that are affordable.

“Raising rates on this part of the harbor population is going to directly impact housing and homelessness in our city,” he said. “If we jack up the rates here we’re just going to see more people in buses and RVs in parking lots.”

Seeking another month to consider the matter was Assembly member Greg Smith, with newly sworn members Ella Adkison and Paul Kelly agreeing with that option. But Michelle Bonnet Hale, in formally making the motion to adopt the increases, said more than enough discussion has occurred since the Assembly rejected a rate increase three years ago, asking the Docks and Harbors Board at the time ”to go through a more public process.”

“They’ve done that,” she said. “And they’ve worked very hard to hire consultants to help them figure out the rate. We have a Docks and Harbors Board for a reason — so that we don’t have to try to get into these weeds, because we simply don’t have enough knowledge and expertise and time to do that.”

A decisive vote approving the increase was cast by Alicia Hughes-Skandijs, who said during the discussion she wasn’t sure how she would vote. In an interview after the meeting, she said is supportive of the work done by Docks and Harbors Board, but she plans to revisit the matter with city leaders in terms of harbor fees that affect residents with less of an ability to pay the increases.

“I don’t have an issue with increases on the docks side because I think that’s the clientele that can afford to pay them,” she said.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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