Juneau OKs new cruise ship fee for port projects

Posted: Wednesday, May 08, 2002

JUNEAU(AP) -- Cruise lines will be charged $1.73 per passenger for Juneau port improvement projects, the Juneau Assembly has decided.

The issue of financing future port development, however, was not fully settled when the assembly adopted the passenger fee Monday.

Juneau officials have been in discussions with the cruise industry for months about how to pay for port improvements. Until Jan. 1, cruise ships paid a tonnage fee. As a replacement, some assembly members preferred to negotiate with the cruise lines on a project-by-project basis.

Assembly member Jeannie Johnson, who proposed the new passenger fee, said it was a compromise between a tonnage fee and a project agreement, the Juneau Empire reported.

''It's a middle way as far as I'm concerned to try to get more people to agree,'' she said.

The passenger fee would take effect May 15 and expire Dec. 31, 2005. The fee would apply to the 15 ships that will visit between April 30 and May 14, but wording to make it retroactive could be challenged by the cruise industry, City Attorney John Corso said. The fee is expected to generate about $1.2 million in the first year. Last year, the city collected $1.7 million in tonnage fees.

Under the terms of Monday's resolution, the cruise ship industry would contribute about $4 million over four years to the first phase of the Marine Park-Steamship Wharf redesign project -- or 75 percent of the cost. Passenger fees would be placed in a port development fund and the city would issue revenue bonds.

The $1.73 fee also would pay for the second phase of the wharf redesign, half of the cost of a comprehensive waterfront plan, a study and preliminary design for a dock extension and other projects selected by the Assembly.

The wharf project would add bus staging, green space and pedestrian improvements to a section of Juneau's downtown waterfront. Juneau already charges cruise ship passengers $5 a visit, money that goes to reduce visitor industry impacts.

North West CruiseShip Association President John Hansen said cruise lines need a chance to review and discuss the resolution in detail.

''We're certainly still in the view we want to work with the Assembly, the city and borough, on a project-based agreement,'' he said. ''I haven't seen the final resolution that was passed, but I think it goes in that direction.''

Whether the city charges a fee based on a ship's length or number of passengers doesn't matter as long as the revenues go to a specific project instead of into general revenues, Hansen said.

Assembly member Randy Wanamaker moved to reconsider the resolution so it likely will come back to the Assembly for a future vote. He would like city management to continue pursuing a project agreement with cruise lines, he said.

The passenger fee proposal, which was approved by the Assembly in a 6-3 vote, drew fire from Assembly member Dale Anderson, a proponent of project agreements with the cruise industry. He voted against the measure.

''Partners talk, partners have input,'' he said. ''They haven't had an opportunity to give input. I think it's a slam to the industry. An absolute slam.''

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