By Patti Mackey
October 27, 2005
The City has established several user fees over the years pertaining to port use including docking fees for ships, vendor fees for tour and food sales, permit fees for commercial vehicles using the dock and most recently passenger service fees- more commonly referred to as head taxes. Passenger service fees carry federally regulated restrictions on their use and are in fact to be used for services that passengers benefit from, such as better port facilities and the associated infrastructure. The present construction work on the docks is an example of the type of work that can be accomplished utilizing these fees.
The ballot question did not ask whether or not fees collected could be expended. The voters of the City answered that question when your Council representatives were elected and you granted them the authority to establish ordinances to collect those fees for the purposes stated. All of which were passed with little or no comment from the public.
The only thing the ballot question asked was whether the City could go to the Alaska Bond Bank and get a "loan" for the estimated amount of the dock expansion and accompanying infrastructure against the anticipated amount of fees to be collected.
The City Council is completely within its rights to continue to study the project, use the collected revenues to finance the engineering and design work now taking place and bring the project back to voters. They've collected more than 7 million in the past two years from the passenger service fees alone that allow them to continue the work.
There was no single stand out reason why the vote failed, everything from voter turn out to personal issues or perceptions, to a sense of not enough information. It is prudent of the Council to further develop the plan to respond to those who said they needed more information before supporting the expansion.
Note: Patti Mackey is executive director of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau.
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