At their regular meeting on Tuesday night (07-26-16), the Assembly approved increases in harbor, waste, and wastewater rates for the coming year.
Permanent and temporary moorage rates will increase by 5%. See resolution here: Res 2016-13.
Kevin Knox, Chair of the Port and Harbors Commission, explained that the increase will go towards decades of deferred maintenance on the harbor system.
“In years past, our ability to maintain and replace aging pilings, docks, and other critical systems within the harbors, but also the harbors themselves as they age and deteriorate, has been weakened both by the fact that funding from the state has continued to dwindle, but also that we didn’t build our capital in the past by leaving our rates flat for such a long time,” Knox told the Assembly.
Rates were going to increase by 6.2%, but the Assembly voted on a small rate increase of 5%. They also plan on dedicating 100% of the raw fish tax directly to the harbor fund.
Assemblymen Bob Potrzuski thanked Knox and commented that the burden of dock repair couldn’t fall to harbor users alone. “If we lose our fishing fleet, Sitka doesn’t have much of a future. And that’s why it’s really important that we get our financial situation in order so we can be a contributor to those parts of the economy that are crucial to us. The fisherman can’t replace the harbors themselves.”
Eliason and Crescent Harbors are in particularly bad shape. City staff are applying for $5 million in state funding to replace the rotten timber floats in Crescent Harbor (an $18 million project) and $1.5 million to replace the electrical system at Eliason Harbor (a $3 million project).
The other rate increase bumps water and wastewater charges by 1%. This means the sewer rate will increase by three cents and unmetered water service by $1.39. See ordinance here: Ord 2016-25.
City Administrator Mark Gorman explained that the increase is to keep up with the cost of doing business. “We didn’t keep up with inflation and the intent for these utilities is to minimally adjust it for inflation on an annual basis so we don’t have to play catch-up for the next decade.”