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By Dan Rudy 

Port Commission discusses boatyard rates, lot leases


It may be a new year, but Wrangell's Port Commission was greeted with a lot of ongoing business when it met Tuesday evening, from finalizing plans for the Mariner's Memorial at Heritage Harbor to preparing to pursue replacement of the Shoemaker Bay Harbor floats.

In one bit of new business, Josh Young of J&R Protective Coatings came before the commission to ask for help with a problem with his leased lot at the Marine Service Center.

Young is the current lease holder of Lot 6 in the yard, and is experiencing issues with water passing through his shop area on its way to a nearby drain.

“It's making it very difficult for me to do my job,” he told commissioners. What Young wanted was for the Borough to help him pay to reconcrete his lot before constructing a more permanent work structure, to fix the drainage issue. After talking to a contractor, he said it would cost between $19,000 and $30,000 to fix.

“I would like some way to help mitigate costs for the original construction,” Young said.

Harbormaster Greg Meissner explained those bidding on available lots in 2013 were made aware of the paving work already contracted that February, and that leases when contracted were on a “where it is, as it is” basis.

“All of them had potential drainage issues,” said Clay Hammer, chairing the commission. Any problems would have to be resolved by the lease owner. He pointed out that other contractors in the yard have experienced similar issues, but that they had paid for their own improvements.

However, the commission agreed to put Young's request on the agenda for consideration at its next meeting, provided he put his position in writing, with additional quotes and information.

Also on the agenda for next meeting, commissioner John Martin recommended approaching Planning and Zoning about being able to use the midsection of Shoemaker Bay's parking area as boat storage.

“I would want a very strict guideline about what's going to be allowed out there,” said commissioner John Yeager. Martin suggested having it so the Harbor Department would control access by moving all boats to be stored there.

Commissioners also participated in the second round of a pair of workshops, determining rate changes for the boatyard and Meyers Chuck dock.

Meissner gave the commission some background to the boatyard situation: He would like to raise ground rates from $0.50 to $0.75 per square foot, for several reasons. Firstly, it would be a needed adjustment to keep in line with general cost increases.

“We're probably going to have to raise rates just because of inflation,” commissioner John Martin said.

A rate increase might also incentivize an increase in project turnaround time, though Meissner suggested the increase would not be so great as to detract business.

Making the most of the yard's resources is at the heart of the proposal. Meissner explained the added revenue would help pay for additional staff, which he said would increase flexibility of the yard's scheduling. He suggested hiring an additional yard operator and a temp position.

Between them, he estimates the cost would run $110,000 a year. Currently the yard is on track to finish its fiscal year about $93,000 ahead.

“I would like to see the extra person brought in here,” Yeager agreed.

However, he would like to make sure the added bodies would translate into expanded hours, staggering shifts to encompass a larger part of the workday. He said the most common complaint he's received about the yard has been about missed opportunities to have work done due to scheduling limitations.

“I think it's needed,” he said.

For the Meyers Chuck workshop, five residents joined by phone to discuss the implementation of a new rate scheme for use of the public float there. By the linear foot, the rates being proposed would run $12 per year, $1.75 per month, or $0.20 per day, half what is currently charged Wrangell users.

Meissner estimated annually the dock might see four year-round vessels, 300 transient boats and some assorted others, which at the proposed rates would accrue only $8,600 a year.

“It will never pay for itself or come close to the match,” he said. Currently the Harbor Department is looking at reallocating half of the $1.4 million allotted by the state for replacing the Meyers Chuck float in the near future, as part a deal it cut with the Borough to manage the remote community.

The remaining half of the funds would be used to secure matching funds to undertake the project in four or five years when the time comes to replace the dock. The implementation of rates for the hitherto fee-free float would help defray some costs to maintain it.

Meissner explained he will need these rate figures hammered out for next year's budget cycle, which starts July 1. Meissner will need to have figures ready by March so the Port Commission can discuss and approve its budget with enough time for the Assembly to review and pass it by June.

While the rates have by and large been agreed upon, Hammer identified administration of the dock as the bigger issue, particularly during the float's busy season from May to August.

Meissner asked participating residents to produce names of people they might recommend to keep an eye on the Meyers Chuck dock through the summer, collecting and returning fees to the Harbor Department. In exchange, he suggested an arrangement like free berthing might be possible.

The next set of workshops will be held again at 6 p.m. before the commission's Feb. 5 meeting. The commission may also have a quorum when it meets with waterfront master planners at noon on Monday, likely at the Nolan Center.


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