In a 4-2 vote on Tuesday, the Wrangell Borough Assembly postponed a boat yard lease extension so the Port Commission can first decide if it wants to change its lease rates.
A five-year lease held by Jenkins Welding for a lot in the boat yard ended in December.
Instead of approving a lease renewal right away, Assembly Member David Powell made a motion to postpone the decision. He said it allows the Port Commission to first consider if it wants to change rates or terms for all boat yard leases.
“I’m just asking for us not to make a decision on one without them doing the rate change on everybody. And like [Harbormaster] Greg [Meissner] said, they might look at this and say this looks fine the way it is. I don’t know that. I can’t predict the future. I’m just asking this to be moved back to the Port Commission to look at it as a whole,” Powell said. “That’s all this is about. This is not about saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this lease or the next lease that comes in front of us.”
A few more businesses operating out of the boat yard will have their leases expire in the next couple of months.
The Port Commission will be working on an overhaul of rates across the harbors, port and boat yard, so there is a chance that the terms of boat yard leases will change in the next few months.
Assembly Member Stephen Prysunka said postponing lease renewals until then would allow any changes to apply to all lease holders.
“I don’t see how I could say ‘yes’ to Mr. Jenkins getting it at whatever price per square foot, and ‘no’ to the next guy who happens to be one month away or two months away,” Prysunka said. “I think we’re going to wind up saying yes to everybody, and then, in essence, there will be no fee increase. At some point, we have to try to unify everything.”
Assembly members Mark Mitchell and Julie Decker voted against postponing the lease renewal for Jenkins Welding.
The issue sparked a broader discussion about rate increases in the harbor department.
Decker said Wrangell should use its low rates to draw people and businesses to the community.
“The business they bring is, in my opinion, very important–probably more important than some increase,” Decker said. “So my point is, I’d have to be very strongly convinced of any increases to rates.”
Mitchell also expressed concerns about high prices driving business away.
The assembly approved a resolution asking the United States government to work with Canada on transboundary mining issues within the International Joint Commission under the Boundary Waters Treaty.
The borough assembly also approved the use of about $70,000 of leftover grant funds for a new gangway and railings at city dock.