The Wrangell Port Commission continued its discussion of harbor rates at a workshop Monday, but it still has a long way to go before making a final decision.
Harbormaster Greg Meissner presented the commission with a proposal for increasing annual moorage fees. He said current rates won’t come close to saving enough money for harbor replacements 50 years from now.
He drew a harbor on the chalkboard and explained the costs.
“You’ve got this dock to pay for, this dock to pay for, these gangways to pay for, lights, utilities and water,” Meissner said. “We’re not even paying for the finger [of a dock], let alone any of the rest of our facility.”
If moorage rates are left the same, the harbor department projected it will save $2.6 million in 45 years. That’s far from the estimated $15 million it would cost for a future harbor replacement. The price tag on the Shoemaker Bay Harbor float replacement is about $11 million.
Meissner said at this rate, it will take 15 years to raise half the cash needed to fix Inner Harbor.
The current rate for annual moorage in Wrangell’s harbors is $25 per foot of vessel length.
Meissner suggested creating a three-tier rate structure, because large boats pay a lot less per square foot than small boats.
For boats up to 30 feet long, Meissner proposed $28 a foot. Boats between 31 and 55 feet would cost $33 a foot. Vessels that are 56 feet and larger would pay $38 a foot.
“Because the bigger stalls do cost a lot more than the smaller stalls [to replace], I took the big boats and went up, and the small boats went down,” Meissner said. “And averaged together we still get that $33 a foot average between all classes of boats.”
This would set annual harbor rates at about the same as Ketchikan’s, a little lower than Sitka, and it would still be far cheaper than Petersburg and Juneau. Craig, Skagway, Haines and Hoonah would continue to have lower prices than Wrangell.
It would also put the harbor department in a better financial position to take on big projects.
Meissner only presented proposed changes to annual moorage fees, but he said the commission should also look at changing transient moorage rates.
Commissioners did not have an in-depth discussion of Meissner’s proposal, but another workshop is planned for later this month.
The commission will try to have a rate change proposal finalized by early May so it can be passed on to the borough assembly. After evaluating harbor rates, the commission will also look at port and boat yard rates.