Some harbor users could be paying a little more to tie up in Petersburg this year while an across-the-board rate hike could be on the way next year. Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday took the first step to bring in more money to the local harbors.
A proposed ordinance up for consideration this spring would eliminate a 10 percent discount for harbor customers who pay for moorage a year in advance. Harbor master Glorianne Wollen told the assembly about the reason behind that discount.
“Most of that was because we had a lot of seasonal people that are leaving for big parts of the year and would run the risk of being in arrears and having interest on their account,” Wollen explained. “Now we have a lot of people that are on a monthly payment. We don’t seem to have as much need for that particular reason.”
Wollen called the discount a nice break for customers who can afford to pay for a year up front. It costs the harbor department an estimated 22,000-30,000 dollars a year in revenue. Wollen said the borough’s finance director suggested a two-phased increase, eliminating the 10 percent discount this year and then adding a nine percent rate hike next year for all customers.
“We’d had a pretty drastic rate increase two years ago and I don’t feel good about going back to the boat owners quite yet and so if we can push that down the road a year and implement this one little step this year and then we’ll have a year to really talk about across the board raises,” she said.
Rates went up in the harbors in 2012 and for some harbor users again in 2015. Also that year a financial analysis completed as part of the borough’s waterfront master plan recommended further rate hikes in order to cover expenses in the harbors. That report recommended a 12 percent increase for all users and then smaller annual hikes each year for the next decade to adjust for inflation.
Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht thought it was important to follow those recommendations. “They wanted us to increase the rates 12 percent in year one and the another 20 percent over the next 10 years, or something in the neighborhood of that,” Giesbrecht said. “So we’ve tried to approach this in a way that’s a little less harsh. And it’s important, we payed a lot of money for these folks to do the economic analysis of our harbor and the infrastructure but we also don’t wanna chase people away either.”
Assembly member Eric Castro asked if there would be more rate increases in the future and Wollen didn’t rule out that possibility. However she said the harbors would be done paying back project bonds in 2021, saving the department on about 120,000 dollars in debt payments after that year and helping the department’s bottom line.
Another part of the ordinance under consideration would change wording for people to qualify for the annual rate in the harbors, increasing that from six months to seven months.
The assembly passed the first reading of those harbor rate changes 6-0 with assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter not at the meeting. The ordinance needs two more approvals by the assembly before taking effect.