2010-01-21 / Editorial

Possible fee hikes deserve scrutiny

• EDITORIAL •

The Jamestown Harbor Commission will hold a public hearing next week to give islanders the opportunity to share their opinions on a plan to increase fees that boaters pay for moorings, outhauls and dockage.

Proposed is a 10% hike on all fees charged by the harbor commission. The current fees have been in place since 2007.

Islanders can learn more about the fee increase and may comment on the proposal during a public hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 27, starting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The commission is authorized by the state to manage the waters surrounding Conanicut Island. The commission is also responsible for the maintenance of the town’s public waterfront, such as the cement pier, the wood pile pier, the Ft. Getty dock and the boat ramp at East Ferry. Also included is the East Ferry seawall.

The commission is self-sustaining, and its operating budget is funded by the mooring and outhaul fees. That includes the salaries of the harbormaster and the harbor clerk. The fees also pay for waterfront improvements and maintenance.

Commission members may hear opposition to the fee hike next week from islanders who use their boats for commercial fishing. A 10% rate increase seems a bit steep in an economy that has left many people hurting.

Last year, the economy prompted some recreational boaters to keep their boats on the hard for the summer season. Times are still tough for many islanders.

Perhaps it would make more sense to enact a lesser fee increase this year, followed by small incremental increases in following years. A nominal 2 to 3% increase on the fees for moorings, outhauls and dockage might be more acceptable to those who rely on their boats to make a living.

— Jeff McDonough

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