By Heidi Zemach for SCN
At Tuesday night’s second city council budget work session, council first turned its attention to the Harbor Enterprise Fund, before then going into the Electric Fund. First, Finance Director Kris Erchinger gave a rundown of the health of the fund overall.
The harbor fund has a cash balance of $618,000. It has $34 million in assets. There’s $797,000 in the MRRF fund, a fund set aside for maintenance and repairs of infrastructure. The harbor also has a total $654,000 (from the $3.50 per-passenger tax) and $2 million from the cruise ship passenger tax fund. It also has $71,800 for capital grants projects.
“That’s pretty good compared to where we were last year,” Erchinger said. While the moorage fees are not fully known until December, harbor financial picture overall shows a good turnaround from previous years, she said.
The current financial picture is helped by the transfer of $183,000 from the city’s General Fund back into the harbor fund for debt service payments, and $320,000 from the GF into the harbor fund from raw fish taxes. Also, the number of passengers, which had fallen off in 2007-2009, has climbed back up again since 2010.
It’s noteworthy that some $13.3 million worth of recent projects carried no debt, such as the T-dock, Z-float, and US Coast Guard relocation. To date, 51% of harbor assets have been paid for with grants.
That said, the harbor still owes $6.5 million in harbor-related debt including bonds for past float work, fish cleaning stations, and 50-ton travel lift, Erchinger said. Passenger fees received for 2012 are hoped to reach about $560,000. The harbor’s annual debt payments are currently $734,000. The difference will have to be covered by passenger fee reserves or moorage fees once those run out.
Then, it was harbormaster Mack Funk’s turn to go through his department’s budget wish-list. There are “tens of millions of dollars of desires” for the harbor, but considerably less funds, he acknowledged.
Harbor dredging, considered a “Critical Risk” is already underway. Most of that work is federally-funded. The city’s share is almost $706,000.
Up next is D-float replacement. Its design should be complete within three months, and then it will go out to bid. The $2.36 million project has state and harbor (MRRF)matching funds. (Next in line, but not immediately, will be replacing K and L docks at the North end of the harbor, for an estimated $2.25 million.)
Another high priority for 2013 is upgrading the harbor restrooms, for which the city has received a $130,000 state grant. The project was put off in 2012. Doing so will both extend their life and improve the harbor’s public image, Funk said.
Other projects for FY 2013 include replacing a 13-year-old harbor truck with more than 115,000 miles on it; purchasing five bear-resistant trash dumpsters for harbor users with ones the city buys, a one-time purchase for $70,000. Hunt proposed eliminating the sums budgeted for two replacement projects: a fish waste barge ($70,000), and used oil recycling stations ($60,000).
A new category, just added, is for Industrial Development, to provide jobs and help foster business opportunity, Hunt said. He proposed the city purchase a public crane that harbor folks can use to unload their fish or gear. The Port of Homer has a whole row of public cranes, and Cordova Harbor has three smaller cranes. The crane could be located near the 50-ton travel lift. Another proposal is for a wash-down facility for the 50-ton travel lift, smaller than the one for the 250-ton travel lift at SMIC. His rough estimate for that is $500,000.
With the statewide transportation bond passage by voters Tuesday night, Seward will receive a $10 million bond for designing, engineering, and possibly beginning to build a breakwater at Seward Marine Industrial Center, or SMIC that would help create safe moorage across the bay.
The Coastal Villages CDQ fleet would be Seward’s “anchor tenant,” Hunt said. Dredging also would be needed, both in the harbor, and possibly at SMIC’s uplands area also.
Building new docking floats, and development generally could cost $100 million, but the $10 million bond will be a start.
Meanwhile, Hunt suggested the city consider replacing its 20-year old 250-ton travel lift at SMIC with a 300-ton travel lift, which could fit on the same pier. The net cost expected, after trading in the old one, he estimates at $1.45 million.
The budget work sessions conclude tonight (Wednesday) from 6:00-8:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.