Whittier collects over $2 million in cruise tax:

Revenue will fund projects to improve port facilities

By Ken Smith
Turnagain Times

Since Alaska voters approved a ballot measure imposing a $50 head tax on cruise ship passengers in 2006, revenue has been flowing in to port cities around the state—including Whittier.
Thus far, the city has collected more than $2 million, said Whittier City Manager Mark Earnest. Now the city has to decide where to spend that money.
“We’re trying to work with the cruise ship industry to make port facilities better and safer for passengers and visitors,” said Earnest.
Earnest said the city has relied on a committee made up of members from the Whittier Chamber of Commerce, Planning Commission, Port and Harbor Commission, a cruise ship industry representative, and the Whittier City Council.
The objective is to identify projects that will enhance port facilities and allocate the appropriate money for those projects.
“This is our first year and we will have some discussion with the council to see if they want to make any changes to the process,” Earnest said.
Some of the projects on the drawing board include: A conceptual design for a visitor’s center, emergency medical EMS equipment, hiring seasonal paramedics, visitor enhancements along the harbor area like a new boardwalk, and constructing a viewing area for visitors and passengers.
“These are the types of projects we’re working on,” said Earnest. “We have to identify projects that support the cruise ship passenger. That is the overriding factor that we have to take into account when we identify projects. And we’re working with the industry in this process. How can we as a city work with the industry to identify and support these projects.”
Many of the projects await city council approval, he said, but one project that will be implemented before the start of the summer season will be air-proof trash cans to deter garbage-picking bears, which has been a problem over the years.
“Right now we have 55 gallon tanks,” Earnest said. “One of the projects was to purchase bear-proof trash cans. We’ve already purchased those, they’ll be delivered this spring.”
About $300,000 has been spent for this and other projects to date.
The $50 per passenger tax is divided up between each port city in the state that receives cruise ships, which amounts to $5 per passenger per city, Earnest said. That money is being held in a special account from Whittier’s general fund account, he said, so funds can be tracked separately.
“This program was really the only viable way the city could address the needs and interests of the cruise ship industry,” Earnest said. “I think it will go a long way to improving our facilities and make the cruise passengers experience that much better.”

~ by fredfelleman on February 7, 2009.

2 Responses to “Whittier collects over $2 million in cruise tax:”

  1. I really like to read your blog, however the black background is almost painful for my eyes. Would you consider a more eye-friendly color for your background?

    Thanks.

  2. Perhaps a different color for the type would be easier on the eyes. I’ll try to improve it soon. Thanks for your feedback.

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