Port axes nonprofit exemption

Port of Coupeville revised its policy to no longer exclude nonprofits from having to pay a $1 per head passenger fee.

And some local nonprofits fear it could have an adverse impact.

Commissioners passed resolution 191 in April, which instituted a $1 fee per passenger for vessels picking up passengers at the Coupeville Wharf.

The initial resolution excluded nonprofits and vessels bringing passengers from outside the area, specifically the Victoria Clipper.

“In my opinion, the waiver for nonprofits was too liberal,” said Tim McDonald, executive director for the Port of Coupeville.

McDonald presented resolution 192, amending the former resolution, to take out the nonprofit exclusion. Commissioners passed it unanimously.

“I think it went beyond what the board had initially intended,” McDonald said. “We’ve had other nonprofits taking advantage of it.

“It doesn’t take into consideration the cost we’re investing into the wharf.”

The change in cost to host nonprofit vessels at the wharf may impact different groups and events, said Vickie Chambers, executive director of the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association.

“That would kill Musselfest,” she said.

Each year, the historic waterfront association pays upfront for a boat to come in and run mussel raft tours.

Chambers said tickets are sold to recoup the cost of the boat and some years, the association just barely breaks even, sometimes not at all.

“There are some years we’ve lost money,” she said.

She estimates an average of 400 tickets are sold each year at $10 per ticket.

“For the years we’re just barely covering our cost for the boat, $400 is a lot,” she said.

She also noted this was the first year the association paid moorage fees for the Musselfest boat.

Chambers said she fears this change will impact other nonprofit ventures like the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chiefton, which come in August for the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival.

“The numbers they get on that are just staggering,” she said. “It’s such a huge thing.”

Chambers said the imposed fee will detract anyone considering coming to Coupeville.

McDonald said that is not something the port has encountered so far.

He said imposing such fees is something port commissioners all over are considering with rising costs.

While ships like the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chiefton serve in a nonprofit capacity, they are utilizing resources like solid waste, water and space.

“The port board desires to do as much as possible to stimulate commerce,” McDonald said. “It’s a trade off on the cost of having boats here and supporting commerce.”

There is a clause in resolution 192, which stipulates the board may review and adjust fees on individual cases.

McDonald said he anticipates the board will discuss imposing fees to the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chiefton at the next regular board meeting.


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