GAS committee discusses commercial user fees in Porcupine area


February 4, 2021

The Haines Borough officials are discussing a fee system for commercial users to maintain Porcupine Road and other roads in the area that lie within the Historic Dalton Trail Road Maintenance Service Area.

On Tuesday, the borough’s government affairs and services committee drafted a fee schedule imposing fees on commercial operators who use the roads such as Constantine Mineral Resources, tour companies, loggers and the production company Raw TV.

“It’s significant, the amount of upkeep that this road requires, but it’s necessary because it’s how we support commercial entities that function out there,” committee chair Cheryl Stickler said. “The idea behind this proposed fee schedule is the cost causers need to be the cost payers.”

The proposed fees would include 50 cents per head for all commercial tour companies for the first 1,000 passengers, and 10 cents thereafter along with a $50 annual fee for each vehicle used within the service area. Mining companies would pay $25 per Haines-based company employee and $50 for each vehicle, in the absence of any payment in lieu of taxes agreement. Loggers would be charged $1 per cord and $50 per each vehicle.

Public facilities director Ed Coffland said last year Constantine and Raw TV each contributed $2,000 to grade Porcupine Road.

Stickler said the fee structure would provide revenues in a time of budget woes.

“The budget is looking really, really ugly and if we want to be able to enjoy services and access to our areas, we have to be able to generate some type of revenue,” Stickler said. “It doesn’t have to be on the backs of one entity if we’re all sharing it.”

Committee member Gabe Thomas said while he supports use fees in general, he was skeptical about imposing additional fees on tour companies who are reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and who also have to pay recently increased borough fees.

“They’re getting hit (from) every single angle,” Thomas said. “I think the (state) also doubled its price on them too,” Thomas said. “I don’t disagree we need to do the fee schedule. I just think we need to see it play out a little bit.”

Thomas suggested lowering the fees and raising them incrementally.

Haines Rafting Company owner Andy Hedden said the fees hit tour operators disproportionally.

“When tourism as a whole produces the amount of tax revenue that it does, as a tour operator you start to worry the golden goose is getting plucked,” Hedden said. “The fee structure is a little bit of a concern because it hits me as an operator more disproportionately than somebody else.”

Stickler said she’d like to implement a fee structure this budget cycle. Thomas said he wants to reach out to more stakeholders and said he was hesitant to include tour operators this year.

“I feel bad kicking them while they’re down,” Thomas said. “You could think about maybe mining and loggers to start off and we’ll see how that works and if there’s going to be problems that develop, we can adjust it.”

Stickler said making the fee structure equitable was important and suggested the committee review various cost projections and get a better understanding of annual maintenance costs before moving forward.


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