The Port of Astoria commission Monday evening rescinded a $20 daily parking fee in the East End Mooring Basin imposed just few days before. This after overwhelming negative public comment from the chamber, hotel owners, fishermen, charter operators and fishing guides. Sport fisherman Bob Rees says the $20-a-day fee strikes many in the sport-fishing groups he represents as price-gouging, or revenge for recent changes in gillnetting on the river that restrict commercial fishing. But a member of the port's commission says the port is "bleeding money" and needs the revenue. He says the gillnetting controversy has nothing to do with the parking fees.
Chamber Executive Director, Skip Haukie told commissioners that the suddenly imposed fee would set back efforts to market Astoria by a decade. Local processor Steve Fick had originally suggested the Port look at increasing the parking fees and defended the idea Monday but said he was not interested in taking any part of that money to help manage the lots. Commissioners said they had several angry phone calls and Haukie invited them to spend a day at the chamber answering those calls as well.
Port staff said that the State Marine Board sent a letter to the Port informing them that if they continued to charge $20 a vehicle for parking that the port would have to pay back $1.22 million dollars to the state for grants used at those landings.
While the commission did not take a formal vote on the issue Monday Commission President Jim Campbell told KAST news that the fee would be suspended. He also said that it's likely the discussion of a comprehensive parking plan would be on the next commission meeting agenda. Staff indicated that it might be more workable to set up a timetable for planning with implimentation of a new plan in 2014 if the Port is able to budget an estimated $42,000 to pay for all the costs of installing new signage to reserve certain spots for tenants of the Port properties and establish short and long term parking areas.
Port Commissioner Bill Hunsinger told KAST News "It was a mistake".