Rockland council hikes cruise ship fees

By Stephen Betts | Oct 11, 2017
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — A divided Rockland City Council approved Wednesday night, Oct. 11, a hike in cruise ship fees beginning in 2018.

The vote ended a year of sometimes-tumultuous debate.

The council voted 3-2 (Mayor Will Clayton and Councilor Ed Glaser opposed) to increase the fees for large cruise ships from $8 per passenger to $10 per passenger.

Glaser unsuccessfully tried to have the fee delayed until 2020, since some of the cruise ship companies have already scheduled their visits to Rockland harbor in 2018 and 2019.

Glaser said hiking the fee now would be like a person making a reservation for a hotel and after arriving for the stay, finding that additional costs had been added.

"The fees are not defensible," Glaser said, saying the harbor makes more money than it spends on upkeep. "No other entity is penalized for bringing people into town."

Councilor Valli Geiger said she did not care about the business model used by cruise ship companies. She said she did not decide when gas stations increased their prices to consumers.

Geiger said the city had a lot of infrastructure that needed improvements and it was not fair for Rockland taxpayers to pick up the costs.

Councilor Adam Ackor said the cruise industry was a profitable and expanding industry with a business model that extracted as much money as possible. He said the time to act on the increase was now.

"We need to bite the bullet and do it," Ackor said.

The city received slightly more than $41,000 in cruise ship fees in 2015, and nearly $54,000 in 2016.

City officials have said they need to upgrade Harbor Park to make it easier when large number of visitors arrive by vessels.

In other action, the council voted 3-2 (Ackor and Glaser opposed) to postpone approval of a liquor license for Royal Caribbean to serve alcohol to its passengers while in Rockland. Geiger asked why the license request came after last week's agenda-setting meeting of the council.

A Royal Carribean vessel is scheduled to arrive Oct. 20.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said after the meeting that the vote meant that the cruise ship could not serve liquor to passengers while it was in Rockland Harbor. He said the request came in last week after the agenda-setting meeting.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Lynne A Barnard | Oct 12, 2017 21:20

First of all, let me just point out that Stephen Betts has it all wrong again...according to my version of Village Soup.  The City Council met last night which was Wednesday, 11 October...NOT Monday 09 October.  My gut feeling about Knight Marine Service (no real name attached) is that that comment is a plant to discredit Valli Geiger....same for Donna Culbertson's comment.  Valli Geiger is a brave spokesperson for things that matter to this town.  Ron Huber cares about our waters and the damage that these gigantic ships are causing to our fishing and lobstering industries.  Amy Files, Louise MacLellan-Ruf, and a whole cohort of behind the scenes researchers have dedicated their free time as under appreciated "volunteers" to provide a foundation of legal documentation and credible research into what it means for the City of Rockland to blindly sign on to risk liability for how to monitor and control whatever we're being asked to take on.  What kinds of inspections are we required to do, how will we be required to call in law enforcement to break up bar fights?  How will our EMS people be called upon to administer to passengers who have over-indulged.?  How will they even get there?  We need time to consider all of this and none of it is clear right now....there are no apparent answers to these questions.  And one final comment...are we going to have to finance some sort of new Rockland Police Department Marine Patrol?  We need real answers to these questions before we sign off on any applications for which even the basics haven't been addressed -- no "floor plans", no corporate structure papers, an expired State License, etc., etc.?????  Even our own privately owned, bricks and mortar restaurants and bars have to (and have) provided this information for their single land based operations.  We should be applauding Valli Geiger for having the guts to stand up and thanking all the others for dedicating their free time to provide well researched  documentation and asking the questions.

Posted by: Sandra Schramm | Oct 12, 2017 16:04

I am a bit dismayed that Knight Marine would post such comments. It is by far better that Rockland have tourists arriving by car, RV, sail, powerboat etc than a super cruise ship. These travelers are able to stay at our lodging, dine out often, shop and visit more tourist attractions. They leave a lot more of their tourist dollars in our city than those spending money on spa treatments, movies, gambling, dining and drinking on board the ship. A healthy port sees many more travelers by boat who must do laundry, shop for provisions, take in the sights, dine out, buy fuel or boat accessories and parts. Some may need repairs. We are fortunate in Rockland to have such a beautiful harbor and much sought after downtown filled with activities.  The smaller boutiques ships while not noted to be serious shoppers also do not put as much impact on our infrastructure. The Rockland that will continue to prosper will be the Rockland where everyone can work together and make decisions based on progress and not personalities. To survive year round we have the population, what we need is diversity downtown so that shopping can meet a year-round need. We have nice bakeries, cafes, restaurants and gift shops but nothing where a family can get the necessities for day to day living. You can buy more necessities for your pets than your family.  A downtown overcrowded with 2,000 passengers browsing our area is a detriment to the tourist industry.  Rockland risks being boycotted by those who loathe crowded streets and shops.  Malls are rapidly declining. Look at the Old Port in Portland or Portsmouth NH. Their downtowns have seen a revival. Bar Harbor is still a seasonal downtown. So let Rockland gather more information before it is too late to turn back.  I believe Amy Files has gained great experience from serving and working with the Comprehensive Planning Board. They are doing some great work to see that Rockland thrives well into the future.  Something for all of us to consider.


Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Oct 12, 2017 15:26

Many of us older folks enjoy the peacefulness of winter after a summer and fall of tourists. Most of us struggle to get by and life doesn't always revolve around businesses. We need councillors that understand Rockland is more than  Park Street to Rankin St.



Posted by: Donna Culbertson | Oct 12, 2017 12:53

you wonder why business downtown close and people move out of town. you are driving people away. I also agree that Geiger should not be on city council she has done nothing for us except go against everything.. she needs to go.

Posted by: Amy Files | Oct 12, 2017 12:30

re: Knight Marine's comments -- I applaud these councilors ability to stand up to outside corporate business interests and protect our local economy. Your comments are misinformed - yes the cruise ships benefit **some** business - but many passengers are not spending money on the businesses who struggle to stay open year round as they receive food, dining and services on their ships. The influx of passengers keep regular residents away who are the real - year-round - economic drivers of our local economy. And what about our fishermen? They are also struggling business owners whose gear is damaged by these large ships. A fee increase like this, while bringing much needed revenue to Rockland taxpayers is only a drop in the bucket for a large corporate interest like cruise ships. It is unlikely that we will see this have any impact on the industry, save our ability to invest and repair the infrastructure that they require of us to dock here.

Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Oct 12, 2017 09:52

And who is going to be on the ship to ensure they don't serve alcohol?

Posted by: Knight Marine Service | Oct 12, 2017 09:31

What a poor decision by Councilors Ackor and Geiger!  The downtown businesses have benefited termendously from the cruise ship Fall business!!!!  Valli saying she doesn't care about business models only proves she shouldn't be on the council.  Shame shame on you.  Let's continue to drive away revenue from the restaurants and businesses.  It's a LONG cold winter, now it will be even harder for small businesses to get thru.

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