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Harbor annexation discussion continues

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

It's been awhile since a possible annexation of the harbor district has been discussed in earnest, but there is still support in some quarters for the concept.

"The idea has percolated before and I would be open to it, but there are sets of circumstances where it could be either a good or a bad idea," said Harbormaster Rich Young. "I don't know enough about how it would happen."

The devil is always in the details, he added.

Young acknowledged that "casual conversations" have happened regarding an annexation.

"There are no discussions now, but it's on the radar screen," he said.

The last time discussion went beyond the casual point coincided with the harbor's then lack of a master plan. The harbor district has since created such a plan.

More enthusiastic to the idea is Mario Deiro, who has been harbor district board president for the past two years.

"When I ran four years ago, that was part of my platform," Deiro said. "I always thought that it would have been good because of the services and block grants we could get from the city."

Deiro spent much of his first term on the board crafting the district's master plan, but now admits that the district doesn't have the money to develop on its own. It has lost about $250,000 during the past two years in the share of property tax money it receives from the state.

During the spring a request for restaurant proposals drew no responses.

He envisions the district morphing into a harbor department following a city annexation.

"We are surrounded by the city, (and) the sheriff's boat building is in the city," Deiro said. "I would pursue it now, but there are so many other issues, and it is time consuming. It is only a matter of time, (but) we need to all be on the same page."

The big question mark that remains for Deiro, however, is that "we are not totally sure what would happen with the commission."

"That's one answer I haven't gotten," he said.

Although Crescent City Councilman Mike Scavuzzo is quick to note that the city does not force areas to annex, he would like to see the district eventually become a redevelopment zone.

"It could have been done a few years ago, but the commissioners never thought it was a good idea," he said. "They could use our services, but they wouldn't get any money from us (if the area were annexed)."

The fishermen who run the district now might not appreciate working under "city rules," Scavuzzo said.

"If they annex in, they will deal with city rules," he said.

The presumed hesitancy and Scavuzzo's theory that some members of the prior harbor commission had "ideas it would take away their power" may be what's held back the change so far.

"The district is kind of unique; it is run by the fishermen, but we need to look further now," Deiro said.

Noting that he would rather reflect the City Council's position than voice his own, City manager Eli Naffah said a detailed study would be the best approach.

City Planning Commissioner Kathryn Murray cautioned that the city must be assured such a change would be fiscally sound.

"I would love to see the harbor developed," Murray said. "It would enhance the beauty of the harbor and the community, I don't know if full annexation is the way to do that."

 


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