If you're among the legions of Harford boaters that haven't receivedyour U.S. Coast Guard 1991 boating sticker yet, you are not alone.
Three weeks ago, I mailed a check for the newly required sticker tothe Coast Guard office in Atlanta. The Sept. 1st deadline came and went and still I hadn't received the sticker.
Almost every boater I've talked with recently said they had ordered the sticker weeks ago, but have yet to receive it. According to the enforcement schedule outlined in the USCG information packet, citations will be issued if the sticker is not displayed on your boat.
At the current rate decals are being issued, nearly every recreational boater in the nation will be in violation of the new law. There are8,285 registered boats in Harford County, so you can see there are plenty of people at risk right here at home.
A spokesman in the USCG Media Information Office in Washington told me that if you're issued a citation prior to Oct. 1, you'll have to appear in front of a hearing officer in one of the district offices.
The hearing officer could levy a fine of up to $5,000 for non-compliance. As of this writing, the Coast Guard station at Still Pond in Kent County, which patrols the upper Chesapeake Bay, has not cited anyone for violations.
Cmdr. Bob Marcotte in the USCG Office of Navigation said, "Coast Guard boarding officers will be given guidance of what procedures to follow and what to accept as a statement from the operator of the boat."
Marcotte said if the person states they have ordered their decals and haven't received it yet, the information can be verified, but it will likely take several days to confirm.
The fee -- properly known as the U.S. Recreational Vessel Fee -- is expected to generate $718million nationally in revenue over the next five years.
Harford boat dealers are not overjoyed with another tax on recreational boats.Most dealers strongly oppose the newly created "user fee" claiming it's another thorn in the side of a depressed boating market.
"Whatreally upsets me is all the money generated by the user fee goes into the general fund," said Phil Osborne, owner of Osborne Boat Sales in Havre de Grace.
"As recreational boaters, we receive absolutely no benefit from the tax. No one from any legislative body or government agency bothered to contact us at all. How do I go about informing the public of the law and how do my customers go about acquiring the stickers? I have absolutely nothing in writing, I haven't been contacted by anyone and haven't been provided with any type of literature,"said Osborne.
The sticker expires Dec. 31 and then boaters must get a new one for 1992.
The fees for the sticker varies from $25 to$100, depending on the size of the boat.
Marcotte said 1992 stickers will be available sometime after Nov. 1, 1991.
One piece of good news; The Senate Commerce Committee has recommended repealing the user fee. The action must be approved by the full Senate, House and finally, President Bush. A spokesman for the National Marine Manufacturers Association said they hope the bill will be repealed sometime early next year.
Until then, Harford boaters will have to bite the bullet.