Glitch causes boat-fee mix-up

All boat owners in Colorado pay a small fee each year to register their boats, motorized and otherwise, with the state. Part of the fee includes a 25-cent search-and-rescue fee, which one boat owners has called “cheap insurance.”



When Grand Junction river enthusiast Dick Lewis received his annual boat registration notice last fall from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the retired attorney glanced at the letter, sighed, and wrote the check.

“The notice I got said, ‘$45.25,’ and I thought, ‘It’s gone up again,’ because it was $35.25 last year,” Lewis said of the fee he pays for his 18-foot raft and its 8-horsepower motor. “I figured, ‘That’s OK, just get it paid,’ so I wrote a check and mailed it in.”

It wasn’t until a week or so later, when he received yet another notice from Parks and Wildlife, this one saying the fee had not gone up and that Lewis would have a $10 refund coming, that he really looked at the first notice.

“I’m the kind of guy, and I bet there are a lot like me, who just looks at the amount and pays it, wanting to get it over with,” Lewis said with a laugh. “So, I called the parks people and asked them what I should do.”

It happens Lewis wasn’t alone in the confusion over this year’s boating fees.

According to Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras, approximately 30,000 of the estimated 85,000 boat-renewal registrations mailed last fall were incorrect.

“The vast majority of these resulted in lower payments, but approximately 500 were printed with a $10 overcharge,” Porras said.

Lewis said he waited for the refund he was told would be forthcoming, but around the middle of February, when nothing had arrived, he sent a copy of the first check, along with a letter asking for some direction, to the Parks office.

A few days later, he received a message, asking him to call.

“So, I called a lady at the parks office, and she said a lot of people had just sent their money in, like I had,” Lewis said. “I thought she said 17,000, or maybe it was 1,700, but I remember it was an ungodly number. “

Parks and Wildlife says a computer glitch caused the mix-up, which Porras said happened during the printing process and was caught within two days.

As of last week Lewis still was waiting for his refund check, but he said he understands the delay.

“I haven’t got my refund yet, but if she said 17,000, that’s a lot of checks to cut,” Lewis said. “But I have no complaints. I think they do a really good job with the money they get. Look at all the great parks we have.”

Porras said no one at Parks and Wildlife could remember a similar mix-up.

“The person in registrations that I spoke with said it was the first time she had experienced something like this in her 25 years with the agency,” Porras said.

“My point,” Lewis said, “is there must be a whole lot of people who just say, ‘Let’s get it done,’ and send in their money without paying attention. I think there’s a lesson there.”

Information about the state boating rules and regulations is available on the new Parks and Wildlife website, cpw.state.co.us. The former website of wildlife.state.co.us no longer is functioning.


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