Comment On Skagit County's Proposal For A New Guemes Ferry

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Al Millikan starts us off:
For the  record my wife and I have been full time residents of Guemes Island for over 25 years
The proposed ferry taxing district is oppressive, disproportional and very unfair for the following reasons.

  • It will dramatically increase the cost of ridership. Calculated at $0.75 per $ 1000 assessed evaluation my cost will increase about $375/year in addition to any surcharge to be imposed. My wife and I, like many Guemes Island residents are retired and live on a fixed income.  Our assessed evaluation and thus property taxes have nearly doubled in recent years.  Another tax on property will place another strain on our limited income.  The proposed tax alone would increase our ferry cost by about 50%. An additional ticket surcharge could increase that toward DOUBLE our  current cost.
  • The ferry tax is based on property value not on ferry use.  There is no attempt to tie the tax to use.  Further, it does not address the rental population who do not pay  property taxes  The tax may require rent increases to cover the additional tax.  IF  a new ferry is put into service fees should be based on use, not on new taxes on a limited captive population.
  • Without a change in the existing law it could result in “ taxation without representation”.  Remember the impetus for our national Revolutionary War!!!
  • The whole concept of a new ELECTRIC FERRY is controversial.  Many residents question the wisdom of the concept and many would prefer existing and proven propulsion.  Many residents would rather spend less and would rather refurbish the existing ferry.
  • Any taxing district should include a much larger ridership population to include at least Skagit County and perhaps the entire state. Of course I prefer NO TAXING DISTRICT.

 Respectfully, Al Millikan



Tags: ferry
Martin Taylor: 3:40pm - 2/3/18
Thanks to Al Millikan for opening this format for input. There is much to be said but I would limit my comments to supporting what Al said and adding two additional items. I am part of a third generation Island family and live full time on Guemes. 1) As part of Skagit County, Guemes Island currently contributes significantly to county coffers. I don't have the numbers, but with the amount of waterfront and view property on Guemes, the collectives tax contribution is very large. Our taxes help pay for services throughout the county. (e.g. bridge, roads, etc all over the valley). Forcing Guemes' property owners to bear the burden of ferry costs apart from other county residents is a departure from the way county infrastructure is financed and is grossly unfair. 2) Forcing Guemes Island property owners to bear a larger tax burden for the proposed ferry forces us to underwrite all non-property owning users. Tourists, bicyclists, kayakers who base out of the park, people who use the resort or come for an evening of music at the store--all good things--but these would have their cross channel transportation costs partially defrayed by those of us who own property on Guemes. Again, not a fair approach.
Tom Fouts: 10:26am - 2/24/18
MY PERSPECTIVE Mark Spahr’s letter to LineTime inspired me to write this letter. I joined the Guemes Island Ferry Committee about the time a ferry taxing district was being discussed regarding how it could be implemented to support a bid for the County Ferry Capital Improvement Program (CFCIP) funds. There are significant ambiguities regarding qualifications for CFCIP funding. At that time the primary requirement for the $10 million grant required a ferry taxing district. The district could include the whole county or the portion of the county most served by the Guemes ferry. The kicker for me was that Skagit County commissioners could decide whether the taxing district included the whole county or just Guemes Island, and in any case, the commissioners would be the administrators of the ferry taxing district. I thought and still believe that if Guemes is singled out for a taxing district, we must be the administrators of the funds. Since joining the Ferry Committee, it became apparent to me that personal dynamics with ferry manager Rachel Rowe were in the toilet and needed to be changed. I also believe that Rachel is stuck in a job that no one person can fill successfully. During my brief tenure, and with some help, the Ferry Committee developed a synergistic approach to our meetings with Public Works and Rachel. One of the results of this change in attitude was my appointment as a representative from the Ferry Committee to the selection committee that evaluated and chose the naval architecture firm that is contracted to design the new Guemes Island ferry. Glosten of Seattle was my choice for the job, and the selection committee agreed. All seemed to be going well. I took a two-month vacation to the Orient. Juby and I have been particularly fascinated with the growth and sophistication of Asia over the last 15 years, including their commitment to environmental conservation. The improvement in infrastructure and quality of life there is truly awesome. I see in the fabric of their social model elements of our struggle and vision following the 1929 depression. Their “We can, we will, our children’s lives will be better” determination, and their “See what we are creating” attitude exudes confidence and wellbeing. Our leaving Guemes was also a test for me to see what lasting effect had been established in the Ferry Committee dialog with Public Works. Multiple eyewitness reports of two of the regularly scheduled meetings with Public Works that I missed were disturbing. Rachel and Public Works were personally insulted by a member of the Ferry Committee while the others remained silent, destroying the synergistic good will that had been built. So much for expecting a permanent change. My resignation from the Ferry Committee is based on the inability to institute the change I believe is imperative. It is also driven by a personal attack by some islanders regarding my participation as a Ferry Committee representative in the selection of Glosten as the naval architect for the new Guemes ferry. I cannot work within a group that does not support working for better than what we have now. I find the desire by some islanders to confound the process of building a new ferry to be a dreadful race for the bottom—a desire to be less than, rather than more, for the future. Their words of “We can get by,” “We can’t run two ferries per hour,” “It costs too much,” and “We don’t need the flexibility of recommended operations” so early on in the ferry design process show me the fear that some in this community have of standing up and taking responsibility for the future. Where is Guemes Islanders’ pride in moving forward, tackling problems, and solving them? It was here 12 years ago when the community provided resources to build a solar backup power system for the fire department. I participated in installing the system—the only volunteer station in the US that is so equipped. Only a fool would operate a scheduled marine passenger/car ferry without considerable contingency resources. One never knows when Murphy’s Law will strike. Mark Spahr’s suggested two-tier fare structure may not be required if operation and maintenance costs are reduced by close to 80 percent, as is now documented in almost three years of service with the Norwegian all-electric ferry, the Ampere. I shall continue my efforts to help this island move forward, with the next generations in mind, to build the 32-car electric ferry—the first in the nation. Tom Fouts, former Ferry Committee member
Sally Stapp: 11:52am - 2/24/18
I'm looking forward to the next Public Guemes Island Ferry Replacement meeting at the Anacortes Library at 2pm on Friday, March 2. Hopefully this will not be another chance for the capable Glosten Team to read to us from their PowerPoint slides. Rather I hope the we have a LISTENING MEETING (like mr. Trump). Islanders have questions and good ideas but never enough time to express them publicly. And it would help to have someone available to actually answer the questions. At a previous meeting someone asked a question about staffing an extra crew person if the ticketing boondoggle is solved?" The Public Works representatives couldn't answer the question. Seems there are too many unanswered questions in our race to be the first "Electric Vehicle Vessel" in the US. Sandy McKean asked at an early very ferry replacement meeting, "Will we be at the leading edge or the bleeding edge of this new technology?"
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