Ferry Tales: Pushing Rope

Ten Guemes Islanders signed up to publicly comment on the proposed Vessel Replacement Surcharge hearing on April 17 @ 9:00AM.  Their comments were varied and valid and most agreed that the surcharge, whether it be Real Estate Excise Tax, Guemes Island only Ferry Taxing District, or fare increase, would impact all on the Island and compromise our existing demographic.

The Guemes Ferry could feasibly price many off the Island and change the lifestyle of others. The amount of the surcharge is not equal across the board in the nine prici ng  categories.  Some categories increased 30%. The increase applies to all of us in one way or another.  Whether you walk on, have an oversized vehicle, drive a passenger car, have repairs or construction projects or are a senior or a student, you will be affected.  Bicycles are the only category that will not be impacted.

Of the ten Guemes Islanders that had their 3 minutes at the podium, some argued that a surcharge should be limited only to vehicles.  If that were the case parking would be at a premium on both sides, and for most residents two vehicles would be necessary.

Allen Bush, a long time Islander and Ferry Committee member commented “Unless I am mistaken, there is a replacement fund for the ferry: It’s called the county road fund. Ever since Skagit County got into the ferry business in 1962, islanders have contributed in good faith to the road fund to help pay for capital improvements across the county. Now, after 56 years of waiting our turn, we no longer qualify. Instead you are suggesting a 30% ticket surcharge that may potentially collect $10,000,000 over the next 40 years.

The Commissioners responded:
Commissioner Dahlstedt said a county-wide taxing district is unrealistic since 98-99% of Skagitonians do not use the ferry or even aware of its existence.

I am not sure if I agree with that number since Guemes Islanders alone comprise 2% of the county population. There must be many bridges in Skagit County that most residents never cross.

Commissioner Janicki commented that she was in “shock” upon hearing about the $26,000,000 price tag estimate by Glosten for the electric ferry saying  she  would “no way sign  on”  unless there was “known and certain funding sources”. 
Way to go!!

Commisioner Wesen questioned the need for 30% increase in fares. Me too!

There are more than ten Islanders wanting to comment.  Let your voice be heard.  This affects our lifestyle, pocketbooks and future.  The deadline for comments is Friday April 27. The County prefers email but accepts written comments on 8 ½”x11” paper.

- Commentary by MJ Andrak

Commissioner Janick said, "I actually like the first suggestion - just pump up the cars. Over 2/3 of the revenue is coming from cars and drivers, you know, do more of a bump on the cars and drivers and less on the passengers, people who are really trying to conserve. That makes a lot of sense. The ferry is as big as it is due to the vehicles that have to travel...As my logger husband would say, “You can’t push a rope,” and a $26 million ferry feels a bit like pushing a rope right now."