Meeting Notes: Ferry Committee Quarterly Meeting 2007.01.07

Annual Public Meeting of January 7, 2007

Committee members present: Glen Veal, Steve Orsini, Carl Cady, Dyvon Havens
35 persons in attendance

Chairman Glen Veal opened the meeting at 2:35 with good news. After dismissal by the County 1.5 years ago, the Guemes Island Ferry Operations and Performance Round Table (RT) will be reconvened, with the first meeting scheduled for January 24. The Ferry Committee met for a second time with Gene Sampley, interim County Public Works Director, on December 19 and he will apprise the County Commissioners of the revival of the RT. Commissioner Resolution states the RT shall meet at least four times per year. RT membership initially will consist of the Public Works Director (during Director Sampley's tenure at least), Steve Cox, Ferry Committee, and others on as as-needed basis, depending on the subjects to be discussed. Also, subcommittees may work on tasks outside the regular RT meetings. The County will supply support staff to take minutes, etc.

Glen noted that we are getting much better response and returned phone calls now from the County. The Ferry Committee hopes to meet with each of the County Commissioners prior to the RT meeting to bring them up to date. A permanent Public Works Director has not yet been hired, but Director Sampley has stated they will be refilling the Assistant Public Works Director position.

Glen reviewed the procedures used over the years to establish fares and how those procedures changed drastically in the past year and a half without input from Guemes residents or the RT.

Carl noted he has data from the County on extended service for the first three months (July through Sept) and is waiting for the data for the second quarter to be posted.

One of the first tasks of the RT will be to develop a Work Plan. A list of six topics was presented to the group as potential discussion items for this year's work with the RT: Schedule, parking, 4th crew person, fares, extended hours, emergency response time. The group was asked for input as to prioritization of the list and for items to be added. Marilee Fosbre suggested Service be added to the list. For example off-site ticketing needs to be available, and seniors should not have to go into Mount Vernon to purchase passes. Other service issues were as follows: Passbook options for seniors and disabled; flop-down seat in the disabled space on the boat for additional seating when an ADA wheelchair passenger is not utilizing the space; name tags for crew; use a Smart Card system like SKAT has.

Allen Bush asked us to remember the Operations and Performance RT is different from the Schedules and Fares Task Force. Susan Briggs noted that while we can have no direct input on personnel issues, many of the issues are personnel related. Roz Glasser observed that before you can start working on other issues, the financial picture needs to be clear.

Nick Nicolls described the issue of delayed emergency response time. A letter from the Fire District's Attorney to the County outlined concerns about slow response time (in one case, one hour) and potential County liability. A letter back from the County's attorney was not satisfactory. In past years, crew members were required to live within ten to twenty minutes of the ferry. Now there is a captain who lives in Bellingham and another in LaConner. Crew are not required to wear pagers, and there is no formal on-call system in place. Jim Dugan said there are two problems: 1) Cost; and 2) Issues related to EMS Levy.

Some of the issues must be addressed in union negotiations. Glen will get a list of items that need to be presented to the negotiators in to the County tomorrow. Examples: someone needs to be designated as responsible for the boat in storm conditions; crew need to be on-call for emergency response; off-site ticketing needs to be made available. Connie Snell asks if the new workers who were hired for extended service were informed their positions are temporary. Howard Pellet pointed out that some of the requirements regarding the crew are Coast Guard generated, rather than union.

David Wertheimer summarized recent Friends of Guemes Island activity. They met with new Commissioner Sharon Dillon and also with Commissioner Dahlstedt. Commissioner Dillon would like until late January to review the data on ferry issues. Commissioner Dahlstedt wants to see the financial data related to extended ferry hours. FGI's attorney will contact the new Deputy County Prosecutor to discuss the status of the legal case.

Other comments: Throughput of the ferry is key (Allen B). Whatcom County had plans for a larger ferry and abandoned them (Glen V). What role do the County Auditor and Treasurer play in containing costs? (Allen B). In a cash-handling committee of three at the County, Don Munks and the Auditor voted to not change the cash-handling procedures (Steve O). There is a risk problem in the parking lot on this side following the storm. Dangerous. Also the handicap area needs, by law, to be blacktopped (Jim D). There are no senior discounts on motorcycles and oversized vehicles (Allen B). To obtain federal funding, County is required only to have a 50% discount for senior and disabled passengers, not vehicles.

After much discussion about how to prioritize the seven items listed to be addressed by the RT, Larry Verbano moved that the decision be left to the Ferry Committee to do the best they can. Allen B seconded the motion, and it was passed unanimously.

Chairman Veal announced nominations were open for two Ferry Committee positions: 1) Carl Cady's 5 year position; and 2) a 3-year remaining term vacated by Vic Garcia and filled in the interim by Dixon Elder. At the quarterly meeting December 10, Carl Cady was nominated for position #1, and Marilee Fosbre was nominated for position #2. No other nominations were presented, and Anne Jackets moved the nominations be closed, with a second by Gail Nicolls. Passed unanimously.

Discussion held on whether or not to mail out ballots. Carl reviewed the Ferry Committee Charter, which states if there is only one candidate for a position, no ballot is necessary. Dyvon and Steve pointed out that even though not necessary, a formal ballot election would be documentation of general island support of ferry committee membership. It was decided, in view of the $400 cost of mailing out ballots and the fact that the charter may need to be changed to do otherwise, there will be no ballot sent out.

Meeting adjourned at 4:30.

Dyvon Havens

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