Meeting Notes: Ferry Committee Quarterly Meeting 2009.12.13




December 13, 2009




Ron Wesen, District 1 Commissioner, Skagit County

Ron Panzero, Manager, Skagit County Ferry

Glen Veal, Chair, Guemes Island Ferry Committee (GIFC)

Carl Cady, GIFC

Allen Bush,  GIFC

Dyvon Havens, GIFC

Terry Ebersole, GIFC

Steve Orsini, GIFC


An additional 31 members of the public attended.


The meeting started at 2:40 pm.


I.  Overview:


Glen Veal summarized that the last quarterly meeting held April 5, 2009, seated the two tied candidates, Veal and Bush, and the new Committee decided to keep Veal in the Chair position. He said that the 6 member committee was working very well. 


He then went on to summarize that the Committee had attempted a new working relationship with Dave Sheridan former Interim Public Works Director.  Sheridan had said in the initial meeting with the committee that he would be in his new role for quite a period of time, but on his second meeting with the GIFC he announced his retirement effective July 31, 2009.  Sheridan was replaced by Tom Ballard, who now acts as Interim Public Works Director until a permanent replacement can  be found for the position.  The working relationship with Ballard has been good with progress made on a number of issues.


II.  Fare Recovery Model:


Carl Cady reviewed the current fare recovery for 2010 and the projections are that the recovery will be about $179,000 short (see 2008-2009 Fare Revenue Target Report at  These numbers have been presented to the Board of County Commissions, and they have decided not to raise fares for 2010.  Reduction in crew staffing from 4 to 3, plus certain other actions, may save enough in costs that the revenue for next year will be in line with the target.


Ron Panzero stated that the three-crew operation is permanent and that this is how they will be doing it year round.


Panzero reported that he has been working with a company called Bentec that produces a machine that can sell the Ferry’s current ticket stock in a credit card or cash transaction that they hope to have operational in a couple of months.  He looked into the Pierce County system but each sale has to be completed by exiting the car. This slowed loading and sometimes the machine broke down further slowing ticket sales and vessel loading.  If the Bentec machine is successful, a unit may be installed at Anderson’s Store and also in a location like Safeway in Anacortes, as well as in the ferry terminal.  The initial cost for a machine is about $20,000.


II.            Work Plan

Carl Cady presented the current work plan with the note that although GIFC had presented the work plan concept and several work plans in the past, it was only now under Tom Ballard’s leadership that the work plan concept had been adopted and presented to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).  The full Work Plan is on the Ferry Committee’s web site (


III.           Round Table Status:


The BOCC has requested that the make up of the Round Table and its operational parameters be changed.  The current Round Table resolution is to be replaced by a new resolution pending the outcome of further discussions with Tom Ballard,  Ron Panzero, and GIFC on 29 December 2009.   Ideas that have been floated postulate a Round Table seating up to 15 to 20  groups and meeting twice a year.  The Ferry Committee favors a model with less participants and more working meetings of sub-committees.  This Round Table model would involve the 6 ferry committee members, Director of Pubic Works,  Ferry Manager, City of Anacortes representative and an appointee by the BOCC.  Ron Wesen stated that 35% of fares are paid for by all County taxpayers, and thus they need to be represented. The new Round Table will be further defined following the 29 December meeting with the County.


IV.          Charter:


The GIFC has made a draft of the charter changes for the annual meeting.  This draft will be edited a bit more but the major points were presented and this document will be posted on the GIFC web site.  Terry Ebersole has decided not to run for election for another term on the Committee.  Suggested changes include:


a.    The committee will be comprised of 6 representatives.  One seat will be designated for an off-island property owner.

b.    Voting may still be by island registered voter.

c.    Terms will be reduced to three years from five with a lot system used to determine the length of term for the current members.

d.    If there is a tied election in the future, it will be solved by lot such as a coin toss.


Other changes may be made in the Charter following the upcoming meeting with the County on 29 December regarding the new structure of the Round Table.  This may mandate a charter more easily changed with a two-thirds vote of the island residents at the annual meeting and the ability to change the Charter quarterly instead of just once a year.


V.            2010 Infrastructure Projects:


Panzero reported that the County Ferry is generating an on-line newsletter that will detail the numerous infrastructure projects to be completed in 2010, which are summarized as:


1.    New Wing Walls on both the Anacortes and Guemes sides.  These current wooden timbers will be replaced with UHMW (plastic) coated steel.  This work is slated to begin January 2, 2010 and will take about four weeks.  Little disruption of the current schedule, using the Guemes itself, is expected; but there will be a few interrupted runs to accommodate construction.  These interruptions will be posted in advance and are expected to be only of a run or two not an entire day or afternoon.  The broken turnbuckles on the pilings will be replaced with chain.


2.     The new terminal project goes to bid this month with bids due 21 December 2009.  Ron expects good bids based on some 14 bidders that turned out for the site walk.  Work is slated to begin February 1, 2010 and run through August, 2010.  There will be no parking on the dock during this time, and the existing lanes of staging and unloading will be shifted one lane to the east.  For the most part, the Terminal work is expected to allow the normal schedule.  Once the new terminal is complete the old terminal, which will be utilized as now during construction of the new terminal, will be torn down.  In response to a question from the audience, Ron stated he will ask the city of Anacortes about using the Kiwanis lot for parking during terminal construction.


3.    Bridge and Bridge Deck Repair:  Of greater impact to the Ferry operation will be the Bridge and Deck Repair which will be staged on September with the work slated to be done in about a 30 day period in October.  During this time the pre-stressed concrete bridge decks on both sides will be removed and replaced with steel girders.  Modifications to the concrete pylon on the Guemes Side will also be completed.  Of note is that the Guemes will not be able to run and that passengers will have to be taken on Arrow-type foot passenger vessels to Cap Sante.  Ron explored several alternatives, but Cap Sante was the best option. Due to the length of the run, about 40 minutes, two foot-passenger boats may be used.  Parking will be provided at the North Parking area of Cap Sante and adjacent to B Dock in Cap Sante where the foot passenger boats will land and depart.  Ron indicated that Cap Sante docks will comply with ADA for those passengers with disabilities. Vessel loading/unloading provisions for passengers with disabilities was not addressed and needs to be addressed and assured. Two work boat trips are planned during the month to facilitate propane delivery and garbage pick-up.  (A question was asked about the County’s plan to assist worker vans to get on and off the island at this time, but there is no concrete plan for that service at present.)  A plan is underway to accommodate transport of emergency vehicles.


Further, there is a plan to build a permanent bus-type passenger shelter on the west side of the Guemes Ferry dock so that passengers have cover either while waiting for a pick-up or to get onto the ferry.  It will be immediately adjacent to the end of the dock on the water side of the street.  This will be permanent and the existing Guemes side waiting hut on the east side will remain.


The Ferry will be hauled out during the October repair project to minimize further schedule disruption.  There is a long term capital plan place holder for the vessel of about $4.0 million which is projected in 2015 which is the end-of-the-life term for the vessel as it has been in service since about 1979, some thirty years.  But Panzero will order a 200 point ultrasound test of the hull plate during the haul out and expects (hopes) that the hull will prove sound.  The $4.0 million might then be used to place the engines inside the hull with new electronic outdrives.  This will provide more deck space so lengthening the boat, which was in its original design, is not currently planned. 


There is $870,000 in the capital long-term budget for replacement of all wing wall creosote timbers on the Anacortes side breakwater which has to be complete by 2018 to comply with State law, with another $450,000 to replace all existing creosote piling in the same time frame.


Ron Wesen commented that the cost of slated infrastructure projects currently planned outstrips the County Road Fund budget by some $20 million, and capital grants will have to be found to complete this planned work.


4.   The County acquired a 6-foot easement from Jack Hill (property owner adjacent to          the K St. parking lot) for a path from the railroad grade parking lot to the K St. parking lot. The current path will be moved a few feet to the south. This is a two-week project that should be completed by May 1, 2010.



VI.          6th Street Parking:


The latest 6th Street Plans, which are those submitted for securing the $700,000 Federal funding, were obtained by Steve Orsini from the City Engineer on 11 December 2009.  These plans still show a severe narrowing of 6th street with narrow lanes for the ferry line and the east and west bound traffic that the street must accommodate.  Allen Bush measured a current 55 feet between the outer edges of the north and south side sidewalks.  The planned bump outs on the ends of each of the 6th street block will cut this dimension roughly in half.  In addition, a sidewalk is shown down the hill on the east side of I in front of the cabin which will close off that lane access to the railroad parking lot and prevent future access by a SKAT bus.  When questioned closely about the lack of coordination between the City and the County in the reworking of 6th Street by Howard Pellet,  Ron Wesen stated that the County has no legal influence over the City as the funding for the project and the 6th street geography are both solely within the City’s jurisdiction. 


The current plan and narrowing of 6th street will only push the ferry staging further into the adjacent neighborhoods.  The access to the dock and railroad parking is being severely restricted, The Tommy Tompson Trail extension will run along a widened (to 10 feet) sidewalk on the south side of 6th to the Kiwanis Park, which becomes the connection to the Guemes Channel Trail. This is all in addition to accommodating the 200,000 ferry cars passing through this intersection each year.  Also during the summer is the kayak use of the Kiwanis Park, which becomes the connection to the Guemes Channel Trail.  Sixth Street has been the current width to accommodate ferry staging from the early 1940s.  As there appears little hope for County/City cooperation, ferry users were urged to write letters to the Mayor and other City of Anacortes officials requesting that 6th St. be kept at its current width to avoid safety problems and that the lane be kept on the east side of I to facilitate SKAT and other access to the dock as well as to the railroad parking. 


The 6th St. project is slated to begin in March or April and will take about 45 days to complete.


GIFC will continue to work on this problem with another meeting with City of Anacortes Council Members. 


Question and Answer Period


School Children Access:  A question was poised by an audience member about the availability of 10 late night school runs at 10:00 pm but the current schedule with an 8:30 pm run appears to meet the needs of the majority of after school activities.


Parking Lot Safety:

Ron Panzero said the calls for  bids for the surveillance cameras went out again and bids are due in next week.


The meeting was adjourned at about 4:40 pm.



Note taker: Steve Orsini





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