Letter to Commissioners: Plan 'B'

Date:  April 28, 2018

To:  The Skagit County Board of Commissioners

Re:  Guemes Island Ferry Replacement Project

The Guemes Island Ferry Committee would like to congratulate the Skagit County Board of County Commissioners and the Public Works Department on securing CRAB approval for $7.5 million in funding for vessel replacement for the Guemes Island run.   We know that there is some way to go to fund the remainder of the project and wish the County well in securing funding for the remainder of the project cost.  We also appreciate that the County has provided preliminary pricing on a smaller 28 car vessel to reduce project cost while continuing to meet capacity needs far into the future.  

At this time the Ferry Committee would like to offer our thoughts on two aspects of the Ferry Replacement Project as it stands today. 

We sincerely appreciate the County’s effort to find sufficient outside funding, and we share the disappointment that such funding has not materialized so far.  This being the case, we believe it to be a prudent course of action to begin actively preparing for the possibility that this state of affairs will continue and that alternatives to the present project should be investigated. 

First, the members of the Committee propose that the prudent alternative is to investigate, a “Plan B” if you will, for the continued use of the existing vessel.  We believe the first step in this investigation is to have a survey of the Guemes performed by a competent marine engineering firm during the Guemes’ next routinely scheduled haulout.  The  goal would be to  establish the condition of the current vessel, the cost and feasibility of repowering, and to form the basis from which maintenance plans for various options could be developed that would address the cost over time for each option, and could be used to compare one option to another as well as each to total vessel replacement. 

Second, the Ferry Committee believes that the surcharge for vessel replacement proposed  by  the Board of County Commissioners  is excessive.  The amount of the surcharge, as reflected in the County’s March 14 PFM Financial Plan, is calculated to raise about $245,000 a year to pay for   a new vessel.  This comes across to ridership as a twenty to thirty three percent increase in cost.  This precipitous increase should not be adopted as a means to finance this vessel replacement.  The Ferry Committee remains concerned that the Board intends to raise the capital for the ferry replacement differently than other County transportation infrastructure.  

Thank you for the opportunity to present these comments.  If there is anything we can do to assist in the search for appropriate funding please let us know.