After a grueling series of tedious and lengthy discussions, Blaine City Council voted to give Plover ferry operators the budget they asked for.
In their regular meeting Monday, council members voted 4-3 to give Drayton Harbor Maritime (DHM) the organization that operates the ferry during summer months, their requested $30,000 as opposed to $25,000 as favored by coucil members Scott Dodd, John Liebert and Jason Overstreet.
Blaine business owner Art Lawrenson voiced his support for funding of the Plover during the meeting, adding that he thought the Plover is “one of the better programs” the city has to promote tourism in Blaine. “It looks like the money is there so I don’t know why we want to cut the funding for it,” he said. “It should continue to be funded properly and given what they ask for.”
Prior to that decision, Dodd had introduced an amendment that would grant DHM $25,000 in return for 50 days of operation and return the title back to DHM, making them the organization soley responsible for the boat.
That resolution was voted down 4-3 with Bonnie Onyon, Charlie Hawkins, Paul Greenough and Harry Robinson voting no. Councilors also debated on whether to require DHM to charge a mandatory fee instead of asking for a suggested donation of $2 and allowing children to ride free. They eventually agreed to a $3 suggested donation per person and $5 per family.
DHM founding director Richard Sturgill said the organization has worked hard over the years to keep the cost of the ferry’s operation low in order to ensure the fare would be affordable to all citizens but some city council members such as Liebert, Dodd and Overstreet said they want to see the boat used to generate more revenue and tourists. He added that the true cost of the boat’s operation is not reflected in their budget because much of the expenses are covered through cash or in-kind donations as well as volunteer labor.
Sturgill said, for example, while their original funding request was $30,000, the real estimated budget for 2009 would be approximately $47,000 if it were to reflect fuel costs, moorage fees and wage increases for cost-of-living that DHM had previously decided against in an effort to keep the fares down.
Overstreet, however, called it “a self-imposed” budget deficit. “This doesn’t get us any closer to accomplishing the city’s goals,” he said. “This isn’t a compromise; this is accomplishing nothing.”