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- 2012 - September - 5th -
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Pending approval, the St. Johns River Ferry is scheduled to transfer operations and management from the Jacksonville Port Authority to the City on Oct. 1.
File photo by Joe Wilhelm, Jr.
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Ferry commission ‘moving forward’ with transfer details

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

With less than a month until the St. Johns River Ferry switches operators from the Jacksonville Port Authority to the City, members of the commission created to oversee its operations continue to work through the details of the deal.

“We are moving forward,” City Council member John Crescimbeni told members of the St. Johns River Ferry Commission on Tuesday at the start of its meeting.

Crescimbeni chairs the commission.

Before the group met, the Council Rules and Transportation, Energy and Utilities committees passed legislation that will approve the transfer of the ferry and its operations from the port to the City on Oct. 1, the start of fiscal 2012-13. The legislation is scheduled to be discussed today during the Council Finance Committee meeting, its final stop before a potential full Council vote Sept. 11.

During the commission meeting, member Aaron Bowman briefed others on a “great meeting” he had with port officials considering individual transfer components he said needed to be in place.

Actions such as assigning a City staffer to assume communications responsibilities, organizing security, establishing maintenance of the grounds for parcels that will transferred and organizing information technology aspects such as phone systems and websites were among the items he discussed.

Establishing a full-time manager position for day-to-day operations, including “back of the house” duties, was also considered a necessity. The commission, with the assistance of Victoria Robas, Blount Island and Dames Point Terminal director for the port, will create a job description that can “hit the street” to soon publish and generate interest.

Crescimbeni said he would follow up on several of the items.

Kyle Billy of the Council Auditor’s Office also briefed commission members on the ferry’s estimated costs for the coming fiscal year. The net contract discussed was a little more than $1.4 million, which did not include inspections or fuel, which the City can provide.

The inspection of the vessel also was discussed in terms of timing and risk management for insurance.

A Coast Guard inspection for seaworthiness of the vessel will be done by Hornblower Marine Services before the transfer date, which could suffice until a survey to determine insurance coverage can be established, said Twane Duckworth, City risk manager.

Duckworth said he preferred such a survey to be completed before the transfer, instead of after, to determine the amount of coverage needed. The commission does not have funding until the new fiscal year.

One option members discussed could be asking Hornblower to pay for such a survey and then reimbursing it after Oct. 1, or potentially providing the survey as part of a concession in helping the transfer and service.

A suggestion of not selling any of the remaining coupon books from the port before fare increases Oct. 1 also was discussed, with the idea that more effort should be made in marketing the service and new books.

“We’re making progress,” Crescimbeni said at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting.

The next commission meeting will be 4 p.m. Sept. 10 at City Hall.

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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