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- 2012 - September - 14th -

Ferry commission looks for savings

by Joe Wilhelm Jr., Staff Writer

The transfer of the St. Johns River Ferry and its operations from the Jacksonville Port Authority to the City was approved by City Council on Tuesday –– and the new operator, the City’s St. Johns River Ferry Commission, is attempting to find savings in its operations contract.

“Mr. (Greg) Dronkert (president of HMS Ferries Division) expressed willingness to work with the commission to preserve the ferry. A lot of us read into that thinking they might be willing to make some financial concessions or give us some ideas on how to lower the cost of the contract,” said John Crescimbeni, Council member and commission chair.

Crescimbeni asked commission members Aaron Bowman, Elaine Brown and Richard Redick to review the contract for potential savings.

HMS is in the final year of a five-year contract and its operating expense for fiscal 2013 is $1,751,565. This total was reached after the City reduced the cost by $73,496 during the Council budget review.

“(HMS) would have to agree to any changes. The ball is totally in their court,” said Crescimbeni.

Brown and Redick attended the Thursday meeting of the Contract Negotiation Subcommittee. Bowman was excused because of travel.

Redick had discussed the contract with Dronkert before the meeting and relayed some of the issues at the recent meeting.

One issue was the increase in salaries for most employees of HMS for fiscal 2013. Funding for captains increased $8,280 to $169,340. Funds for engineers were increased $11,814 to $130,882. Deckhands received a $10,223 bump, up to $228,140. Administrative salaried positions were raised $4,875 to $195,524. Toll collector was the only position to see a decrease of $1,604 to a total of $56,012.

“I had a conversation on that particular topic. He’s got a general number in there. The crew has not had a raise in two years under the current contract,” said Redick.

Additionally, Redick said there was a concern over no included cost of living adjustments.

Brown had a different view of those budget line items.

“I’m going to be kind of hard-nosed about this and say, ‘help us work this year.’ Let’s not be talking about raises,” she said.

Other issues discussed were grounds maintenance, which a budget amendment had listed at $18,000 for the year, and telephone service, which is listed at $9,817.

Kyle Billy, of the Council Auditor’s Office, informed the subcommittee that the City had received $5,000 from the City of Jacksonville Beach to support the ferry.

The subcommittee will meet 4 p.m. Monday prior to the regular meeting of the commission at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

jwilhelm@baileypub.com

@photojoe71

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