UPDATED afternoon 4 PM, 10/26 by Wynne Lee to include some additional detail that Bill passed on.
UPDATE 2: The Bellingham Herald published an article today (Oct. 27) by John Stark, with their take on the meeting yesterday.
UPDATE 3: Latte Republic published a video of the meeting. You can find the link here.
Noon 10/26/2010: Bill Lee called in a few highlights about today’s (2 hr!) Council committee discussion of ferry fares. (Blame me for anything that I got wrong in this second-hand summary.)
Anyone else who attended: please, please PLEASE add your observations, comments and corrections via the comment box below. This will improve our understanding of what happened. Wynne
Councilors present at the Committee of the Whole meeting: Brenner, Crawford, Nelson, Kershner, Mann, Weimer; Kntuzen absent
Islanders present (no public discussion; just listened) Bill Lee, Rhayma Blake, Bud Jewell, Elizabeth Kilanowski, Robb Rich, Michelle Luke, Jim Dickinson, Mike McKenzie, Mark Sexton, Fred Kinney (maybe others too?)
Action taken: Council directed Frank Abart to develop Option 11 (proposed by Weimer, who didn’t necessarily think it was best but wanted to move the process along), with two addenda –
1) Continue discussion of needs based fares, and
2) consider fairness of shifting dock maintenance from the capital to operational expense category.
Sam Crawford also asked Frank Abart to consider the possibility and consequences of changing from an 18 hr to 12 hr ferry operations schedule. Frank asked if this was to be brought back to the whole council. Crawford said the two of them could just discuss it privately.
- From their Oct. 12 discussion: The Council uniformly rejected the suggestion of adding a surcharge now, to start reducing the ferry deficit as soon as possible and later developing comprehensive fare changes once all financial and other issues are resolved
- Kershner initiated a lengthy discussion arguing to abolish needs-based fares, which currently cost about $60,000 annually, partly on grounds that it’s excessively administratively demanding, maybe (Tax Assessor comment) because changes to state laws have made it hard to get necessary information).
- Ken Mann created his own financial analysis and (I think Bill said) handed out a booklet with this information, which Bill didn’t get a copy of but thinks some other islanders may have.
- Crawford, Kershner and Nelson strongly favored Abart’s “Option 6”, with Mann, Weimer and Brenner opposed. There were other deadlock votes, which led Weimer to eventually propose trying Option 11, to move the process ahead.
- Barbara Brenner is fighting to get dock construction etc shifted back from operations to capital expenditures. She generally was a strong advocate for islanders’ concerns. (Editorial Note: dock repairs, replacement were for years categorized as capital costs. A few years ago, the Council changed that — despite opposition from islanders, many of whom cite state definitions that indicate docks should not be considered operating costs; that swap may be one major reason why ferry fares are currently not meeting the 55% ‘operating cost’ target (T criterion. This (mis)assignment may also explain why it looks as though the ‘percentage recovered by fares’ is lower for our ferry than in other Washington counties – the old apple vs oranges thing.)
- The Council and Abart received Nancy Ging’s financial analysis just this morning and so couldn’t really address her points.