Another Ferry Outage for Inspection, Wed. 6/29 — How come?

Public Works just issued a notice for the next inspection-related ferry outage, Wed. June 29, ~10 AM -3 PM.   This notice is apt, given Jeff Campbell’s recent very reasonable question about why so there have been so many inspections the past few years.  His comment prodded me to email Diane Harper (Ferry Task Force) to ask about this.  Here’s Jeff’s comment, my query to Diane and her response.  This strikes me as a good example of how information and historical context can help dispel some of our concerns about What’s Really Going On.

From Jeff:

It seems that the number of dock inspections has skyrocketed in the last two years. How can this be cost effective? And what is the rationale for the dramatic increase in the number, and frequency of inspections. It doesn’t seem like the docks are any more reliable now, than they were before the increase in frequency. (link to his full comment)

My email to Diane

Jeff Campbell brought up the very frequent midweek ‘dock inspections’ — how useful and appropriate have these been?  It would be useful to know more about this and how much, if anything, it has added/reduced the total annual ferry operations budget, including salaries etc for all those involved.

Diane’s email response

The monthly dock inspections have been happening for over a decade – they used to be done late at night when the ferry was not running. It is considerably cheaper to have them done at day labor rates, plus it is easier for those inspecting to see some problems at an earlier stage with more light.

I don’t remember who requires the monthly inspections, but it is not an option for the county. And it would increase costs for the portion fares pay as well as the portion the county road fund pays if they moved it back to late at night. (I think it’s the state bridge inspectors, or insurance company, or coast guard that require monthly inspections, and I will verify who and what and how often  and get back to you.)

By the way,when Frank first arrived and saw the high expense of nighttime labor, the PW staff told him that the islanders would never let him get away with interrupting the daytime ferry service to do the inspections. I twice have heard him express his appreciation that islanders have been willing to deal with the service interruption.

I have often seen road crews, water line installers, etc. in many different jurisdictions that seem to have a bunch of people standing around not doing anything, so I make no defense of how many people are used for the inspections – I would just observe that I doubt that Frank would be paying people if he could find a way to avoid it.

3 thoughts on “Another Ferry Outage for Inspection, Wed. 6/29 — How come?

  1. If ferry dept. factoring in lost revenue from 10:30 to 2:30 into the cost of these inspection during day hours. And are the ferry crew still on duty? I don’t see any savings considering these two factors.

  2. I would like to not assume anything concerning our ferry. I believe there have been many people assuming “people” are “doing right” by all people within Whatcom County, Lummi Island, and the Lummi Nation for over 40 years and this is how we have gotten into the mess we are in; where people can’t afford to commute to work and need to move off the island, leases went unsigned for 25 years, and property may or may not have been deeded legally, gentlemen’s agreements over reef net sites not honored, this list could go on and on. Could those involved with making financial decisions that affects many lives stop assuming and follow though and be sure things are done legally and at the least cost to all tax payers of Whatcom County. Thank you!

  3. I think there is an overall cost savings. There are several people involved in doing the inspections, and their middle of the night overtime was expensive. Also, I don’t think people are skipping trips to town during those inspection periods. PW gives enough advance notice that we can schedule around them and still make needed trips. I don’t know about ferry crew during those periods, though

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