Speaker after speaker Wednesday night criticized a proposal by the Governor to drop the Anacortes to Sidney, BC, ferry run. More than 50 people attended a meeting at city hall designed to gather support to save the international ferry run.
Mayor Dean Maxwell said that rather than saving the state $9 million, as suggested by Governor Gregoire in budget documents sent to the state legislature, cutting the Sidney ferry run would cost the state millions. “Eliminating the run is a recipe for disaster.”
The Governor is proposing a 2009-2011 budget that would cut nearly $6 million dollars in state spending.
Save Our Ferry committee chairman Duane Clark said the state would lose $7 million in revenue if the ferry run, which currently operates only nine months of the year, is cut.
Sidney Mayor Larry Cross stressed that Sidney will support Anacortes’ effort to save the ferry, saying “We’re going to do whatever we can.”
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mitch Everton called the ferry a “vital economic driver for our community,” and asked “Doesn’t it seem a bit strange, with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics coming up, that the state would want to sever Washington’s link to BC?”
Don Wick, the Executive Director of the Economic Development Assoc. of Skagit County (EDASC), he was surprised that the move to cut the Sidney ferry is coming up for a third time since the 1970s.
A study in 2007 initiated by the EDASC reported that the ferry route provided 1,470 jobs in five Northwest Washington counties, with a payroll of $30 million in 2006.
Former Anacortes American Publisher Duncan Frazier, now a financial planner, called the Governor’s proposal “Not a very smart fiscal decision” and said the ferry system, all up and down Puget Sound, has been a poor stepchild and underfunded for decades. He called for the system to be fully funded. “The whole system needs some noise.”
Maxwell said “This run used to have one of the highest fare box revenues in the ferry system.” But, that, he said, was before the international run was cut back to just nine months of the year.
One local businessman, Dennis Trible, suggested “Why don’t we own this ferry run?” He said “I’d like us to open our thinking.”
Washington State Ferries has set an open house to discuss the system’s long range goals during a meeting at 6:30 pm on Jan. 15 at the Senior Center.
Get more information at Save Our Ferry's Web site.