SSA trims 2009 schedules, considers new residency criteria
The Steamship Authority (SSA) members, gathering Tuesday in the Oak Bluffs Public Library meeting room, approved the 2009 winter and spring schedules and heard a description of a proposal to change the year-round residency criteria used to qualify Islanders for discounted excursion rates.
There was little discussion of the proposed schedule changes preceding a unanimous vote. Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, introduced the changes that he said had been revised based on public comments and further management review.
The SSA will operate all of the trips on the schedule this past winter except for the 6 am trip from Woods Hole on Saturdays and Sundays and the 9:30 pm trip from Vineyard Haven on Fridays and Saturdays.
The spring schedule will be in effect seven days longer than this past year and will not include the 6:15 am freight trip from Woods Hole and the 7:15 am freight trip from Vineyard Haven on Sundays only.
David Faus, headmaster of Falmouth Academy, a private secondary school attended by many Island students, thanked the members for their attentiveness to the scheduling needs of his school's parents and students when revising the schedule.
Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, Vineyard SSA member, said he had heard from many parents. He added that in his experience the students were always well behaved when riding the boats.
Street list request
Prior to Tuesday morning's meeting, Mr. Lamson and Steve Sayers, SSA lawyer, met with town clerks from Edgartown, Tisbury, and Oak Bluffs. The meeting came in response to a suggestion from Nantucket town clerk Catherine Stover that the SSA use the town street lists in place of the SSA affidavit used to declare Island residency.
Currently, a year-round resident of Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard who wants to be eligible for discounted excursion fares and preferred reservation spaces must prove year-round residency by signing an affidavit declaring that he or she is an Island resident and provide a copy of his or her driver's license.
Photo by Nelson Sigelman
The street list is an annual account of all the residents in a town. But not every resident completes the annual street list, which functions as a census.
In an email to Island town clerks, Ms. Stover said she thinks that the population of Nantucket is much larger than anyone will acknowledge. "My personal belief," she wrote, "is we have in excess of 20,000 fulltime year-round residents. We can only put a name on 11,300. We have an enormous foreign national population that has absolutely no reason to drop by my office and sign themselves on to receive the annual street list census."
Ms. Stover said that an accurate street list would help prove the two Islands prove "that combined we have 45,000 to 50,000 residents between us. At that point we can get our own [state] representative back."
Tisbury town clerk Marion Mudge said she sends out a town census form annually. Residents fill out the form under penalty of perjury. She said she knows she is missing a lot of people. Making the list more accurate, she said, could provide a number of benefits that include increases in state and federal aid tied to populations.
The members decided to defer discussion until the public has an opportunity to comment. A decision could come at the September meeting so that management has time to implement the change before the end of the year.
Also on the agenda was a review of Mr. Lamson's goals and objectives for 2008-2009. Mr. Lamson provided eight items.
These goals include: continue to oversee the completion of ongoing capital projects; seek state and federal funding; explore alternate sources of revenue or income to help partially offset the need for additional rate increases; explore additional cost saving strategies; and pursue an aggressive program to improve customer service in all areas of SSA operations.
Mr. Lamson will also develop a succession plan, including consideration of whether to establish the position of assistant general manager. That person would be fully qualified to assume the duties of the general manager said Mr. Lamson.
The last goal on Mr. Lamson's list was to explore the feasibility of acquiring a freight vessel replacement that would give the boatline greater flexibility and efficiency in scheduling freight service to the islands.
The board, at the request of Falmouth member Bob Marshall added one additional goal. Mr. Lamson was asked to address the use of scattered parking lots in Falmouth and Bourne.
"I think Wayne that you're doing a great job," said Nantucket SSA member and board chairman Flint Ranney.
The meeting included reports on operations. Fuel costs were a major factor in boatline business operations and higher than expected cost of operations.
Mr. Lamson said that in June fuel cost an additional $270,000 over the amount projected in a budget already revised to reflect the rising cost of oil. June fuel costs increased by 73 percent over June 2007, he said.
The actual cost per gallon for vessel fuel oil in June was $4.139 compared to a budgeted cost of $2.996 per gallon, according to a management report.
Year to date, the Authority's net operating loss, including other income, income deductions and bond interest expense, is $7,386,579, or $1,879,331 higher than budget projections.
Concern that the boatline is losing fares from potential day trippers to Hy-Line on the Nantucket route prompted a request from the board that management increase its efforts to attract ridership, particularly from large tour operators. In an effort to sweeten SSA passage the members agreed to provide free one-day parking in Hyannis for round-trip day-trippers.
The one surprise was an announcement by New Bedford member David Oliveira that after two three-year terms, he has decided not to seek reappointment.
Mr. Oliveira, a lawyer and lobbyist with The Liberty Group, joined the SSA during one of its most tumultuous periods. It was at the height of a battle over fast ferry passenger service between New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket member Grace Grossman fought every consideration of New Bedford service tooth and nail.
Mr. Oliveira told The Times the SSA has traveled a long way from those contentious times. He said boatline operations run smoothly and the closed-door decision-making is in the past. "Now, all the communities are working together," he said.
Mr. Hanover said that Mr. Oliveira added balance to the board and represented the city of New Bedford very well. "He will be missed," he said.