SSA will move reservations to airport; sees no rate increases

SSA will move reservations to airport; sees no rate increases

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With fare hikes on the horizon, Islanders can expect to pay more to ride the Island Home.

The Steamship Authority (SSA) plans to lease counter space at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport for a new reservations office. The move comes after the SSA lost its lease in its current building off Airport Road.

Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, recommended the terminal location to the SSA members at a board meeting on Tuesday on Nantucket.

In his management report, Mr. Lamson said the SSA received three responses to a request for proposals for counter space or office space, offering rents between $2,100 and $3,500 a month.

At the same time, the SSA investigated the feasibility of relocating to the terminal area now shared by rental car companies. Mr. Lamson said he expects the space would cost ratepayers less than $2,000 per month.

The members asked Mr. Lamson to negotiate a five-year lease with the airport commission for counter and office space.

In other business, Mr. Lamson presented preliminary drafts of the 2012 summer and fall operating schedules, for the period from May 21, 2012, through December 31, 2012, and the 2012 operating budget. The board will not be asked to approve the final versions until it meets in October on Tuesday, October 18, on Martha’s Vineyard.

The SSA’s operating expenses are expected to increase next year by $3,400,000, to $79,900,000 or 4.5 percent above the most current estimate for 2011.

By contrast, the SSA’s operating revenues are projected to increase by only $524,000, to $84,500,000 or 0.6 percent, compared with the most current estimate for 2011. The result is an estimated net operating income of approximately $2,600,000.

Asked if he expects to see rate increases, Mr. Lamson told The Times that he did not.

“I do not currently see a scenario where we would be coming back at next month’s meeting to ask the members to approve rate increases for next year, particularly for the Vineyard route,” Mr. Lamson said in an email to The Times Wednesday. “Our exposure to higher fuel prices in 2012 is capped and within limits that we could cover if necessary. We are going to continue to refine the budget assumptions and estimates over the next few weeks, but we are trying to avoid any rate increases for next year if possible.”

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