Schedule review part of a light SSA agenda
Steamship Authority members will hold their June meeting in the Oak Bluffs Library meeting room at 9:30 am on Tuesday. The light agenda will include a review of proposed 2007 winter and spring schedules and a report on the status of boatline capital projects.
Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, said there are no major changes in the proposed 2007 winter and spring operating schedules. One complicating factor is the scheduled replacement of the Islander with the larger capacity Island Home at the end of this year.
Mr. Lamson said this week that without the benefit of some operating experience with the new vessel, he is reluctant to propose many changes. Included in the changes he has proposed is the elimination of a weekend winter freight boat that is not cost-effective.
Mr. Lamson said that he is seeking review and comments now, in anticipation of a later vote, in order to advance the process so that travelers can start making reservations earlier than in the past.
A regular update on capital projects will include an update on the Island Home, scheduled for launch on July 21, the planned refurbishment of the Nantucket, and the reconstruction of the Oak Bluffs terminal.
Mr. Lamson will also review SSA efforts to pursue state and federal grants that have already proved partially successful. The SSA recently learned that the Secretary of the state's Executive Office of Transportation approved a $750,000 grant for a new shop building at the Authority's Fairhaven vessel maintenance facility.
The total estimated cost of the Fairhaven project is $1,000,000. "Any State or Federal capital funding that the Authority applies for and receives under these water transportation programs will enhance the reliability and quality of our service and provide long-term cost savings for all of the Authority's users," Mr. Lamson said. He added that the SSA had applied for state funding for four other projects and would reapply for them next year.
Mr. Lamson said the SSA had applied to the state in the past, but this was the first time it was successful. He speculated that there may not have been enough money in this round of funding for the four other projects, but he said he remains optimistic.
The SSA is also pursuing money at the federal level. The goal is to reduce the pressure to borrow money or raise fares.
Mr. Lamson said the Nantucket refurbishment is scheduled and will not be affected by the grant process. He had no progress to report on contract negotiations between management and the members of its largest union, the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA).
Union leaders cancelled a mediation session scheduled for Friday, according to Mr. Lamson, who did not know the reason for the cancellation. "It's very frustrating," he said. Union-backed legislation that would force the SSA to participate in binding arbitration remains in a Senate committee, said Mr. Lamson.
Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, Vineyard SSA member, agreed. He said that by most accounts the reconfiguration of the Vineyard Haven SSA terminal is helping to smooth the traffic flow and reduce backups.
The most vexing problem, Mr. Hanover said, remains the inability to conclude a contract with MEBA. He said the fact remains that the SSA is an excellent place to work and provides generous benefits to its employees, which may be one reason so few leave.
Mr. Hanover added that Mr. Lamson, with the support of the board, is becoming more aggressive pursuing grants. "Anything we don't have to spend out of our own pockets doesn't have to come out of tickets," he said.