Chappy residents request more ferry info
Comments from the public Tuesday on Edgartown's possible purchase of the Chappaquiddick ferry service were mostly repeats of those made at a meeting on Chappaquiddick three weeks ago. Townspeople repeated their frustration over a lack of information about the proposal.
Tuesday's gathering was held at the Old Whaling Church in downtown Edgartown, for the benefit of in-town residents, but few showed up. Most of the 50 or so who attended, including members of the purchase Chappy ferry committee (PCFC), were Chappaquiddick residents.
"We're working in the dark here," one woman said early on, noting that residents who use the ferry have no financial data on its operation.
Ginny Murray also wanted more details on what's being sold for $3 million. "Before I would give more input, I need more information of what is for sale and if the town is the licensing agent," she said.
Woody Filley, chairman of the PCFC, said, "We're not trying to hide information," he said. "We want people to have the benefit of the information we've had."
He repeated what he said at the last meeting, that the group was looking for input only and wasn't answering questions at the meeting. He said all the committee's meetings are open to all and the meeting minutes are also available.
Ms. Murray and others suggested again that the committee look at models of successful ferries and come up with one or two options to present to the public. The residents were still split on whether the ferry should be run by the town or a nonprofit agency or continue with a private owner.
"I think the private sector does things in a more efficient and hard working manner than a public agency," Gay Colvin said. "The last resort is for the town to take it over." Several others praised how the current ferry owner, Roy Hayes, has run the service for nearly 20 years.
On the other hand, Bradford Woodger said that using Mr. Hayes as a standard may be faulty. "We don't know what's available to the operator, whether he has lost money or had profits," he said. "We need facts about the business."
Mr. Woodger also questioned the selectmen for setting up the current process for looking at ferry options. "The selectmen should have done this themselves, then form a committee for information and how they would run it," he said. "I don't know how you as volunteers can do your job."
Bill Brine also commented on the selectmen's role. "The selectmen haven't given you their thoughts and the $50 to record this (meeting)," he said. "How can you determine what they want?"
Selectman chairman Margaret Serpa was in the audience, but did not comment.
Mr. Brine recommended a more detailed assessment of the ferry operation. "I think it's probably seen its last days," he said. "We're looking at old, old boats. The time has come to consider new boats." Some suggested a third ferry be added for use during breakdowns.
Mr. Brine suggested the ferry be run as a nonprofit agency with well-paid captains and money put back into the operation, as well as town subsidies. Some supported an independent agency with a board of governors that is accessible to the ferry users.
Christina Brown, one of the few in-town residents, disagreed with suggestions to turn the ferry operation over to an independent authority if the town buys it. "I disagree with setting up another bureaucracy, which is fraught with problems in small-town politics," she said. "A transportation authority is not politically independent."
Claire Thatcher suggested the committee look at the town's entire traffic picture with an aim toward reducing traffic in Edgartown, and perhaps adding bus transportation on Chappaquiddick. Ted Hubbard also suggested the town look at more creative ways to deal with the traffic problems, such as becoming "a walking community."
Alan VanArdsdale added that Chappaquiddick is already "saturated with people coming across. We don't want to encourage more vehicles.... I think it's going to take away what we have."
Mr. Woodger voiced a continued sense of resentment by Chappaquiddick residents over their position in the town. "We've had a very small voice for a very long time. We need to demand what we need on Chappy," he said.
The ferry committee has been asked to present their recommendation to the selectmen on Nov. 5. The committee meets each Wednesday at 5 pm in the selectmen's meeting room in the town hall.
Terry Forde, president of the Chappaquiddick homeowners' association, offered to send the meeting minutes by e-mail to anyone who asks for them.