Hyde County Commissioners are looking for as many Ocracoke and mainland
residents as possible to travel with them to Raleigh for a
March 9 Joint Transportation Committee meeting where ferry tolls will
need to go to Raleigh and make some noise,” said county manager Mazie
Smith at the Board of Commissioners meeting Feb. 20. “The
for Hyde County is no tolls on any ferries in the state. “
said it would be best if people can physically go to Raleigh and make
their feelings known.
need to let them know one more time that this is not acceptable,” she
said. “This will be the last shot we’ll have to vocally,
let them know we’re against ferry tolls.”
the meeting is listed on the www.ncleg.net website for 9 a.m. that day,
it could be cancelled at the last minute.
reported that Pamlico and Beaufort counties are working together on
this issue and that Beaufort County has hired a lobbyist.
these counties’ viewpoints are not quite aligned with those of Hyde
since Pamlico and Beaufort feel that tourists ought to be bearing the
costs of the ferry operations, which means they support a toll at the
Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry. Smith said, however, that she will
with both counties again to try to persuade them to align with Hyde for
no tolls at all.
effort by the General Assembly last year to put tolls on the Ocracoke
ferry was dropped but the legislators demanded that the ferry division
increase its revenues from $2 million to $5 million, mostly by
increasing tolls. That would mean increasing the tolls on the ferries
from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter, the county seat, and to Cedar Island.
an informational meeting last month with the state Department of
Transportation, Ocracokers overwhelmingly opposed increasing tolls on
the ferries and supported keeping the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry free.
also noted that Pamlico County is considering filing a lawsuit charging
that ferry tolls throughout eastern North Carolina are discriminatory.
discriminatory because they’re not charging the whole state to be on
the roads, just this area,” she said.
Pamlico County files a lawsuit, Hyde County would like to join in,
resolution against all tolls, passed by the commissioners Feb.6, has
been distributed far and wide, Smith said, and other counties and
organizations have passed similar resolutions.
it’s falling on deaf ears,” she said. “At this point in the
process, a resolution is not going to be as effective (as a physical
presence). We ought to swarm Raleigh and talk to the
face-to-face or else stand out on the sidewalks with signs.”
added that Harold Thomas, Ferry Division director, has said there will
be no exemptions given for ferry tolls.
residents are stressed about the prospect of having to pay to go off
the island for personal and business reasons when other places served
by ferries have alternative access.
they put a toll on the Hatteras ferry, we don’t have an alternative
(free) route,” Darlene Styron, the county commissioner who represents
Ocracoke, said at the meeting, her voice sometimes choking with
paying some of the highest gas prices here and now we’re having to pay
to drive on the beach,” she continued. “Unless you live here,
can’t understand how ridiculous is it for me to have to pay to leave my
home and come back. It burns me up when people talk about
who don’t live here.”
pointed out that the Ferry Division budget is less than one percent of
the entire state transportation budget.
issue with ferry tolls, she said, is a personal vendetta against
retired state Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight of Manteo,
whose political skills were a great boon to eastern North Carolina.
state receives a lot of income from tourists who visit Ocracoke and the
Outer Banks, which will fall off dramatically if ferry tolls are
increased or even levied on the non-tolled routes, noted Styron.
people don’t visit here, there will be less sales tax revenue, and
businesses will lose money, people will lose jobs, vendors won’t come,
and so on,” she said.
noted that she and County Commission Chairperson Sharon Spencer have
been attending as many regional meetings as possible on the ferry toll
seems like all the state costs are being passed down to the local
level, county manager Smith said.
we can’t afford it,” she continued.
Ocracoke, which is in very rural Hyde County, is a bit different
from other, perhaps larger, islands accessible only by ferry, such as
are wealthier,” she said. “This is not a resort. These are working
a few days, information on the bus to Raleigh will be on the Hyde
County website, www.hydecountync.gov.
Details are still to