Hyde County officials joined more than 50 Beaufort and Pamlico county
residents and officials Wednesday, May 16, in Raleigh on the first day
of the General Assembly’s short summer session to lobby legislators
against raising ferry tolls.
Attending from Hyde County were county manager Mazie Smith,
commissioners Sharon Spencer and Darlene Styron, who represents
Ocracoke, and Megan Shaw, Hyde County information officer.
Last year, the General Assembly ordered the N.C. Department of
Transportation Ferry Division to increase revenue by $5 million by
increasing ferry tolls on all the routes that now have tolls.
The toll on the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries to and from
Ocracoke has been $15. There has been no charge on passengers in
Under one pricing proposal from the Ferry Division, the toll for a
vehicle would increase to $25 with a charge of $5 for each passenger,
“Our activists were effective and highly visible on the first day of
the 2012 legislative session,” noted Henri McClees, who with her
husband, Joe, are lobbyists from Oriental who have been hired to wage
the fight in Raleigh on behalf of Beaufort, Pamlico, and Hyde counties.
“It was widely known the “No Ferry Tax” folks were present in force,” Henri said. “We had a great day.”
Before the session began, the entire group met with Joe and received
“no ferry tax” stickers and filled out forms to be delivered to
Rep. Bill Cook, a Republican from Beaufort and Pitt counties stopped to show his support.
“You get a ‘no ferry tax’ sticker,” Joe McClees said to him.
As the group moved around to the various offices, Larry Summers,
Oriental town commissioner, and Greg Piner of Oriental presented a
petition with 1,009 signatures against raising ferry tolls to Bill
Daughtridge, senior policy consultant for Speaker of the House Thom
“We’ve got to have that access available to us,” Daughtridge, who is a
former member of the North Carolina Travel and Tourism Board, told the
group. “We appreciate your involvement.”
The group attended the session of the Joint Transportation Committee at
9 a.m. then broke into two groups to personally visit legislators
tagged by the McCleeses.
Sen. Stan White, a Democrat who represents Dare and Hyde counties, met with the Hyde County group.
“The Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is a tourist attraction,” White said.
“I’ve heard tourists say they would pay a toll for that ferry, but if
they have to pay, it would hurt us.”
More than that, White added, the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry is part of
Highway 12 and is the only free access islanders have. Other
tolled destinations have at least one free access to them.
“I don’t want to be part of a legislature that makes one place inaccessible,” White said about his continued fight.
He explained that many in the legislature just don’t understand life
here on the Outer Banks. To educate them, White said he brought a group
of Republican legislators to Dare County and took them fishing,
clamming, and sightseeing.
They understood better after that, he said.
However, he noted that Ocracoke will be fighting this ferry toll issue
every year, as long as Republicans control the legislature.
“The thing I’ve heard is they will postpone (enactment of higher tolls) to 2014,” White said.
Priorities in Raleigh are a “head-scratcher,” he noted.
“The thing that really gets to me is the Knightdale Bypass (outside
Raleigh) costs $240 million a year and the entire Ferry Division costs
$46 million a year,” he said.
“Raising ferry tolls really hurts the working people,” said Mazie Smith.
Norman Sanderson, a Republican who represents Craven and Pamlico
counties, said he rides the ferry twice a day and told the Hyde County
group that he would like to see a coastal coalition of legislators.
As for the Ocracoke-Hatteras ferry, Sanderson said that the Department
of Transportation a long time ago decided to run ferries there because
they are cheaper than a bridge.
Both Styron and Smith were pleased with the efforts of the day and felt
that the group’s presence in the halls of the legislature was important
“It was well organized. The McCleeses had a plan, and that helped,” Styron noted.
Both stressed that this fight is not over, and that citizens need to continue to make their wishes known.
“We have to stay on this,” Styron said.
When the General Assembly convened, some activists sat in the Senate gallery and some sat in the House gallery.
Each group was recognized by the presiding officer. President of
the Senate, Walter Dalton, specifically recognized the county
commissioners and county managers from Beaufort, Hyde, and Pamlico.
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County is gearing up to take on legislators over ferry
turn out in force to oppose increase in ferry tolls