Ocracokers are invited to mainland meeting on ferry tollingBy CONNIE LEINBACH
The Ocracoke Observer
North Carolina Select Committee on Transportation Planning will meet on
mainland Hyde County on Monday, Jan. 25, to discuss transportation,
specifically focusing on ferries and aviation.
group, chaired by Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston County, is meeting to
discuss transportation issues unique to our coastal area. There are 20
legislators on that committee, but Hyde County Manager Bill Rich does
not yet know if all will attend.
meeting will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the newly remodeled Outpost, a
motel and conference center along Route 264, midway between Swan
Quarter and Engelhard.
Torbett also has invited islanders to talk to the attending legislators during their morning session from 10:30 to noon.
want the committee need to hear directly from Ocracokers about how
important the ferries are to our lives and to the economy of Ocracoke
and Hyde County,” he said.
addition, islanders who can’t make the 7 a.m. ferry are invited to walk
on the 9:30 a.m. ferry to Swan Quarter (arriving around 11:45 a.m.) and
talk with the committee members, who will be transported to the ferry
dock to talk with islanders on the ferry before the ferry departs again
at 1 p.m., said Rich.
These public comment initiatives are being organized by islanders Darlene Styron and Tom Pahl.
public meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, in the
Ocracoke Community Center to discuss plans for the Monday, Jan. 25,
trip to Swan Quarter.
fantastic,” Rich said about the legislators’ visit to Hyde County.
“With (Rep. Paul) Tine and Torbett here, this helps give us the
opportunity to ask (the legislators) to take ferry replacement funding
out of the Regional Planning Organization.”
replacement funding has been a point of contention recently as Ed
Goodwin, the N.C. Ferry Division chief, and members of the NC Board of
Transportation, have suggested tolling the Hatteras Ferry to pay for
a surprise move in October, the Dare County commissioners voted to go
along with tolling the Hatteras ferry should that question arise at the
Albemarle Regional Planning Organization, the local group tasked with
deciding what transportation projects get funded – including purchasing
new car ferries – from a $32 million pot. However, the ARPO has
decided to see what happens when the General Assembly convenes in April
for a short session.
and Tine, unaffiliated of Kitty Hawk, who represents Ocracoke and who
is on this committee, have both said their goal when the General
Assembly convenes in April is to take the pressure off local committees
to fund car-ferry replacement vessels and to eliminate all ferry tolls.
is my intent to get vessel replacement out of RPO and get into the main
transport budget,” Torbett had said in a November interview.
money is there (in the state budget for ferry replacement),” Tine had
said an Oct. 19 meeting on the island. “The problem is getting the
Senate to agree. We need to remove it out of the Division 1 RPO, or at
least put it into the regional pot of money.”
it stands now, the cost of replacing car ferries (at about $15 million
each) is included in the $32 million pot of money the state gives to
each of 10 RPOs across the state to finance all transportation
needs in their respective districts. This new method, created by Gov.
Pat McCrory in 2013, is called the Strategic Transportation
Investments. Prior to that, ferry replacement was funded through
appropriations by the General Assembly.
To read the recent story on this issue, click here.
the group finishes talking about ferries in the afternoon, the meeting
will focus on aviation on the mainland, Rich said. Rich and county
economic development officer Kris Noble are trying to woo a company
that manufacture drones, or unmanned aviation vehicles, to locate in
Hyde County where there is lots of open space in which to test these
at 5 p.m., an economic summit will begin with members of N.C. Wildlife
Resources Commission and continue through Tuesday, Rich said.
had explained at the Jan. 4 commissioners meeting that her statistics
show that Hyde County economic strengths are farming, forestry,
hunting, fishing and tourism.
State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker visited the mainland, Noble said
she advocated focusing on tourism for economic development, and
restoring the Lake Mattamuskeet lodge back to a hunting-fishing-tourist
destination is right up that alley.
The goal would be for the lodge, which has 13 to 15 rooms, to be a commercial and educational enterprise.
said the county will ask the state to help finish the renovation, and
after that, the goal is for a commercial outfit to run it, using local
guides for hunting, kayaking, bird watching, even weddings.
“We want to show them everything we’ve done to substantiate a public-private partnership,” he said.
To view the members of the Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions, click here.
(This article is reprinted from The Ocracoke Observer. For more news and information on Ocracoke Island, go to www.ocracokeobserver.com.)