Glen Veal's Response To Guemes Ferry Fare Proposal

April 28, 2021

Skagit County Board of Commissioners 1800 Continental Pl.

Mt. Vernon WA 98273

RE: Guemes Ferry Fare Increase Proposal

Dear Commissioners,

It was last year on April 21, 2020, that I wrote you in regard to a fare increase proposal which ultimately was not brought forward at that time. Today, I am writing you again with the same concerns that I had then in regard to the costs outlined in the fare increase proposal.

My main concern is that there has never been any directive from the BOCC to the ferry manager to contain, or reduce, any of the costs in the ferry operation. Instead, it seems that the policy is to continue to escalate the costs of the operation and then ask for a fare increase to pay for them. My biggest concern is the amount of money paid to outside consultants. In the year 2019, outside consultants were paid $256,208. In the year 2020, outside consultants were paid $114,105. The total for these two years is $370,313. This amount alone exceeds the proposed shortfall in the fare target of $296,847 by $73,466. Why should the ferry riders be asked to pay a 15% fare increase to cover these costs? These are not “routine” as each expenditure is defined in Section 1.3 per the Contract C20170245 between WSDOT and Skagit County. If the WSDOT has accepted the consultant fees as “routine”, then I believe it is up to the BOCC to question the need for outside consultants and review such requests in advance. Competent management should not need to seek such expensive help to make decisions.

The decision to discontinue fares for 40 days, due to COVID-19, is not a sufficient reason to include the estimated loss of $114,106 in the revenue shortfall. The amount of traffic on the ferry during COVID 19 seems to have increased and remains higher than I have ever seen it. Any projection that revenue will be reduced in 2021 seems to conflict with the fact that almost every run seems to be full leaving cars behind. I would estimate that traffic will only increase in 2021 bringing in more revenue than 2020 by a significant amount without a fare increase.

Other costs that I would like to question is the $122,832 insurance amount. How is this calculated and paid? I thought that Skagit County is self insured. Why is there a cost for Interfund Information Services of $44,218. Don’t our property taxes pay for these type of operational County Government services?

As a small business owner for 45 years, I had to keep my overhead low and my prices competitive to remain in business. The fact that Skagit County has a monopoly in our ferry service seems to result in an attitude quite the opposite from private enterprise. I would like to suggest that a fare review commission be formed similar to the Public Utilities Commission which reviews monopoly utilities proposed fare increases to insure that all costs behind the fare increase are justified. We need to do something about the escalating cost of the Guemes Ferry operation and replace it with a policy of cost containment or cost reduction. We need your help to do this!

Sincerely, Glen Veal

Tags: ferry