County Commissioners Comments to ARPO

March 10. Comment from Commissioner Butch Petrey. Went to RPO meeting today. Two interesting things happened today. First thing Christine Mele, Pamlico County Commissioner and District 2 RPO member delivered a unanimous resolution opposing any ferry tolls. She also stated what I, as well others, have been saying is that NE North Carolina must stand united to get anything accomplished. Our state representatives must do a better job of making our positions known and approved. The second thing is that Malcolm Fearing, our DOT Representative, is making a push to put ferries under mass transit funding. I asked why it wasn't there all along. Blamed Raleigh. As far as ferry tolling in District 1 it was voted on to send back to Raleigh to be revisited. My personal feeling is they are going to punt back to us because this next session is going to be a "short session" and nothing controversial is voted on. We must keep the emails and letters to Sen. Bill Cook and Rep. Bob Steinburg coming. I asked for consideration to pass a resolution against tolling from District 1 to partner with District 2 but was asked to wait on Raleigh. I feel that eventually this is going to be my major push. Probably at our June or July meeting. That way we will have a pretty good idea where we stand in Raleigh. I promise to keep everyone on Knotts Island posted....

March 3. Comment from Commissioner Butch Petrey. Just hung up talking with Bill Rich, Hyde County Mgr., and he informed that Tyrell County is on board with "NO TOLLS ON THE FERRIES"! We have a "NO" vote commitment from Currituck, Hyde, Dare, Camden and Tyrell counties. Bill also is "absolutely" sure Washington County will vote with us. This is six out of ten counties coming together to make a stand. Raleigh is the key. The RPO did not write this legislation, Raleigh did. Keep those emails and letters coming and don't forget RPO meeting on March 10th at 11:00am

February 25. Comment from Commissioner Butch Petrey. Attended ferry meeting in Ocracoke last night. Approx. 200 people in attend. Only elected official from Raleigh was Rep. Paul Tine. Like KI meeting lots of passion! It appears Raleigh better wake up and fast. Don't forget RPO meeting March 10th, Vernon James Center, 11:00am.

February 21. Comment from Commissioner Butch Petrey. The next RPO meeting is scheduled for March 10 at The Vernon James Ctr. in Plymouth, NC. The meeting starts at 11:00 am and is open to the public. This will be the first RPO meeting after all the public meetings and ferry tolls will be front and center. I feel confident that tolling will not be voted on but nothing is a guarantee. I am working the phones daily to make sure we have the votes to stop tolling. Let me know if I can answer any questions. Also, Camden County has already voted on and signed a resolution opposing any tolls on our ferries. Hopefully everything will fall into place.

February 20. Comment from Commissioner Butch Petrey. Our ARPO member.
    Attended public meeting in Hatteras last night. Went very well. Rep. Paul Tine attended and stated that Rep. John Torbett (he was at KI meeting) is working on legislation to find the money elsewhere. Also Dare County BOC Chairman Warren Judge attended and announced that the Dare County BOC voted Tuesday unanimously to oppose any tolls on the ferries. Other counties I have spoken with like Camden and Pasquotank appear to stand with us on this issue. Bill Rich, Hyde County Mgr. feels Washington and Tyrell counties will support our efforts. I strongly feel that NE North Carolina will stand strong and support one another. To date seven out of ten counties appear to be opposing tolls. I will be in Ocracoke Monday night to attend their meeting. Told last night they expect a huge crowd.

Letter from Commissioner Vance Aydlett to the RPO members:
    My Name is Vance Aydlett and I live at 120 Litchfield Lane, Knotts Island NC.
    I am writing you today to express my opposition to tolls being placed on the Knotts Island Ferry. I came to that conclusion because of many reasons. First of all the KI ferry was placed in service in 1962 to much fanfare. 1000 people were in attendance that day for the dedication ceremony, including then Governor Terry Sanford, Congressman Herbert Bonner and numerous other State officials. The purposes that day for the ferry being established was threefold. To join this remote island to the state it belongs, to provide a transportation route to educate our children in the NC school system, and to help improve economic development in N/E NC. I suggest to you that the mission of this ferry is still the same today.
    Impacts- You have already heard from others of the many impacts that we believe that tolling will create for our island residents. Some may not sound very important to you but I ask you to remember that the ferry is our highway to the mainland. The only alternative is a trip into Va. Thru two Cities just to get to Moyock. It is a 55 min drive to the courthouse. It is a very treacherous drive to say the least, no shoulders, and narrow rural winding roads. Our children-81 use the ferry to attend High School and Early College school every day. Any number of those students drive daily to participate in after school activities, sports, tutoring, clubs or just go to a Drs appointment or any other thing they may need to do during the day. Exempting a bus does not come close to solving the student issue. We have many children and parents who also participate in year round recreational activities on the mainland. To be a part of these activities you have to go to the mainland. Facilities, and numbers of children are not available on the island to support its own program.
    There are numerous issues that arise concerning the tolling issue for everyone. Our resident citizens utilize the ferry to take care of any number of things that are not available on the Island. Our activities on the island include a small groc store, two churches, a vineyard the Ruritan park and a restaurant/bar... Everything from taking care of county business, getting drivers lic, YMCA, Social Services, Food Bank, Senior Resources, to attending meetings with the schools or county officials requires travel to the mainland.
    According to DOT projections, the KI ferry will raise 83K dollars per year. As I understand it, the overhaul that was completed on the ferry last summer now extends the service life for 20 more years. My calculations show that will raise 1.7 mil towards the purchase of a new ferry that in today’s dollars cost 16 million. Where will the remaining funds come from. As I read the statue, it will still come from the division funds that are also the same funds that build and maintain roads in the RPO region. If it’s the same money why then are we imposing tolls now on the ferry system that transports vehicles that use the same roads that pay the same gas tax that funds the transportation system. The ferry is a part of the NC highway Transportation and should not be treated any differently. It has been said that the entire ferry budget in terms of dollars, cost the same amount that it takes to build one mile of roads in the Mountains of NC. There are many places in this state that bridges are used to cross bodies of water without any tolls, it just so happens our situation is a ferry performs the same transportation route. Why is it being treated differently. Some of you DOT members may recall my suggesting one size does not fit all when it comes to circumstances and hardships. I was lead to believe any considerations would have to be consistent with all ferries in the system. How about we use the same analogy between roads, bridges and ferries, be consistent on how they are funded.. Folks I think we need to remember just because there is a set toll rate today does not mean it can not be increased whenever the desire arises. If projections are not met then what happens? I would like to take a couple of minutes to speak to the RPO members. I am asking you to stand with us on this tolling issue. Under the statue, you are under no obligation to even consider tolls. The statue reads The Board of transportation must receive a resolution approved by the TAC of each local transportation planning organization requesting tolls prior to establishing tolls on any untolled ferry route. No where does it say that you have to submit anything.
    I ask you to think about the hardships that have been talked about this evening, and put yourself in these folks place. Would you want to pay a toll to use the State transportation system to take care of your obligations and business, educate your children, allow them to participate in after school and athletic activities. I don’t think so. Please think of the impacts to our senior population.
    Remember that the projections says tolls will raise 83k per year, 1.7 mil over 20 years towards the purchase price of a ferry. It would take 200 years to raise enough to buy one. Data shows that 65% of all vehicles that used the ferry last year had NC lic plates. I would suggest that 90 % of those vehicles were Currituck residents. This puts the burden of the tolls directly on our citizens, the ones who use it as a necessity not a convenience. I believe the 35 % that use it as a convenience will drop off significantly, creating shortfall in the funding projections.
    It has been said by an official that a $150.00 annual toll is not a significant cost, even that $12.50 a month is only a case of beer or half a carton of cigarettes. I will submit to you that $12.50 may mean the difference of a senior being able to get all their medication, or even putting a couple of dollars in the church plate to support it on Sunday morning. Could mean so many things to those less fortunate than some.
    I believe the KI and Ocracoke ferries have been exempt in the past not because of politics as some would have you believe, but because it was the right thing to do. Provide a NC transportation pathway for its remote located citizens. Currituck County will be formally requesting our Representatives do whatever is necessary to remove the Knotts Island ferry from tolling consideration in the upcoming summer session.
    Again I ask you to STAND WITH US by either not taking any action or if you do take an action voting NO on the tolling resolution. If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 252-429-3626 or © 757-619-2266. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

O. Vance Aydlett Currituck County Commissioner