Updated February 12
From Don Austin:
I attended the NCDOT Proposed Ferry Tolling Public Meeting at Knotts Island 4 February. I hope you will take the time to truly read and hear what I have to say. You are, after all, suppose to represent your constituents; and most people I have spoken with recently find you do not represent their best interest or opinions.
First you must ask yourself prior to making any decision ,”what would I do, how would this impact me if it were applied to my life”! These Ferry tolls, especially the one for Knotts Island, would crush life as we know it for this community. It is our only link with North Carolina and our own County except for driving to Virginia through two Cities (Virginia Beach and Chesapeake) and back into North Carolina on very narrow, deep- ditched, backwoods roads, with no shoulders to pull off on should we break down.
We on Knotts Island have little commercial activity. We have an Elementary School, a Post Office, a small store (more like a 7-11) one part- time restaurant/ beer joint, and a winery. There are no Government Offices, no Garage, no auto dealers, no repair facilities, no appliance store, no lumber yard, no Super Market, no Medical Facilities, no Library…….. I think you should be getting the picture by now. We have nothing but solitude, and a little hunting and fishing for amusement unless we are “drinkers”.
Imagine this, you buy a home where you have free access to everything to maintain a happy life and someone comes along 10, 20 or 40 years later and places a $7.00 toll on every trip you make to and from your home. How would you like it if a vote was taken to place a toll on you for access to any of the available activities you have in your County, City or State. Think about your child attempting to play sports with classmates, or think about any other things you enjoy doing in your City, County, or State.
Our Ferry is nothing more than an extension of our road to the activities most people enjoy freely with NO TOLL. Yes we all pay our toll through Taxes and those Taxes should pay for Ferries just as they pay for your roadways. We have one of the highest gas taxes in the United States as it is. I am asking you to STOP TAXING us to death. The State Law 2013-360 and 2013-183 both need to be repealed. They are illegal, are not for the “common good” of the people of the State or Knotts Island. We ALL paid for the four lane highways and every other State maintained roadway in and around Raleigh as well as the rest of the State and now we should ALL pay for the Ferry service the same way.
I ask you once more. Please do the job you were elected or appointed to do properly. Look after the common good of your fellow North Carolina residents. If you had any part in the approval of this legislative action inflicted upon the citizens without their approval, I ask you to reconsider your actions. Please now take the actions required to remove this burden upon a minor group of your constituents. Thank You, Donald S. Austin
From Tammy Waterfield Stilke:
To whom it concerns:
My name is Tammy Waterfield Stilke and I live on Knotts Island, NC. I am writing you today in regards to the proposed ferry tolls on the Currituck/Knotts Island Ferry system.
Knotts Island has been my home since I was born in 1968. I am very proud of my Island. The people here are unique. Combined we form a very close knit community. When one family needs help, we come together and get help for them.
Jobs are few and far between on this Island. I am proud to work at our local market giving customer service to the Island people. During the summer hours, I post the ferry schedule on our communication wall as a courtesy to tourists coming through our Island. Most people that come in inquiring about the ferry have two questions: What time is the next ferry leaving? And how much does it cost? Most people are prepared not to take the ferry if it cost money, but quickly decide to take it when I tell them it’s free.
Route 615 comes from VA into Knotts Island. It stops at the ferry. The ferry then picks up cars and connects the road over at the mainland. The cars get off the ferry and continue their journey. For tourists, it means heading to the Outer banks. For Islanders, it means going to the courthouse, paying taxes, or heading to a doctor’s appointment. The ferry is our connection to the mainland. If we are required to pay a toll, how will we be able to continue to communicate with the mainland?
I believe the tolls will devastate our Island. The summer tourism will fall off because tolls will discourage people from visiting our Island. In turn, business will decline and the businesses here will suffer. Jobs lost will create an unemployment rise which our state does not need.
Tolls will ruin our students’ chances of receiving a fair education. If having to pay a toll in order to be in any after school activities, our students will start to drop off and the drop- out rate will rise.
I would like to go on record opposing the tolls on the Knotts Island Ferry. Please consider your options carefully. By imposing tolls, you will be impacting a community’s livelihood. Please look for other options in requiring monies for our roads.
Sincerely, Tammy Waterfield Stilke
I am Terry King, I was a speaker at the Knotts Island ferry hearing and voiced my opinion as not being in favor of the ferry tax/tolls.
I feel it is important to advise you that many people voiced their displeasure with the lack of attendance by you and the Membership of the ARTPO at the meeting. The general consensus was concern that you would not have a true, clear perception of our situation. There were two ARTPO Members in attendance. It was expressed that this seems to be a small representation for a 10 county group. Representative Steinberg indicated in his presentation that a person “really needed to attend the meeting to get a feel for the wishes and needs of the people”. We agree. Without attending, you have no way to know all of the factors that are involved with the needs and concerns of the people. I would hope that you would want to get the “feel” for our wishes, the reality of our needs and the overall effect this will have on us.
With that said, I would like to simply state that we the people have heard many stories about how this all came about. We do not care about who or what is at fault we only care about the fix, the tax/toll Is not by any means a fix. It is a temporary stop gap measure that will come back for more and more funding. That would be required funding from communities that cannot afford the tax/tolls.
The burden of decision has been placed on the ARTPO. We the people disagree with the tax/tolls being a solution. Forward thinking loudly implies that this tax/toll will have a destructive domino effect on the people of North Eastern North Carolina. We need your help, We struggle in today’s economy and this may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We want and need fairness to prevail. I am attempting to speak in the best interest of both Island’s involved.
They both will ultimately be the ones impacted by your decision. I find it interesting that the tolls are aimed at the Islanders which basically are small defenseless communities with limited resources and limited traffic volume. Tax/tolls from these small tributary communities would have an insignificant impact on the revenue required. I believe that If the tax/tolls are imposed on us, the cost to the DOT highway department and the tourism dollars lost will be much greater than any funds collected. I find it interesting the State would go against the national normal of applying tax/tolls to High volume (more profitable) highways, as opposed to two small tributary communities. It makes little sense to most citizens as it does not comply with the normal thought process.
I fail to understand why the ferries have to acquire separate funding from the DOT, are they not a form of DOT highways like the others? They are water highways for the citizens of the islands allowing them to be linked to the rest of the State of North Carolina.
We understand that If you deny this tax/toll the ferries will possibly suffer. If you approve the tax/toll the islanders will suffer and if you pass it back to the legislation the ferries have to compete for limited State highway funds. Then (due to a shortage of funds) the state will most likely choose to either raise DOT highway taxes to ALL citizens (as is how government is supposed to function). They may also attempt to place a tax/toll on a regional highway. If they followed the pattern of the states north of our border, they will place tax/tolls on a high volume corridor (that is where the money is).
The City of Chesapeake recognized this and has a successful major corridor tax/toll facility on RT168, what is to say that you shouldn’t do the same?
North Carolina has studied placing revenue generating tax/tolls on Interstate 95. This confirms the opinion that a major corridor would be a better choice than placing a tax/toll on a dead-end island tributary.
If they require more money, then, go where the cash is……go to a high volume corridor……I suggest you tax/toll the Wright Memorial bridge. The bridge that serves the entire outer banks. This should allow you to continue providing free ferries to the citizens of the islands and the tourist. The free ferries would continue be an attraction that promotes tourism and provides a vital service to the citizens of Ocrakoke. The rate required for this tax/toll to fulfill the ferry requirements would be much smaller than $7 each way. Surely this makes more sense that making two small communities bare the whole load and cripple the welfare of the Island citizens.
Thanks for your time. I’m absolutely happy that “I am not in your shoes”. I pray you make the right decision.