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UPDATE: St. Pete asks Tampa, Hillsborough to halt final vote on ferry

HMS Ferries would provide this 149-passenger vessel for a pilot project of ferry service between St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Photo courtesy of HMS Ferries

HMS Ferries would provide this 149-passenger vessel for a pilot project of ferry service between St. Petersburg and Tampa.



St. Petersburg city officials asked Hillsborough County and Tampa to delay final action on the ferry contract Tuesday.

After asking Hillsborough County to make a last-minute addition to its agenda to consider the ferry contract, St. Peterburg put on the brakes because the contract still isn't finalized, said Ben Kirby, Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman.

The Pinellas County Commission will also delay its vote, he said.

St. Petersburg, which originally wanted to all parties to sign off by Aug.1, now is aiming for mid-August, Kirby said.


Here's the original story that posted Tuesday morning:

TAMPA — A proposed ferry route between St. Petersburg and Tampa that will begin operation this fall needs final approval, and quickly, from Hillsborough County commissioners and Tampa City Council.

St. Petersburg City Hall recently reached an agreement with HMS Ferries to run a six-month pilot program that will take passengers across Tampa Bay starting Nov. 1. The program comes with a $1.4 million price tag, to be split equally between four regional governments: St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Hillsborough will vote on the deal Wednesday and Tampa City Council will take it up Thursday.

The item was rushed onto Hillsborough’s agenda today at the urging of St. Petersburg officials who want the agreement signed by all parties before Aug. 1.

Local governments gave St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman the authority to negotiate terms with HMS last winter but reserved the right to back out if they didn’t agree with the final outcome.

The agreement reached requires HMS Ferries to operate a minimum of two trips a day between the two cities and three trips on Friday. A one way trip will cost $10 per passenger, though it may fluctuate depending on “market conditions,” the agreement said.

Under the negotiated terms, HMS would receive the first $125,000 of revenue and any additional earnings would be split among the four governments.

Hillsborough will pay its share, $350,000, out of reserves, and a super majority of the board, or five commissioners, is needed to approve the payment during the current fiscal year. The board voted 5-1 in January to tentatively back the project, though there were reservations.

Commissioner Stacy White, the no vote, said the cities should have to pay more since their constituents were more likely to use it. Indeed, the agreement said a potential terminal in Apollo Beach was studied but deemed not feasible for this pilot program. And Commissioner Kevin Beckner warned that six-months of service may not be enough time to gauge whether a permanent service line could thrive here.

But ferries are only available on loan from northern cities during the winter months, limiting the length of the test program. The agreement between St. Petersburg and HMS said they will measure demand for both commuter and non-commuter services and impact on vehicle use.

Tampa’s share will come out of the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area Neighborhood Improvement Fund. Tampa is responsible for negotiating a docking site with HMS and St. Petersburg will contribute up to $50,000 additionally to prepare a dock on its side of the bay.

Times reporter Rick Danielson contributed to this report.

[Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 3:02pm]


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