Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Commissioners approve $125,000 for MacDill ferry study

TAMPA — A multimillion-dollar proposal to launch a high-speed ferry service crossing Tampa Bay inched forward Wednesday as Hillsborough County commissioners approved spending up to $125,000 to study its feasibility.

The ferry would primarily shuttle MacDill Air Force Base employees who live in southern Hillsborough to the base from a terminal near Apollo Beach. Routes linking downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg on nights and weekends could be added.

Most of the money commissioners approved spending Wednesday — $100,000 of the $125,000 — will go to HMS Ferries Inc. and South Swell Development Group LLC, the private groups behind the proposal represented by lawyer and former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik. Some of that money will cover research Turanchik's clients already did for their unsolicited bid. The remaining $25,000 will cover any costs the county incurs as it researches the ferry.

Commissioner Victor Crist expressed concern this would set a precedent that would bring scores of developers forward looking for public money.

"We could get a line out the door," Crist said.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said that such spending is "the nature of the beast" of public-private partnerships. He seemingly convinced Crist, who eventually voted in favor of the expense, along with five other commissioners.

Commissioner Les Miller was the lone no vote. No one talked to him before the meeting about the proposed spending, Miller said, and he felt too many unanswered questions remain about the ferry's viability.

Turanchik, a longtime advocate of public transit, gave commissioners a slide-show sales pitch that made the ferry's success sound like a certainty.

"No other transportation option can do so much for so little, so fast, and with so much private sector involvement," said Turanchik, using a line he has been repeating for months. His presentation ended with one word displayed on the screen in blue: "WOW!"

Merrill was cooler on the proposal, which calls for the county to spend $24 million on docks, parking and the boats, with HMS covering operating expenses. A number of hurdles remain, he noted, including approval from the Department of Defense to land the ferry at the Air Force base, and an agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which owns the land west of U.S. 41 and north of the TECO Big Bend Station in Apollo Beach that Turanchik's clients have proposed for a ferry terminal and park.

"There is much work to be done," Merrill said.

There is also the question of how to pay for it. Commissioners have been meeting for months with the county's three mayors to figure out ways to cover the costs of new roads and possibly transit projects because the pools of money they currently rely upon for transportation work are largely tapped.

In other action Wednesday, commissioners approved the final two contracts that complete the outsourcing of services formerly offered by the county's troubled Homeless Recovery program.

The county will pay the Salvation Army up to $470,000 per year to provide housing and other services for homeless single men and women, and will pay the Agency for Community Treatment Services, or ACTS, up to $630,132 per year to provide help to homeless people with mental health and substance abuse problems.

The county closed Homeless Recovery at the end of 2013 after a series of articles in the Tampa Bay Times highlighted problems with the program, which for years sent homeless families with children to live in squalid properties near sex offenders.

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or whobson@tampabay.com.

>>fast facts

Administrator's salary rises to $217,350

Hillsborough County Commissioners gave County Administrator Mike Merrill a 3.5 percent raise, taking his salary from $210,000 to $217,350, and suggested he could get a bigger bump soon after they compare his compensation with his peers. The raise was awarded as part of Merrill's annual review, and is on par with the average 3.5 percent raise Merrill gave most county employees late last year. He scored an average 4.5 out of 5 from commissioners who completed evaluations. "This is probably one of the most selfless individuals I've ever worked with," said Commissioner Victor Crist. "You are a consummate public servant." Merrill has been county administrator since 2010. "Thank you all very much," he said. "I appreciate the recognition."

Commissioners approve $125,000 for MacDill ferry study 02/05/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 9:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Wing Jonathan Drouin could be the only piece that Tampa Bay has to acquire a badly needed top-tier defenseman.
  2. Ryan Hunter-Reay running strong as he seeks a second Indianapolis 500 title

    Auto racing

    Ryan Hunter-Reay isn't a big jewelry fan.

    Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won Indy in 2014, is a contender for a second title in today’s 101st running. He qualified 10th, had the third-fastest practice lap and his team is looking strong.
  3. As Trump's overseas trip ends, crisis grows at home (w/video)

    Politics

    President Donald Trump headed home Saturday to confront a growing political and legal threat, as his top aides tried to contain the fallout from reports that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a focus of investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the president's campaign and transition teams.

    President Donald Trump waves as he exits Marine One on Saturday at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, Italy. After a nine-day trip overseas, the president is returning to Washington.
  4. Tributes pour in for Zbigniew Brzezinski, an 'influential voice' in politics (w/video)

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — Well before he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was impressed by the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski. That Carter immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    Foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday.
  5. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)