The commute to the beach is about to get a bit more relaxing.
By the end of the month, Sunshine City residents and tourists will be able to hop aboard a passenger ferry to Pass-a-Grille.
Island Ferry Boat Tours and Ferry Services held trials with two of its vessels last week and intends to offer the new service to Pass-a-Grille.
On Friday, general manager Sebastian Font was working at a feverish pace to meet the city's safety and insurance requirements.
By the time the outfit is up and running, there should be six vessels in Island Ferry's fleet.
The pontoon-type ferry, which holds up to 15 passengers, will depart every 90 minutes and will run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The owner of the operation says the more energy-efficient ferries are like "a floating living room."
Each trip lasts about 30 minutes, and passengers will receive a boarding pass for the return trip.
The ferry service will operate from the Pass-a-Grille Marina and the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. A route from St. Petersburg to Anna Maria Island is also in the works.
Organizers say the schedule and ferry service could be adjusted to meet customer demands. If the venture proves successful, Island Ferry could expand its fleet.
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Two local organizations are collaborating to help nonprofits cut expenses with a new green initiative.
"Powering Up Our Not-For-Profits" is a partnership between the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.
The best part of this initiative is it targets organizations that need the most help.
Last week, about 44 solar collectors were installed on the roof of the [email protected], at no cost to that organization.
The idea started with Drs. Peter and Susan Betzer of St. Petersburg, who donated much of the startup funds — about $30,000 — and the solar panels.
The goal is to preserve resources for nonprofits, but "you're saving a natural resource for all of us — the whole community," said Marlene Spalten, president and CEO of Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. "The conservation tie-in is everyone comes out a winner in this."
Each nonprofit that participates is expected to give back to the effort.
"The great thing is that the [email protected] has agreed to give back 50 percent of what they save (on their utility bill) and it goes into a fund in the Community Foundation, so then it can help other nonprofits basically lower their energy bills," said Peter Betzer, president and CEO of St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. "So as we get more and more not-for-profits participating, we can help more and more people faster."
The effort is a welcome relief for participants.
"We're extremely grateful and eternally delighted that we were the first nonprofit to kick off this initiative that could be implemented city and then countywide," said Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of the studio.
Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at [email protected] or at (727) 893-8874 and on Twitter at @StPeteSandi.