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Votes delayed on cross-bay ferry service

ST. PETERSBURG — City officials asked Hillsborough County and Tampa last week to delay final action on the ferry contract.

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.

Hillsborough is expected to consider the interlocal agreement on Wednesday. Tampa and St. Petersburg will follow on Thursday and Pinellas County on Aug. 9, said Sally Everett, St. Petersburg's director of legislative, education and intergovernmental affairs.

St. Petersburg 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.

Local governments gave 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.