CHARLESTON - Higher fuel prices will result in higher prices at the Dorena-
Kenny George, chairman of the Mississippi County Port Authority Board, presented a financial report on the operation of the ferry during the regular Mississippi County Commission meeting Thursday and requested the county's approval for the rate changes.
Under the new proposed toll schedule for the ferry, the basic fare for single vehicles will go up from $8 per trip to $10. Long vehicles between 31-55 feet will go up from $16 to $20 and those 56-75 feet long will go up from $24 to $30.
To encourage round-trip usage, return fares are half price for the same vehicle traveling the opposite direction with the presentation of the original ticket.
"It would make it $15 instead of $12," George said of the basic, round-trip fare.
Discount fare rates will remain the same at $5 per trip for motorcycles, ATVs and horse-drawn wagons; $2 for bicycles and horses; $1 for pedestrians; and $1 per person for school groups with the return trip included.
The cost for a sheet of 10 coupons will increase from $60 to $75; and the "Free Ferry Friday" commuter special package of four sheets of ten vouchers which must be used within two months of the date of purchase will go up from $192 to $240.
During the past fiscal year of July 1, 2004, to June 30, the ferry carried a total of 17,686 cars and 39,860 people bringing in a total of $124,802 in revenue from fares, according to George.
Comparing figures from fiscal year 1999-2000 when the ferry went back into operation, the ferry has seen an increase of over 6,500 vehicles per year and 14,000 people. "And it's doubled in revenue, basically," George said.
George said the rate increase should increase revenue $15,000-$18,000 per year "if everything stays the same."
Except for a dip in 2001-2002 because of the ferry being closed for 45 days due to floodwaters, ridership and revenue figures have grown annually, according to the Port Authority's report.
George said while tractor-trailers 56-75 feet long will see their round-trip rate go up from $36 to $45, "they can't drive around for that difference in price."
The proposed rate increase must also be approved by the Port Authority Board.
"We'd like these rates to go into effect Aug. 1," George said.
He said in addition to higher fuel costs, the ferry has also been dealing with higher insurance premiums which are now up to $48,000 per year.
In other business during Thursday's meeting:
* Commissioners approved a Title 5 delinquency prevention pass-through grant from the Missouri Department of Public Safety for the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center.
Martha Ellen Black, the Center's executive director, said the grant went through the county for the first year but the second year there was no money to apply for.
"They are re-establishing that funding this year," she said.
Black said it is better to apply through the county rather than through a city as that method would limit the program to that particular municipality.
"The grant is for a little over $100,000," she said. "We do have a good track record with the Department of Public Safety."
The program routes federal funding through the state.
Black also commended commissioners for their stand against embracing an alternative to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's St. John's Bayou Basin-New Madrid Floodway Project pitched by Tim Searchinger, senior attorney for Environmental Defense.
"He is not looking out for our best interests," she said.
Black said her response to Searchinger was: "How can we trust you? You don't tell the truth."
* Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg signed off on a $32,000 grant application for the Bootheel Local Emergency Planning Committee.
The annual grant requires signatures from presiding commissioners in all six of the counties served by the LEPC.
Established in 1991, the Bootheel LEPC provides affordable fire fighter training as well as training for other emergencies such as weapons of mass destruction and fuel trailer spills, according to Bill Pippins, coordinator.