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Another budget hurdle for ferry

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Updated: 6/14/2013 9:29 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If you thought it was smooth sailing for the St. John's River Ferry, after getting that $1 million grant from the state, you weren't the only one. We found out that money is allotted strictly for maintenance, not operations.

"The million dollars actually goes to the cost of, every two years the Coast Guard requires recertification, so that means the ferry has to come out of the water and be checked. For example, the shaft, the propellers and the rest of it," said Mitch Reeves, chairman of the Ferry Task Force.

Reeves tells Action News it costs $1.6 million to operate the ferry. However, it only rakes in $1.2 million a year from its more than 230,000 riders.

"The question is the $400,000 shortfall: Where is that money coming from," said Reeves.

Last year, it came from the city budget, something many are hoping happens again.

"They can probably find $400,000 to keep it operated," said one ferry rider.

One supporter confronted Action News with his own solution to increase revenue.

"When they collect the money, let's hand out advertisements for the local businesses or coupons for the local businesses to promote everyone, make it good for everyone," said ferry rider Ken Rookie.

Ferry supporters also have another reason why it's critical to keep the ferry operational. When the Dames Point Bridge gets shut down, for accidents or traffic, people rely on the ferry to get across the river. The Ferry Task Force says they're working on a smartphone app that will tell motorists when local roads or bridges are backed up, so they can use the ferry to cut down on time spent in traffic.

As for the city including the ferry in its budget this year, officials tell Action News they're still in talks with the Ferry Commission about what can be done.
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