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Beaufort County Council approved an increase in its subsidy for the public ferry to Daufuskie Island, but several council members want to reevaluate transportation to the island.
The county pays J&W Corp. a daily fee to operate the ferry, which carried about 7,280 riders last year and is projected to transport 6,800 this year.
J&W requested a 6 percent increase in that subsidy to cover higher living costs for its employees and rising diesel fuel prices. That brings the total six-month contract amount to $198,500, according to information presented at Monday's Finance Committee meeting.
Several members expressed frustration at the price tag, which totals more than $25 per rider.
"We really should see if we can do something better," said Councilman Steve Baer. "That's a lot of subsidy."
J&W is the only company that has responded to solicitations for ferry service to Daufuskie.
But Councilwoman Laura Von Harten said perhaps that's because the county has been asking for "such a big behemoth of a boat."
Von Harten suggested others might be willing to provide the service if the county opened its bidding process to alternatives.
"And I know we've had this discussion before, but you can cross Calibogue Sound very safely in a much smaller boat," she said.
The previous contract expired in October, and the full council unanimously approved the replacement.
"I don't see that we have a lot of options here in terms of continuing to provide service for the people who live on the island, that live outside (the private community) of Haig Point, which has its own ferry system," said Councilman Stu Rodman.
The new contract ends June 30, at which point council can reevaluate.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.