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Beaufort County Council on Monday approved a $268,000 contract with J&W Corp. that maintains ferry service between Hilton Head Island and Daufuskie Island through June 30, 2013.
The agreement eliminates two Saturday round trips per month and costs taxpayers about $97,100 more per year than the previous agreement, which expired June 30. Subsidized fares available to island residents, seniors and students won't be raised under the agreement.
Daily round trips from Daufuskie to Hilton Head will continue during weekdays, but the Tuesday and Thursday boats will leave at 11:15 a.m. instead of 8:15 a.m.
The contract is scheduled to take effect Sept. 1.
Although they found little to like about the new contract, most councilmen agreed there were no other options.
"The issue for me is, this is the worst of all possible options," Councilman Rick Caporale said. "That's how it has always been as far as Daufuskie is concerned. But I feel as though I have to vote for it because it's the best those folks are going to get."
The measure passed 9-1, with Councilman Steven Baer opposed and Councilman Gerald Dawson absent.
The new contract will cost $268,000 for 2012-13, even though only $150,000 was budgeted for ferry service. Fares are projected to generate about $21,000, leaving a gap of $97,000 to be absorbed by county taxpayers.
Wick Scurry, owner of J&W Corp., blamed the poor economy and fewer riders for the higher contract cost.
Although there were once multiple ferries operating between the two islands, Scurry's company was the only company competing for the county contract. His boats leave from Broad Creek Marina on Hilton Head and lands at Freeport Marina on Daufuskie. The ride takes about an hour and costs $28 round trip for tourists but $14 or less for full or part-time island residents and vacationers.
County Council on Monday also voted to place a non-binding referendum on the November 6 ballot that would create a Special Tax District on much of Daufuskie, excluding Haig Point, to fund ferry system improvements. If the measure passes, Council would have authority to create the district, but it would not be required to do so.
In other action Council: