The Prince Rupert Port Authority has looked into the possibility of taking over the operation of the Digby Island ferry from the City of Prince Rupert, and the City is now considering reopening the discussion on the idea.
A couple months ago, members of port authority’s Trade Development staff met quietly with City Hall to discuss the idea at least once. But the port is saying that its staff was simply investigating the possibility of taking over the ferry service from the City, and they haven’t had another meeting on the subject since.
The port says the idea was given to them during the public consultation for their Central Waterfront Vision that took place last year. While integrating the ferry into central waterfront didn’t fall within the project’s scope, the port authority decided to discuss the idea with the City anyway.
“I would characterize the meeting as ‘brainstorming’ more than anything else. It was because these ideas flowed out of the community consultation that they were discussed further,” says port authority representative, Michael Gurney.
If the Prince Rupert Port Authority did take over the operation of the ferry it would be a big boom for the City’s finances. Even after the revenue from the ferry service is accounted for, it will still cost the City $790,000 to run the service this year, plus $220,000 for repairs to the dock.
If just the operating costs could be removed from the City’s budget, property taxes could be lowered by about 7 percent, or the extra money could be put toward things like Prince Rupert’s severe infrastructure deficit.
While the port authority says that they’re not currently working towards making this a reality, the City will have to make the next move.
“Ultimately, it’s the City’s decision as to what happens to the ferry service and what shape it takes in the future. And if they want to talk to the port authority about that we’re happy to discuss with city staff and council,” says Gurney.
It looks like the City may be ready to talk about the idea again in the near future. Mayor Jack Mussallem has suggested to council that they should restart discussions on the subject.
“I think it’s appropriate, because the port’s interested, perhaps we should have some discussions with them,” says Mussallem.
The mayor believes that they might be able to sell the ferry and the docks for about $1-million that could be put to use elsewhere.