Ferry may be back in time for holidays

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 12, 2013

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – Santa may get to hitch his sleigh to the ferry and enjoy the bonfires from a unique vantage point as service may resume before the end of the year.
St. John the Baptist Chief Administrative Officer Randy Vincent told parish council members Tuesday night that advertising could begin as early as next week to accept bids for operation of the Reserve/Edgard ferry, meaning service could resume by the holidays.
“Several companies have already expressed an interest (in operating the ferry),” Vincent said.
The parish has entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for maintenance and use of a ferry vessel and landing barges.
Vincent said the operation initially will be funded by a $1 million Community Development Block grant secured through the state. Parish President Natalie Robottom has estimated the annual operating cost of the ferry is more than $2 million.
Vincent said the parish will make up the difference through the use of FEMA funds  and additional grants. He said after one year the parish will evaluate the ridership, costs and progress and make a recommendation to the council regarding continuation of the service.
“Additional funding will have to be worked out,” he said.
Council member Cheryl Millet expressed concern about the currently shuttered ferry, which is being stored at a DODT facility.
“We don’t want it to break down one day after we get it,” she said.
Vincent assured her the ferry would be inspected before being put back in place to transport residents between Edgard and Reserve.
He reminded Millet that although the parish is responsible for the maintenance of the vessel and docks, the state has insured the hull.
“They can’t afford to give us something that is not in tip-top shape,” he said.
Ferry service has been idle since July 31 when DODT ceased its temporary funding.
In other council news, council member Jaclyn Hotard voiced her concerns regarding street repairs. She asked that the parish work crews to replace “joint to joint,” meaning putting in an entire street panel, when doing repair work on the parish’s thoroughfares.
“We don’t’ want any separation,” Hotard said.
Parish President Natalie Robottom said each repair is evaluated, and money can often be saved by just paving an area and not replacing the entire panel.
“It depends on what is required,” she said. “I will leave it up to the folks to decide.”
Hotard retorted that public safety is not a matter of money.