Ferry future uncertain after no operator found

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 29, 2014


LAPLACE – Resumption of ferry service connecting Edgard to Reserve appears to be in jeopardy after no bids were received to manage the operation.

St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom told council members Tuesday night she is continuing to meet with officials from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and the River Parishes Transit Authority to determine the next step. She said one potential operator did not submit a bid because the individual did not know how to prepare the pricing.

He did not call requesting additional information, Robottom said.

She said parish officials are continuing to pursue lease agreements with property owners to secure the areas for ferry landings on each side of the river in the event the ferry resumes operation. Robottom also hopes to meet with officials from Veolia Transportation Services, which manages the ferry service in Orleans Parish.

More than a week ago sources confirmed that council members had been notified via email that no bids had been submitted to manage the ferry. However, requests by L’Observateur to Robottom’s office for comment were not answered.

In the Administrative Report presented to the council Tuesday night Robottom did not acknowledge the fact no bids were received, admitting to it only after the question was asked of her by council member Jaclyn Hotard.

Also to be determined should service not resume is the status of a $1 million CBDG grant the parish has received to help defray the operational cost of the ferry. It is unclear if the parish would be forced to return the money if ferry operations fail to resume. Robottom did not address that issue Tuesday night.

Budget cuts forced the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to shut down service July 31, although it initially appeared an agreement had been reached to retain service until Sept. 1. In November, parish officials said service could be resumed by Christmas.

And in February, Robottom said the request for bids had been published Jan. 29 and operators had 30 days to submit their quotes.

Officials have estimated the cost to operate the ferry at $2 million annually, with $1 million coming from the state grant. Additional funding is scheduled to come from Hurricane Isaac funds.

Robottom has insisted the service would be re-evaluated after one calendar year to determine if it would be retained and has repeatedly said the parish cannot afford to operate the service.

She said she has also been in communications with area legislators to explore funding for a long-term solution.