Hokes Bluff Ferry Could Be Moved Soon
|Hokes Bluff Ferry could soon be carrying up to three vehicles per trip across South Carolina waters to service Sandy Island, which has no bridge service.|
(Gadsden, AL - December 14, 2010) County Engineer Tim Graves tells GadsdenMetro that the Hokes Bluff Ferry could be moving to South Carolina "in a matter of weeks."
Graves informed the Etowah County Commission today during its weekly work session that the Atlanta office of the Federal Highway Administration has received official word from Washington, DC approving the sale and transfer of the as yet to be used ferry to Sandy Island, South Carolina.
The $393,000 boat was funded by federal grants and $89,000 in funds from the county in 2000. It was built to replace the old Hokes Bluff Ferry which had been in operation between Hokes Bluff and Tidmore Bend until 1998 when the cable-guided vessel was decommissioned after two accidents.
The boat was delivered to the county five years past the 2002 due date by Wetumpka-based Bonner Boats. That company was supposed to pay the county a per-day fee for late delivery. Those funds have yet to be paid to the county.
County Commissioners sought to keep the historical ferry operational, investing almost a half a million dollars in county funds and federal grants to build the ferry to US Coast Guard specifications. Once the boat was finally approved for operations, the county discovered how much it would cost to pay for the staff required to operate the vessel. Commissioners decided to declare the ferry as surplus and attempted to sell it on a governmental agency auction website - govdeals.com.
After the highest bid was rejected, the county sought to find another way to transfer the property to another municipality, and, hopefully, to save the county from having to repay the FHWA grant. Two agencies began to ask about the ferry, one in Maine and the Sandy Island group.
Commission President Perry Gwin, who represents the Tidmore Bend area serviced by the ferry, says he would like to have provided the ferry service to the residents of Tidmore Bend, Ballplay and Hokes Bluff. "But we don't have $200,000 a year to pay for its operation."
Residents of those communities have had to drive as much as 20 extra miles, one-way, since the decommissioning of the Hokes Bluff Ferry in 1998.