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Interim N.C. Ferry Division Director Jed Dixon wants islanders to know how things work in the ferry maintenance shipyard.
Dixon talked about the boat maintenance schedule and procedures during the monthly meeting Monday with islanders in the Community Center.
“I want y’all to see what we do up there,” he said and described some of the procedures all of the boats undergo in order to be sea worthy.
He and Hyde County Manager Bill Rich will work on a possible road trip for islanders in May to Mann’s Harbor, Dare County, where the shipyard is located.
Dixon said the shipyard employs 65 workers, which is down from a high of around 100 workers, lessened over the last several years due to legislative appropriation cuts.
“We’re trying to build the number up,” he said about the workers.
As for this year’s schedule, some of the 16 islanders attending noted that while the Hatteras ferry schedule added the 10:30 a.m. run back in for the summer, the spring schedule did not. Dixon said he would try to change that to add the 10:30 a.m. run back in.
The spring schedule begins April 11 and will run until the summer schedule begins in May through mid-October.
Dixon said the division plans to run six boats from Hatteras with a seventh on-call as a shuttle when traffic backs up.
Rudy Austin urged Dixon to add one more boat in June, July and August to help with traffic, and Dixon said an eighth boat will join the Hatteras fleet sometime in June.
Two of the seven boats at Hatteras have been repowered with newer, stronger engines, he said, and three more are scheduled to be refitted.
“The old Hatteras-class boats with the new engines are more powerful and maneuverable,” he said.
All boats will be fully staffed, and seasonal employees are being hired.
Dixon explained that about 150 priority lane passes have been purchased by various island vendors and that tour buses that visit in the spring will also have to purchase these passes or get into the regular lanes.
To Cindy Gaskill’s question if some of the ferry workers fired in October could be rehired, Dixon said he couldn’t comment on this personnel matter.
The group asked about ferry captains’ discretion to run ferries during high winds and storms. This question related to a night last weekend when islanders returning from a basketball game had to wait for the midnight ferry because a prior scheduled run was canceled when the ferry captain decided that it was too windy to go.
Dixon said it’s always up to the captains to decide if conditions warrant trip cancelations and the division continuously trains ferry personnel to navigate the Hatteras Inlet waters.
“We feel personally responsible to get you guys back and forth as safely as we can,” Dixon said.
George Chamberlin asked if the ferry captains are required to file reports when they decide not to run, Dixon said no, but said it was a good idea that he would consider implementing.
Dixon showed a prototype of one of two passenger ferry boats the division is contracting to purchase and said he is asking Ocracoke and Hatteras School students to come up with names for the two proposed ferries.
“There are no plans to change anything with the number of car ferries,” he said about the advent of passenger-ferry service, which may happen in 2018.
Dixon said he thought these monthly meetings with islanders are constructive and that some of the ideas presented can be implemented.
“We’re trying to serve you guys,” he said.