July 17, 2019 4:27 pm

Howe Island residents say their ferry service needs immediate attention

WATCH: Residents asked county council to improve the current ferry and examine the potential for a bigger, newer ferry.

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Dozens of Howe Island residents gathered at Wednesday’s county council meeting to urge solutions to what they’re calling a “deteriorating service.”

According to the County of Frontenac, the Howe Island ferry was out of service for 12 hours on Friday, July 12th due to a staffing shortage.

Bill Robinson, a longtime resident of the island and the chair of the Howe Island Ratepayers Association, is now referring to it as the “Friday fiasco”.

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READ MORE: Howe Island residents call for change after ferry service interruption

“Our purpose here [at council]  is to use the Friday fiasco to demonstrate that this is a event in a long line of events demonstrating the deterioration of the ferry service and we want that to change,” Robinson said.

Mayor of Frontenac Islands, Dennis Doyle, says he understands the resident’s frustration and presented a motion in council to look into four different areas that include:

Allowing township ferry operators to be able to run the county ferry, getting MTO approval to hire more staff while creating standby or on-call positions, and allowing supervisors to fill in as a ferry operator during emergencies.

WATCH: (July 16, 2019) Howe Island ferry service interruption causes island resident outrage

He says while all these options will need to be run through unions and will be more expensive, they are worth examining.

“We know how important it is to have your lifeline to the main land and when it’s down it is extremely frustrating” said Doyle.

However, Robertson says while looking into fixing ferry staffing is a good first step, it’s not enough.

“The way the ferry is structured and operates — or doesn’t operate — that’s the main problem” says Robinson.

The main ferry that services Howe Island came into operation in 2004, but Robinson says there is a flaw with the design. He explained that when water levels are high like they are this year, the ferry can’t carry as many cars or travel as fast.

He went on to say: “We’d like to see a new drive system. That’s the short-term solution, but the long-term solution is in three years we need a new ferry.”

READ MORE: Wolfe Island ferry terminal consultations to begin this spring: MTO

Frontenac County Warden Ron Higgins says a new ferry is a possibility, but he doesn’t feel there is a major problem with the current one.

“There are issues, but I don’t think they’re issues we need to respond to right away,” Higgins said. “If we continue to build on the island then maybe we do need a bigger ferry, so we need to look at this from a strategic perspective”

Warden Higgins says in the short term he hopes to create better communication between residents and the county so that misunderstandings don’t happen in the future.

He plans on establishing a committee consisting of residents and county officials so that concerns, ideas and long term goals can be discussed on a more frequent basis.

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