Tisbury Sets Nov. 18 Meeting on Ferry Fee

By ALEXIS TONTI

Tisbury will hold a special election Nov. 18 to determine whether the town will charge a 50-cent ferry fee for each passenger departing from the Vineyard Haven terminal.

The Tisbury selectmen, who unanimously support the fee, said Tuesday it will generate as much as $300,000 a year for the port community.

If approved, the fee will take effect in the new year.

The selectmen emphasized that the fee most likely will impact tourists and daytrippers. It will not apply to those who purchase commuter books, excursion fares or who travel on a sports team.

"Hopefully this will be tourist dollars rather than taxpayer dollars," said selectman Tom Pachico.

"It is my understanding that someone will be collecting this money regardless," said board chairman Tristan Israel. "If that is the case, we should be collecting the money. This is real big for the town, to have this year after year."

The money will be earmarked for public safety, harbor services and port infrastructure improvements.

The town of Oak Bluffs, where the fee could generate as much as $200,000 in annual revenue, will also hold a special election on the question. The selectmen have not yet set a date.

The state legislature approved the fee as an amendment to the municipal relief package passed in July. Aimed at softening the blow from state cuts to local aid, the plan allows cities and towns to raise a variety of fees on everything from parking and driving infractions to fire inspections.

The law calls for a 50-cent fee to be charged on each one-way passenger trip on ferries that travel the routes between the Cape and the Islands. The fee, which applies to the Steamship Authority and private ferries, will be collected by the boat lines and paid to the town where the trip originates. Money collected on a round-trip fare will be split between ports.

The fee is also subject to local referendums in Falmouth, Barnstable, Nantucket, Yarmouth, New Bedford and Fairhaven.