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Sayville Ferry Services seeks rate hikes

Sayville Ferry Services has proposed passenger and freight fare increases that Suffolk County budget analysts say will total an estimated $435,300 for 2018 for service to the Fire Island communities of Cherry Grove, Fire Island Pines and Water Island.

The proposals would raise average passenger rates by 12.72 percent to Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines and 13.85 percent to Water Island.

For Cherry Grove and Pines passengers, one way rates would go from $8.25 to $9.50, $16 to $18 round trip. A 40-trip ticket would rise from $247.50 to $285.

For Water Island passengers, one way would go from $13.50 to $16, round trips from $25 to $30 and a 20-trip ticket from $236.25 to $253.75.

In making the rate requests, Sayville Ferry officials cited increased costs for labor, dock fees, property taxes, vessel leases and maintenance. They said operating costs increased by 1.9 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Robert Lipp, legislative budget review director, said the office supports the rate hike request, saying it is “not unreasonable” given that its last rate hike was in 2012.

The office toured ferry operations to ensure the company is using adequate cash controls and confirmed the acquisition of a new vessel, the Cross Bay Clipper, since the last rate hike.

Sayville Ferry said with no rate increase, the company would suffer a $27,000 loss in 2018 that would grow to $497,000 by 2022.

George Hoffman, a spokesman for the Fire Island Association, asked county lawmakers on the public works committee to delay action on the rate hike until the association can review the request and meet with company officials. Hoffman said the group has only gotten data on the rate request, first filed Sept. 7, in the past week. A public hearing before the legislature is scheduled for Nov. 21.

Ferry firms that transport passengers or freight within county borders must have a license and gain rate approval from county lawmakers under the county code.

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