PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Pinellas County Commissioners voted this week to terminate the county’s agreement with the Cross Bay Ferry, but that doesn’t mean they are ending their relationship with the company.
In a news release, the county explained “terminating the current interlocal agreement is the only legal way to reopen negotiations.”
The Cross Bay Ferry is currently operated under a unique agreement with Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, as well as the Cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa. Each entity shells out $190,000 a season to keep the ferry financially afloat.
After two years of the COVID pandemic, county commissioners wanted the opportunity to check out the company’s books to see where the money is going and make sure it’s being transparent.
“We want to talk with all of our partners, and them, about opportunities to reduce or eliminate the public subsidy. There is also pieces to it that haven’t been fully disclosed,” St. Pete County Administrator Barry Burton said. “They get all of the concession revenue, for instance. That is one piece. Well, how much is that? Let’s talk about the overall contract because this is a four-year deal.”
But when residents, visitors and business owners hear the word termination, they shake their heads. The ferry, which operates seasonally, transports passengers from Tampa to St. Petersburg and vice versa.
Cindy Hardeman spends winters in St. Petersburg from Washington D.C. and has used the ferry from time to time.
“I love it. It’s just a nice relaxing way,” Hardeman said. “Right now, with traffic and everybody from up north coming in here, it’s clogging up the roads and then the traffic on the Howard Frankland and then the Gandy.”
Robin Buggs operates Ancient Herbal Care on the St. Pete Pier. “I mean it encourages a lot of tourists to want to visit both places, both places, yes.” said Buggs. “I think if it went away, people would be really discouraged.”
St. Petersburg’s Transportation and Parking Management Director, Even Mory, doesn’t seem concerned.
“I would say it’s certainly not cause for panic,” Mory said. “Because it’s clear that all of the government entities want this to continue in the future, it’s just a matter of exactly how that happens.”