The Rochester Ferry Co. Chronicles: Part III – What’s Next?

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So what’s next for the Rochester Ferry Company?

Does it remain a sort of front organization for the city – working only as a way to keep the ferry debt invisible to a "constitutional" limit?

Or is there something more for it to do?

Perhaps it hinges on what the newly-minted Mayor Bob Duffy and the long-time City Council President Lois Giess decide about the board make-up. Should the two loosen up restrictions on board membership – and get the rest of the City Council to agree – maybe real advisors from the business world can populate it.

A group of people schooled in business practices would make sense. But then maybe we could call it what it really ought to be called – an advisory board.

But there is another potential use for this organization. And it stems from the idea of finding other sources of financial support. Everyone from Duffy to outgoing Mayor Bill Johnson to Current City Councilman (and Ferry Company President) Ben Douglas talk about involving other governments in supporting this service.

And why not. Duffy talks about how it can get Canadians to the Finger Lakes wine country and the outlet malls in the region. There is plenty of talk about how the ferry can carry people to Monroe County’s premier golf courses. And, frankly, there is more of an idea that it will take Americans to Toronto then the other way around.

So if outlying counties, outlying towns and the largest metropolis of Ontario are seeing the benefits – why can’t they pony up a little cash. Maybe Duffy sees it this way.

And maybe Duffy could use the Rochester Ferry Company as a first enticement to outside governments. He could invite in officials from potential "governmental partners" and give them a seat at the table… allow them to make some decisions.

But, of course, reality could also rear its ugly head here too. After two awful financial years behind this ferry venture… and with the city on the hook for potentially $51.5 million (and only a boat worth maybe $25 million as the sole asset) potential "partner governments" could politely say no and then run as fast as they could from the offer.

In other words it would take a large sales job.

And so we’re left with a few things: As things currently stand – the Ferry Company IS the city. And there is still a whopping debt left out there on a boat that has so far done nothing but drain away money. And it won’t be the Rochester Ferry Company that pays it off. It will be city taxpayers.