Archive for » August 7th, 2017«

A drop in ferries means a drop in island sales

When the ferries lag, business on the islands does too.

“Schedules are delayed, and that goes on to the customers and their projects can’t get done,” said Justin Paulsen, a contractor on Orcas Island.

Paulsen had to postpone supply deliveries until ferry reservations were re-opened on July 27, making one project about two weeks late.

“But customers understand,” said Paulsen. “We’re all in the same boat.”

That boat is the Washington State Ferries, which islanders rely on for transportation, goods, and the tourists who heavily support the island economy.

During the height of the islands’ busiest season, on July 16, two broken ferries prompted an alternate schedule for roughly two weeks. Reservations could not be made during that time and sailings were delayed daily. On July 29, a vessel from a different route was added to the San Juans’ schedule to return it to full service.

The economic impact of those two weeks of delays will be outlined in a letter to state legislators, according to Victoria Compton, executive director of the San Juan County Economic Development Council.

Compton and members of the islands’ chambers of commerce, the San Juan Island Visitors Bureau, the Town of Friday Harbor and the San Juan County Council are drafting the letter to illustrate the islands’ dependence on ferries.

“We’re not suggesting solutions, we’re just building awareness so legislators in other parts of Washington, not solely served by ferries, understand the ferries are our lifeline,” said Compton.

The letter, she said, will be sent in about a month, once sales tax lost during the two weeks of delays can be determined. Based on the collection of testimonials from business owners, she expects to see a drastic decline.

For Paulsen of Terra Firma NW, suppliers, who couldn’t make ferry reservations to the islands, asked to be compensated for their wait in ferry lines. That would cost an additional $1,000 for deliveries, he said. Instead, he postponed projects and went off island for his own supply run. He estimates the day off island cost him $1,000 in lost wages.

Employees of Lawson Construction on San Juan waited up to five hours in ferry lines to reach a project on Orcas. This resulted in overtime, which owners paid for out of pocket, as the government contract job did not cover the expense, said owner Leah Lawson.

“My guys weren’t getting home until 11:30 p.m. and still had to get up at 7 a.m. to catch a ferry the next day,” she said. “It was pretty tragic.”

Hobbes Buchanan of San Juan Island Whale and Wildlife Tours said he lost 14 ticket sales in two days, resulting in $1,400 of lost revenue.

Justin Honeywell of Southend Market on Lopez said sales during the two weeks of delays were down about 12 percent from last year. Since the business opened in 2012, sales have typically grown about 5 to 10 percent a year, said Honeywell, but the last two weeks trended below the expected growth.

San Juan Island Transit Owner Sasha Von Dassow paid employees overtime throughout the week due to late returns to the island. Von Dassow also turned down two deliveries of off-island goods, which would have produced a roughly $300 profit, he said.

Anthony Rovente, owner of Edenwild Boutique Inn on Lopez, had a dozen cancellations during the two weeks of delays for his nine-room hotel. On July 18, a one-day alternate schedule did not include any international sailings so travelers from British Columbia canceled.

“I literally couldn’t accommodate those guests because the boat just passed by the islands,” he said.

Other visitors, added Rovente, canceled because of the WSF’s use of the term “emergency schedule,” to describe the alternate routes. Travelers feared there was a crisis.

Advice on WSF’s messaging, said Compton, will be included in the letter. Messaging, she said, is just as important as funding additional, newer ferries.

According to WSF’s website, one of the broken vessels is 50 years old, while the other is almost 40. Each of the 22 ferries operates 20-plus hours a day, about 300 days a year, according to Ian Sterling with WSF. In the summer, ridership increases about 50 percent, he added.

While the ferry schedule is now running smoothly, business owners like Rovente fear the damage to the San Juans’ reputation as a travel destination may be done.

“People are starting to think that the San Juans is a hassle, that it’s a real gamble to come here on vacation,” said Rovente. “We’re not just losing one guest for one stay, we’re losing a lifetime of stays.”

For more information on the WSF, visit www.wsdot.com. To add to contribute information to the letter drafted by local civics organizations, contact the EDC at info@sanjuansedc.org or 378-2906.


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Nathan Carman due in court to seek insurance on sunken boat

Nathan Carman, whose mother presumably died when his fishing boat sank last year, is scheduled have his legal case heard Monday as he pursues insurance compensation for the sunken boat.

His hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in a courtroom a U.S. District Court in Providence.

National Liability Fire Insurance Co. and the Boat Owners Association of the United States are asking for a judge’s support as they refuse to pay the insurance policy on Carman’s 31-foot fishing vessel.

Carman’s legal filing said his insurance claim on the boat was originally accepted, but the companies later reversed their position.

In a court document, the insurance companies argue the insurance policy covers property damage only if due to an accidental cause. They site testimony Carman gave under oath about removing a bulkhead and the boat’s trim tabs and also that he never verified that the boat’s aft bilge pump worked properly.

“Based on the undisputed alterations,” the insurance companies argue, “Nathan Carman transformed his boat into something different from what plaintiffs originally insured, thereby materially increasing the boat’s risk of loss, which he concealed and did not disclose.”

“(Carman) asserts counter-claims against the plaintiffs for breach of contract and claims for bad faith marketing, sales, and claim handling practices,” Carman’s document states.

Carman was recently accused by his aunts of causing his mother’s death and brutally shooting his millionaire grandfather to death. His family made those allegations in a New Hampshire lawsuit as they argued that Carman should not be allowed to profit from the estates of his mother or grandfather.

Carman has denied those claims.


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Lawmaker touts hands-on work at Kilgore plant

“Texans, we like more jobs. We like great jobs, we like wages going up, more opportunities.
That is overwhelmingly what I hear here in East Texas.””

“We’ve got for the first time in a long, long time a Republican president, Republican heads of every executive agency and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Now we’ve got to deliver.””

Kilgore’s Skeeter Boat is an impressive operation, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday, touring the local facility the same week the company announced the expansion of their manufacturing.

The new hires will bring the company’s local roster to about 300 employees, the state’s junior senator added.

“These are good high-paying jobs. They’re doing something people love to do,” he added, producing boats and, now, trailers through Skeeter’s recently expanded Kilgore facility. “It’s a great thing.”

According to Cruz, he learned a new, encouraging fact during his brief tour of the Hwy. 259 plant Friday morning.

“Apparently the week after the election in November boat sales went through the roof,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate said. “A whole bunch of folks after the election were real happy with the election, I think they were happy Hillary wasn’t president and turned around and went and bought a bass boat. I’m glad to hear that, and I’m glad to have a chance to visit with good people here doing good work.”

The first-term senator’s swing through East Texas included stops at Tyler Junior College and Brookshire’s Grocery Company in Tyler after his inspection of the Kilgore performance boats builder.

After the tour, Cruz spoke briefly with local media, touching on various issues including the continued effort to repeal Obamacare as well special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and collusion with the Trump administration.

The senator also highlighted the Senate’s passage Thursday of “Kari’s Law,” aimed at simplifying the steps it takes to dial 911 through a telephone system. Cruz introduced the bill in February 2016 alongside another Texas colleague in the Senate, Majority Whip John Cornyn, and three other legislators, including two Democrats.

The bill is named for Kari Hunt, a Marshall woman who died in a hotel room after her young daughter was unable to dial out of the telephone system to 911.

“I’m very pleased that we were able to get Kari’s Law passed,” Cruz said. “We need to be responsive to people in trouble.

“If you’re in trouble and you’re trying to dial 911, you shouldn’t be hitting a wall of the numbers not working. It’s tragic what happens. It’s nice to see congress responding to real needs.”

(Learn more about the implementation of Kari’s Law on page 3.)

Cruz said he appreciates the conservative values of East Texas and hopes they’ll spread.

“The priorities I hear in East Texas are jobs and economic growth. It’s consistent every time I’m up here,” he said. “Texans, we like more jobs. We like great jobs, we like wages going up, more opportunities. That is overwhelmingly what I hear here in East Texas.”

Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said he appreciated the senator spotlighting jobs and the need to rebuild American manufacturing.

“East Texas is the center of that in our world,” Selleck said. “We have a long history of being an industrial town and a manufacturing town,” and he’s eager to see the country head in the same direction.

There’s an opportunity right now to do something more, Cruz added.

“We’ve got for the first time in a long, long time a Republican president, Republican heads of every executive agency and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Now we’ve got to deliver.”

People are frustrated at the GOP’s failed effort to repeal Obamacare, the senator said, and he shares the feeling.

“I’m working with every breath in my body to bring Republicans together: let’s deliver on repealing Obamacare, let’s deliver on tax cuts, on lifting regulations, on expanding jobs and economic growth. We’ve got to deliver on what we promised.”

Investigations into Russian collusion and the Trump administration are proceeding in Washington, D.C. The nation’s capitol loves to focus on the political circus.

Probes by Mueller and Congress will proceed, he continued, but “There are worrying signs about the special counsel,” Cruz said, specifically how many members of Mueller’s team are Democratic donors. “I didn’t like that when the Obama Justice Department did that; I didn’t think it was fair and right to have Democratic donors essentially covering up for the misdeeds of the Obama administration, and I think it’s concerning to have partisan Democratic donors engaging in investigation.

“My hope is they will investigate and conclude this matter and they won’t engage in a fishing expedition.”

Overall, Cruz concluded, there are four key priorities for Congress and President Donald Trump right now: repealing Obamacare, tax reform, regulatory reform and keeping Constitutionally-minded justices on the Supreme Court and the federal benches.

“If we deliver on those four – that’s a big, big deal – this could be the most productive Congress in decades. If we fail on those four, this could be the most heartbreaking missed opportunity we’ve seen in a long time.”

When it comes to tax reform, Cruz added, he’s optimistic.

“What I’m spending my time doing right now is bringing together Republicans. Let’s stop fighting amongst ourselves, let’s focus on delivering results, let’s focus on keeping our promises, lifting the burden from Washington and let the economy take off, bring back jobs here to East Texas and all across the world.”


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