Portsmouth seeks ideas on ferry service

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PORTSMOUTH — Calling ferry transportation "a lifeline" for Prudence Island residents, the Town Council has taken the first step to try to keep the service going — and to add Hog Island to the mix as well.

Prudence Ferry owner Bruce Medley recently announced that his company will cease operations on Dec. 1, leaving islanders and local officials scrambling to find a way to keep a ferry operating.

Town Planner Gary Crosby asked the council Monday for permission to "publish an RFP" (request for proposals) to provide ferry service to and from Prudence.

“We want to make it as open-ended as possible. We want to see if there’s any interest out there to provide service to the island," said Mr. Crosby, adding that he's like to also see ferry service to Hog Island — which ended over 10 years ago — re-establshed "at least on a limited basis."

Council member Liz Pedro said she was confused by Mr. Crosby's use of the "RFP" designation, since that usually indicates the town is buying a service. Mr. Crosby replied that he's merely looking for input from interested parties at this point.

“Perhaps the better term is an 'RFI' — request for information,” said Council President James Seveney, adding that Prudence residents are eager for answers to the ferry problem.

Town Administrator John Klimm said he's been working closely with the Prudence Island Planning Commission on the ferry issue. Since Prudence Ferry is ending service in less than seven months, time is of the essence, he said.

“For Prudence Islanders, this is their lifeline. In terms of quality of life issues, there’s perhaps no greater issue for them," Mr. Klimm said. “We don’t have very much time, but we feel we must proactively go after looking for interested parties.” The town wouldn't have the authority to approve a ferry service, he noted; that would be up to the state.

It's a complicated issue because the ferry landing is in Bristol, he said, noting that Portsmouth officials would need to work with that town as well.

The Bristol Town Council has been in negotiations with Mr. Medley for the purchase of the Thames Street landing. Ms. Pedro, however, said she's always advocated for ferry service to and from Portsmouth, not Bristol.

The council voted unanimously to approve Mr. Crosby's request to seek more information from interested parties on continuing ferry service to Prudence and Hog islands.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.