Valley View Ferry funding restored in Lexington council committee vote

information from Madison, Jessamine counties leads to course reversal

bfortune@herald-leader.comJune 10, 2011 

The Valley View Ferry, established in 1785, was operated by private owners until 1991, when Jessamine, Madison and Fayette counties took joint ownership. Fayette County's latest decision on funding was also influenced by the availability of grants to replace the ferry's tow boat.

GREG KOCHER | SYAFF — Greg Kocher | Staff

About $41,000 in funding for the Valley View Ferry was restored Thursday by a Lexington council budget committee.

Mayor Jim Gray initially proposed cutting money for the ferry to help reduce a multimillion-dollar city deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But the administration reversed course after learning earlier information about similar pending cuts from Madison and Jessamine counties was not accurate, said Jane Driskell, commissioner of finance.

"Subsequent conversations with officials in those counties indicated that was erroneous information," Driskell said.

Urban County Council members agreed to restore the ferry funds in a line-by-line budget review Thursday. A final budget vote will be required.

In addition to $41,620 from Fayette County and $150,000 in annual funding from the state, Valley View receives $20,000 in funding from Jessamine County and $25,000 from Madison County, according to Roger Barger, chairman of the Valley View Ferry Authority.

Also influencing Fayette County's funding turnaround was the availability of grants to replace the ferry's tow boat, Driskell said. To get the grant, the three counties would have to contribute the matching funds.

Driskell said the Valley View Ferry board is seeking estimates on the replacement cost.

Council member Ed Lane, whose 12th district includes the Valley View landing, said the ferry was in line to receive two grants, a $600,000 federal award and a $100,000 state Transportation Department grant for a custom-built ferry tow boat. The Valley View Ferry Authority has received a letter from the state confirming the grants, Lane said. The tow boat and the barge that carries the cars make up the Valley View Ferry.

"Because the mayor is new and the commissioner of finance is new, they were not aware of all the details," he added.

The Valley View Ferry shuttles cars across the Kentucky River from Jessamine to Madison County.

The proposed funding cut infuriated some ferry users. The ferry, which connects Tates Creek Road in Fayette and Jessamine counties with Ky. 169 in Madison County, shortens travel time and reduces fuel use, proponents have said.

Jessamine, Madison and Fayette counties have had an agreement to operate the paddle wheel ferry since 1991.

The ferry carries more than 105,000 vehicles and more than 169,000 passengers a year, according to George Dean, vice-chairman of the Valley View Ferry Authority, the governing body that administers it.

In addition to addressing the ferry, the council committee also took a procedural vote Thursday to keep open Berryhill and Constitution swimming pools with $66,255 in funding. The council initially approved funding the two pools in May after Gray had sought to close the pools to save money.

The committee also approved $500,000 for repair of city parking garages. Repairs were made more urgent after corrosion of a steel beam caused a 28-foot concrete panel to fall from the side of a city-owned garage in May.

■ The council also approved selling property that had been declared surplus at 1140 Red Mile Place to the Fayette County Cooperative Extension Board for $1.7 million.

The council's budget committee meets again Tuesday to finish going over budget items. Council members are set to ratify the budget that afternoon.

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