BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, NEWS EDITOR
Charlevoix County officials still have no idea how much it will cost to fix the Ironton Ferry.
The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners recently discussed funding options for repairs which need to be made to the Ironton Ferry, which was damaged by an automobile fire in recent months.
“I’m not in favor of putting a blank check out for the ferry—period,” said Charlevoix County Commissioner Chris Christensen (R-District 2).
The Ironton Ferry sustained substantial damage when, on Friday Oct. 2, a 2003 Grand Prix driven by 30-year-old Christopher Steve Cosier of Charlevoix, caught fire.
Charlevoix County Commissioner Nancy Ferguson (R-District 5) said the county is having difficulty receiving bids on the job.
“Nobody’s ever done this before,” she said. “But, if we don’t send something in to that insurance company, they are not going to send us anything that is reasonable.”
Ferguson said the vehicle may or may not have been on a recall list.
Charlevoix County Commissioner Ron Reinhardt (R-District 3) said he learned from recent discussions with the Charlevoix County Road Commission that the vehicle was on an auto manufacturer’s safety recall list.
“This ferry board is probably more aware, maybe than anybody ever, we are a public service and we are aware we need to have this baby running by spring,” said Ferguson. “And, if we don’t get it pulled out of the water and start on it now—”
Ferguson stopped mid-sentence to punctuate the seriousness of a spring and summer season without use of the Ironton Ferry.
Ferguson said the ferry board has received one bid and hopes to get another. But, the board has already been “turned down flat” by one company who is unwilling to touch the project.
“The preference by the ferry board would be that we get somebody to repair it, to do all the repairs from the electrical to the glass to the decking, that would be ideal rather than trying to have different contractors do different things,” Ferguson said. “Some of the materials have been ordered… They tend to be lights and horns and that type of thing.”
Reinhardt said he wanted to postpone a decision in order to allow time to write an accurate estimate of the cost of repairing the damage.
Ferguson said contractors will likely want half the cost of the job up front.
Whether the ferry will be worked on in place or must be moved to do the work is still unknown.
“I’m not a betting man but, I’d tell you that, if you need to haul that to somebody’s place, you’re going to want to do it while the lake’s not frozen,” said Christensen. “I would also throw out there: you made the comment about whether the vehicle is on the recall list or not and I guess, to what extent does that matter?”
Christensen said he has concerns that the insurance company could try pushing the responsibility off onto the auto manufacturer or the owner of the vehicle.
“If we outlay the cash on the front end, and there is no insurance claim on the back end, we’re putting ourselves out there in a blank check scenario,” Christensen said…. “I’d like to see a number of some kind. Even a guesstimate would be better than nothing at all.”
Ferguson said the ferry’s operating and maintenance account may have nearly $65,000, which Christensen said could be used to start working on the project.
Officials and staff will work together to bring an estimated cost for repairs needed on the ferry to the next Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Charlevoix County Commissioner Joel Evans was absent.
The ferry remains closed until at least the spring of 2016.