Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday agreed unanimously to use the latest design for a new county ferry.
Commissioners have been studying whether to use the new, updated design capable of handling large trucks or go back to an original design that is less expensive but wouldn't handle the larger vehicles.
Commissioners have been concerned that the extra cost of the new design, which includes modifications to the shape of the ferry's hull and loading ramps, would severely limit County Road Department funds for regular or emergency projects.
The newer design was created to accommodate large trucks and prevent them from overloading axles as they traversed the loading ramp. Commissioners questioned whether the capacity was necessary.
However, two weeks ago, Public Works Director Pete Ringen relayed a report from a marine engineer stating that the original design ferry wouldn't be able to handle a wide variety of large vehicles.
This week, Ringen reviewed the process for obtaining state and federal funding. The Washington State Department of Transportation funding agency prefers that counties spend the funds that they receive instead of saving them for future needs, he said. When the funds, which come from federal fuel taxes, aren't used, the US Department of Transportation will reduce them.
"It hurts cities and counties statewide if we don't use them," Ringen said.
After more discussion, commissioners said they were ready to support the updated design even though they had concerns about the drain on the Road Fund.
If the road department has a disaster or emergency to address, the county can adjust, Commissioner Blair Brady commented. "We have to get a new ferry, and we have to proceed," he said.
Commission Chair Dan Cothren noted that with the original design, the ferry would have a deeper draft than with the new design, and that will be bad for navigation.
"If we go with the old design, we'll have problems down the line," he said.
"I don't see how we can go back to the 2009 design," said Commissioner Lisa Marsyla. "It won't do what it's supposed to do. So, I'm leaning toward going forward with the new design.
"I can't stress enough the management of this project--make sure it's done right at a low cost."
Brady moved to proceed with the new design, with Ringen having authority to negotiate costs and credits. Marsyla seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.