Kissimmee commission drops ferryboat project
By Tiffanie Reynolds
After months of deliberation, the Kissimmee City Commission voted to unanimously opt out of the state grant for its Lake Tohopekaliga ferryboat project.
In June, the commission approved the $150,000 Florida Department of Transportation grant for the project and voted to find a third-party commercial vendor to operate the ferryboat program. If an operator could have been found, then the commissionhad planned to use the grant money to jumpstart the service and leave continued operations to the selected vendor.
But after the city notified 102 vendors on two vendor networks and placed an ad in a local publication, the city received no responses by the bid due date. With no interested operators and the city unwilling to pay to keep the service running, City Manager Mike Steigerwald made the staff recommendation for the commission to option out of the grant. The commission agreed, adding that it would notify the Florida Department of Transportation that the board is interested in re-applying for the bid in the future.
“The boat would have always been a secondary opportunity that may or may not be feasible. But, I think we’re certainly going to be looking at other kinds of opportunities that may come up. There are all kinds of things that may occur over time, but you can’t push it. The demand has got to be there before you go spending money, as far as I’m concerned,” Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan said.
The ferryboat service began to take shape between 2012 and 2013 with Disney donating a 30-passenger vessel and the city receiving the $150,000 state grant for the project. But the City Commission took cautious steps throughout the whole project. Swan said that the commission never formally possessed the donated ferryboat, and wouldn’t until a commercial operator stepped up to take on the service.
If the project did go through, the City Commission planned to have the ferry system travel from Lakefront Park in downtown Kissimmee to various points around Lake Tohopekaliga, such as Makinson Island, and back to Lakefront Park.
The commission won’t reconsider the project again until after construction to Lakefront Park is completed in October or November of 2014. If it does want to take on a ferryboat system again, it would be 2015 before the city re-applied for the grant.