Putnam County commissioners to construct Drayton Island Ferry Barge

Putnam County commissioners gave the green light to begin constructing a new ferry barge, but not before one commissioner expressed concern with the county’s plan for its existing equipment.

The vote to start construction on a new Drayton Island Ferry Barge was unanimous, with the Board of County Commissioners saying the new ferry barge could carry 70,000 pounds equipment to the island near Georgetown, while the current barge carries about 40,000 pounds.

Construction for the $178,074 project will be paid for through a state Department of Transportation grant and from the county’s Better Place Plan infrastructure fund.

Deputy County Administrator Stacie Poppell said she met with officials – including Public Works Department Director Press Tompkins – on Monday, where they worked out how much money the county would need to contribute.

“All of the funding questions have been resolved, and Public Works doesn’t need to dip into any other funding sources,” Poppell said.

The ferry barge is part of a three-phase project that also consists of construction of the Drayton Island landing and the landing of Fort Gates Ferry. The entire project costs $2.1 million, with the county responsible for paying $375,000 to $400,000, Poppell said.

The Drayton Island Ferry Barge portion will cost the county about $70,000, she said.

Metal Trades Inc. of Hollywood, S.C., was awarded the project, with the two Putnam companies bidding more than $210,000.

“We got DOT money to build a new barge for Drayton Island,” Tompkins said. “Unfortunately, the bids came in a little bit higher than we had budgeted. … According to our grant, we’re supposed to have everything completed by Sept. 30, 2018.”

Tompkins said he was confident contractors would meet the deadline. After the new barge ferry is constructed at Drayton Island, the existing ferry, which is still operational, will be installed at Fort Gates, where the existing barge does not work.

Commissioner Terry Turner disagreed with moving the existing Drayton Island equipment to Fort Gates. A private resident, Dick Hackett, pays the insurance at Fort Gates, Turner said, and it is unclear who would be liable at Fort Gates if county-owned equipment is moved there.

“We’re going to take on liability for the new operation because that barge is going to belong to us instead of having somebody else do it,” Turner said. “… I think a lot of this has been assumptions. I think we need to workshop what we’re going to do with that barge after we install this.”

Although Turner voted to approve construction, he said that was where his support for the project stopped – at least until he learns more about putting the existing Drayton Island barge at Fort Gates

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