JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — The Jamestown-Newport Ferry, which has operated since 1993, is in deep water.
The Jamestown Town Council and Conanicut Marine Services (CMS) have been struggling to come to an agreement over how and where the ferry should operate.
The bitter dispute played out before the Jamestown Harbor Commission Wednesday night.
The town council said its use agreement offer for a portion of the town dock and pier was rejected by CMS last month.
Discussions ended there, according to CMS, which means right now, no ferry will run to and from Jamestown.
The two sides disagree over who controls the portion of the dock and pier where the ferry is located. The town council argues it should be accessible to the boating public, while lawyers representing CMS believe it has a lease agreement to utilize the space.
“We just don’t agree,” councilor Michael White said. “We don’t really see any end to that not agreeing.”
“In order to determine the ownership issue, professional mediation … is required,” said Christian Infantolino, a lawyer representing the Jamestown-Newport Ferry.
Resident are also at odds.
Jamestown resident Ted Wallace said he and his family tried to walk onto the town pier one summer, but were turned away by ferry workers.
“With a lot of indignity, we were told, ‘This is ours, this is for the ferry. You can’t go here,'” Wallace said. “It made me think this town is not open for business, it’s not open for the public.”
Others argued the ferry is a public utility, since it provides a way for people without boats to access Jamestown and its waters.
Business owners worry without the ferry, they’ll miss out on thousands of visitors who come to the island each summer.
“Without them, the business owners are not going to survive,” Jamestown resident Marilyn Munger said. “That ferry can’t stop running. You need to do whatever it takes to make that ferry run.”
The Jamestown Harbor Commission approved a motion to recommend both sides enter discussions with mediation to try and get the ferry running. The commission’s recommendation now goes to the town council to consider.
The ferry is scheduled to start running for the spring on May 21, according to its website, but that won’t happen unless the two sides can come to an agreement.