Beaufort County and the company it subsidizes to provide ferry service between Hilton Head and Daufuskie islands are at odds over morning departure times.
Wick Scurry, who owns J&W Corp., said he wants to change his ferry's departure time from Broad Creek Marina on Hilton Head from 7:15 a.m. to 9 a.m. because the later time would be more convenient for tourists.
Scurry said he has only three or four passengers on the 7:15 a.m. ferry, but believes he would have 30 to 50 if it left at 9 a.m. He said it costs him $250 per hour to operate the boat.
County officials say the later departure time would be inconvenient for Daufuskie residents who take the ferry on its return trip from Daufuskie to Hilton Head. With the later time, those passengers wouldn't get to Hilton Head until about 11 a.m., according to Morris Campbell, the county's director of community services.
The issue of departure times arose as part of negotiations between the county and Scurry over next year's contract for ferry service between the two islands.
Long-term parking for ferry riders is also being discussed. In the past, Scurry provided about 30 long-term spaces in a privately owned lot at the Broad Creek Marina and charged riders who parked there a fee, Campbell said. Going forward, the county probably will reserve the parking spots from the lot owner and charge ferry riders for parking.
In 2011, the county spent about $322,000 on ferry service, but even with an additional $50,000 grant from the state, the ferry service ended up $24,428 in the red, according to county budget documents.
Island residents pay $4 per trip, and the county reimburses Scurry $13.50 each way, per Daufuskie resident. Campbell said he expects about 7,000 residents to ride the ferry next year.
Visitors pay $28 for a round-trip ticket, but the county doesn't reimburse Scurry for those trips because they're part of Scurry's tourism business.
The county isn't legally obligated to provide ferry service to Daufuskie, but the County Council prefers to offer it, Campbell said.
"This is one of the services that the county has elected to provide," Campbell said. "We'd like to minimize the amount of dollars it takes to operate the service, but we also understand we're impacting employment in that sense."
Many ferry riders have jobs on Hilton Head or Daufuskie and rely on ferry service to get to them.
Follow reporter Anne Christnovich at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.