Beaufort News

Development, county settle on price for Daufuskie ferry service

Haig Point and Beaufort County have agreed to end their stalemate over payment to use the private development's ferries to reach Daufuskie Island.

The county, which had paid $5,000 a year for unlimited access to Haig Point's fleet, will pay the development $15,000 for the 2011-12 fiscal year, community services director Morris Campbell said Friday.

That payment also will cover the Daufuskie Island Fire District, which had previously received free, unlimited access.

It's more than what the county wanted to pay, but less than what Haig Point wanted.

Citing rising fuel costs, Haig Point had asked the county to increase its annual payment to $25,000. It also had requested the fire district pay $10,000 a year.

All sides said they're pleased with the outcome.

Campbell said it's a fair deal that will help the county continue to provide essential services to Daufuskie, which is accessible only by water off the southern tip of Hilton Head Island.

The county uses the development's fleet, which makes 18 daily runs between Daufuskie and Hilton Head, to evacuate sick residents and transport building inspectors, council members and others.

Haig Point general manager Randall Page said he's glad the dispute, which had stoked tension on Daufuskie, didn't escalate.

The development had threatened to charge fire district riders $25 per round-trip if the district didn't pay by July 1. It took a similar stance with the county.

Anonymously placed posters on Daufuskie had warned people they "will continue to be oppressed" unless they stand united against "an ultimatum from the Haig Point community."

"We don't want this to become a contest of drawing lines in the sand," Page said.

Whether Haig Point will seek another increase next year depends on energy prices, he said.

The deal also pleased fire district leaders.

Some had decried the request for the district to pay, saying it had no money to give and arguing its firefighters do much to benefit Haig Point in exchange for riding the development's boats. Only one of the district's 11 paid firefighters lives on Daufuskie, so the rest rely on Haig Point's ferries to get to work.

"It sounds like it could be a good deal for everybody," said Chuck Henry, chairman of the district's board.