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St. Ignace

 
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theeislandgirl
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:36 pm    Post subject: St. Ignace Reply with quote

Mackinac Island Asks State To Drop Investigation
2011-03-03 / Front Page
Mackinaw City Joins MPSC Proceedings, St. Ignace Stays Out
By Karen Gould
Claiming that its power to regulate ferry service lies in its city
charter, the City of Mackinac Island will ask the state agency that
oversees public transportation, the Michigan Public Service Commission
(MPSC), to drop its investigation of the rates for Mackinac Island
ferry service Monday, March 7. The MPSC got involved February 4, when
Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry asked the state to step in, charging
that the city was trying to run it out of the ferry business, and the
MPSC has agreed to investigate.

“We are going to file a motion to dismiss,” Mackinac Island city
attorney Tom Evashevski told the St. Ignace News Friday, February 25.

In the meantime, the city is proceeding with its plan to update its
ferryboats ordinance with the ferry season less than two weeks from a
scheduled start of March 15, weather permitting. A special city
council meeting to review a draft ordinance is set for 5 p.m.
Wednesday, March 2. Once council has adopted the ordinance, a
franchise document will be drafted and signed by boat companies that
agree to the terms and conditions.

During a MPSC pre-hearing conference, representatives from the city,
ferry companies Arnold Transit, Star Line, and Shepler, and the
Village of Mackinaw City met with the com- mission in Lansing Tuesday,
February 22. In its filing with the MPSC, Shepler asked the regulatory
agency to freeze rates, fares, charges, tariffs, and ferry schedules
at April 1, 2010 levels, and to extend the freeze through March 31,
2012. The commission did not take any action on the request last
Tuesday, nor did it place any restrictions on Mackinac Island’s
regulation of ferryboats, but the MPSC did note that it would look
into the matter when 2011 information was filed. Also, the MPSC agreed
to begin an investigation “to determine the appropriate rates, fares,
charges, or tariffs.”

Shepler also requested an investigation of Arnold Transit Company,
Star Line Ferry, and Northern Ferry Company, a joint operating company
owned by Arnold and Star Line, but the commission said it would
investigate all the boat companies, including Shepler.

The state agency is charged with assuring safe and reliable energy,
telecommunications, and transportation services at reasonable prices.

Shepler suggested that the commission schedule public hearings in the
three communities affected by ferry service, Mackinac Island, St.
Ignace, and Mackinaw City, and the MPSC has agreed to hold the
hearings at a later date.

The request is in keeping with past practice for the agency. The
commission conducts public hearings on occasion, said Judy Palnau,
media specialist with MPSC. At such hearings, a judge requires those
speaking to state their name and identify where they are from, and
they may be given a time limit. People not wishing to speak during a
hearing or unable to attend also would be able to submit comments by
e-mail or mail, she said.

“The judge has leeway, typically, to decide how the hearing will take
place and, in the event there is a large number of people who indicate
that they would like to make a comment, the judge may decide to put a
time limit on that, but that is up to the judge,” she said.

Also joining the discussion is the Village of Mackinaw City. In its
filing Tuesday, February 15, the village has asked to be a party to
the matter, wants to be included in any decision the MPSC might make,
and takes the position that any determination regarding ferry issues
would impact its economy.

“The Village of Mackinaw City will take the position that the rates,
fares, charges, and terms and conditions of service to be adopted must
take into consideration the interests of the Village, its businesses,
and its citizens whose livelihoods are tied to economical access to
Mackinac Island and to the success of the ferry services,” said the
petition filed by village attorneys Roderick Coy, Scott Smith, and
Leland Rosier of the Lansing law firm Clark Hill.

The City of St. Ignace has decided to stay out of the matter, citing a
lack of funds to cover legal expenses.

“…the City of St. Ignace is extremely watchful of its finances, due in
part to state cut backs, and is not in a position to get involved with
the controversy between the boat lines and Mackinac Island and
Mackinaw City,” said City Manager Eric Dodson in a letter to the
commission. He also noted, “Our home rule city, which is the county
seat for Mackinac County, believes it should have the same municipal
authority Mackinac Island has to franchise ferry carriers using our
city bay and facilities. At the same time, cooperation with Mackinac
Island and Mackinaw City is of utmost importance to us. We hope that
the commission will consider the impact on all three communities when
issuing decisions in this matter.”

At the core of Shepler’s claim is the Carriers by Water Act (Public
Act 246 of 1921), which grants the MPSC the power to regulate ferry
operations.

The City of Mackinac Island contends that the act does not apply here
and responded to the Shepler claim Friday, February 25. The act reads,
in part: “…any ferry company operating within a municipality under an
agreement with such municipality shall not be affected either as to
fares of operation by this act.”

“Clearly, the ferries serving the city operate within the municipality
when they are delivering passengers or freight to the city and when
they are taking passengers and freight from the city,” states the
city.

The city’s 1899 legislature-issued charter grants it the authority to
regulate ferry service, states the city’s response.

From the City Charter Chapter XVI, Ferries, Section 1: “The council of
said city may regulate and license ferries from such city or any place
of landing therein to the opposite shore, or from one part of the city
to another; and may require the payment of such reasonable sum for
such license as to the council shall seem proper and may impose such
reasonable terms and restrictions in relation to the keeping and
management of such ferries, and the time, manner, and rate of carriage
and transportation of persons and property as may be proper, and
provide for the revocation of any such licenses and for the
punishment, by proper fines and penalties of the violation of any
ordinance prohibiting unlicensed ferries and regulating those
established and licensed.”

This is not the first time the strength of the city’s charter has been
tested. In 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the charter when the
ferry companies contested the ferryboat fee.

The next step for the commission is to consider motions to dismiss,
which would be presented by Monday, March 7, with a deadline of
responses to dismissal motions set for Monday, March 14. The
commission has scheduled a motion hearing for Monday, March 21, in
Lansing.

A lawsuit is also pending in the matter. In October, the Shepler
company also filed suit in federal court against Mackinac Island,
Arnold Transit, Union Terminal Piers (UTP), and Jim Wynn, owner of
Arnold and UTP. A pre-hearing conference in that case is planned in
March. The city has responded to the suit with a counter claim.
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Rich
Bois & Grills Club
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Joined: 21 Mar 2006
Posts: 215
Location: Waterford, WI

PostPosted: Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like another case of government overstepping it's bounds and it's skill level.
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