Glynn County Commissioners heard a proposal from Stephen Williams, president of Anchor Shipping Group, to start a ferry service between St. Simons and Jekyll islands at a Tuesday work session.
Williams said his company was considering including downtown Brunswick in the service if the venture is successful.
Under his proposal, Anchor Shipping would add a floating dock off the westward arm of the St. Simons Island pier to drop off and pick up passengers. Another floating dock would be built off one end of the Jekyll Island fishing pier.
In addition to the ferry service, Williams planned to start a shuttle service to transport people around the island, particularly to the ferry docks.
Williams estimated pricing at around $10-15 for a round trip on the ferry, and $7-8 for a day pass on the shuttles. They would likely charge an extra fee to transport beach gear and bikes, which they would reserve room for on both the ferry and shuttles.
As for parking, he said his company had spoken with the McKinnon St. Simons Airport about leasing land for people to park while they were using the shuttles.
They would also work with businesses like Jekyll Island’s water park, Summer Waves, to offer package deals on tickets.
Building both docks would cost around $700,000, he said, and added part of his proposal included exclusive use of the dock, so he could recoup his losses without fear of immediate competition. Williams asked commissioners to consider contributing $40,000 of county money toward pylon construction for the floating dock. He said the contribution would be fair, because the pylons would remain even, if the ferry service halted.
It would be a seasonal service. The ferry would run regularly between March and September, and potentially at other times as demanded, such as for the Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival.
Williams said he had already started discussing the venture with the Jekyll Island Authority and the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau. Jones Hooks, JIA executive director, had been receptive to the idea, he said. If all went well and he was aggressive in pursuing approvals from the county, JIA and Department of Natural Resources, William said he may be able to have the enterprise up and running by March or April of 2018.
Peter Murphy, commissioner for St. Simons, Jekyll and Sea islands, asked where the company would sell tickets.
Some similar businesses pair up with shops and restaurants to sell tickets, but Williams said he has seen some that sell tickets online and even ferry and shuttle staff use iPads to take payments for tickets.
Commission Chairman Bill Brunson asked if he would be competing with the shuttle services already on St. Simons.
Williams said they mostly deal with sight-seeing and tours, and his shuttle service would be purely for transportation. His service and the tour shuttles could likely work hand-in-hand, as his ferry could bring customers to them.
The public is not allowed to dock at the St. Simons pier, Commissioner Mike Browning pointed out. He said the public might see the ferry docking at the floating dock and think the commission was playing favorites. Browning had concerns about agreeing to exclusivity in general.
Murphy said the service could be a boon for the tourism industry and the community as a whole should outweigh some phone calls.
Regardless of what agreement they may come to, Commissioner Mark Stambaugh said the St. Simons pier would have to remain open and unobstructed for public use.
In other business, Jay Nealy, lead counsel for Gulfstream, gave the commission a presentation on its Glynn County maintenance facility. He said it has been 50 years since they set up shop in Glynn County and 25 since the facility was expanded.
Commissioner Richard Strickland asked if there was any word on another expansion. Nealy responded by saying the Brunswick facility was doing very well, but Gulfstream does not like to publicly discuss future business plans.
Commissioners also gave Public Works Director Dave Austin the go-ahead to get plans drawn up for one-lane roundabouts at the intersections of Ocean Boulevard and East Beach Causeway, Demere Road and East Beach Causeway and Kings Way and Frederica Road. They also gave him the go-ahead to get plans drawn up for intersection improvements at Kings Way and Frederica Road to delay the need for a roundabout.
The next scheduled meeting of the Glynn County Commission is at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 in the Old Glynn County Courthouse, 701 G St. in Brunswick.