By Capt. PATRICK THOMPSON, Sandusky
Firelands Military Vehicle Group
A letter writer (Reader Forum, Feb. 11) wonders if the county commissioners are nuts to help a local company purchase a new ferryboat and a heavy marine travel lift with which it would open a shipyard in Sandusky, first of its kind on the Great Lakes.
The writer also questions the two large boats sitting on the dock. I am president of the Firelands Military Vehicle Group, a not-for-profit public charity those boats belong to. There are actually three of them as well as a 64-foot tugboat, and they are used to train youth ages 10 to 18 from all over Ohio and the U.S. Mr. Pallidino, his company and staff have been extremely generous in donating dockage and other needs to allow these boats to call Sandusky home. A very public-spirited man, as is his staff.
Those boats got onto the dock because we hired a 120-ton-capacity crane based in Cleveland, at a cost of more than $4,000 to lift the boats out of the water and another $4,000 to put them back in. Money we have to raise through donations only. These could be the first of many hauled onto that dock for repairs.
As for the county commissioners, they are not nuts; they are looking at new jobs and tax revenue. And for the ferry being based in Marblehead, they haul out of there, but Kelleys Island is in Erie County, and more visitors to it mean more revenue for this county. The boat means new jobs as does the new shipyard. Not "recreation industry" wage jobs either.
A shipyard like this will attract work from all over the lower lakes because of the lower dry-dock rates. How many, even if only a few at first, it's more than we have now. And with the new "short sea" shipping program, with barges and tugs bringing cargoes onto the Great Lakes, Sandusky is in a wonderful position to become a hub for operations. That means even more jobs in our port, rail and trucking services and other support positions. Maybe it starts slowly, but at least it starts, and it is tax revenue, sustainable employment and real growth for the area.
As far as the "new" airport, we first need an organization that can fund, own and operate it as a profitable business. The city and county need a port authority. Even Columbus and Zanesville, Ohio, have them and they aren't on the water. Put-in-Bay and Vermilion each have one. A port authority can own property, sell bonds, enforce laws, access federal and state funds for special projects and even build and own an airport -- although the existing one can be saved and expanded after it's purchased by the port authority, saving thousands of dollars.