Locke signs ferry bill into law

"Gov. Gary Locke on April 18 signed the first ferry bill of the 57th Legislative session that will help lower the cost of preserving and maintaining Washington State Ferries (WSF) vessels in the Puget Sound region.Co-sponsored by Rep. Brock Jackley, D-Manchester, and Rep. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, HB 2221 received broad bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate, easily gaining approval in both chambers over the last month before landing on the governor's desk.Pleased to hear the bill passed muster just days before the regular session is scheduled to end, WSF Director Terry McCarthy said lawmakers crafted the legislation after reviewing an independent audit of the capital program within the Department of Transportation's marine division.In its report, the independent auditing firm developed several recommendations for the state to follow in order to save DOT money that would first require legislative action, said McCarthy. To that end, the bill allows WSF officials to pursue more creative, common-sense service procurement approaches, as well as a best-value system whenever purchasing large equipment for vessels.In today's world, we at WSF would receive just one bid for the dry docking of certain vessels because of their size for a two-day, shave and a haircut job, said McCarthy. So the current bidding process wasn't getting us anywhere. McCarthy said the bill, in such cases, allows WSF officials to negotiate a long-term agreement with those vessel-specific dry dock facilities around Puget Sound. The method is thought to be more cost-effective for both the agency and the business. Before the bill passed, state law required WSF officials to pursue an open bidding process for dry dock services that occupies staff time and efforts. The second piece of the measure allows WSF officials, without first gaining consent from the state Secretary of Transportation, to consider more than just the bottom line when purchasing large equipment for vessels.Unless the secretary permits otherwise, officials under state law have purchased equipment with a small price tag. But because other criteria such as replacement parts or fuel costs weren't accounted for, the piece could end up costing WSF more than expected over its lifetime.The 2000 Legislature allocated $243,000 for the Office of Financial Management to hire an outside firm to conduct an audit of the WSF capital program. Talbot, Korvola and Waswick, LLP. performed the audit, delivering a final report in January of this year. "

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