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Your tax dollars at work: $700,000 to staff a ferry boat that hasn’t sailed this year

KING 5's Susannah Frame has uncovered $700,000 we're paying to staff a ferry boat that doesn't run. (Image courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation)

Taken from Tuesday’s edition of The Dori Monson Show.

I am only one man. I can only do so much looking out for your tax dollars. That’s why occasionally I must piggyback on the good and hard work of KING 5’s Susannah Frame who also does a great job watching out for your tax dollars.

Susannah Frame has a new story about the Washington State Ferry system and how they have blown $700,000 staffing a ferry boat that is never used.

According to her KING 5 report, The MV Hiyu, is a 40-year-old backup boat. They rarely use it, but they have a staff on this boat every single day. They used it just 8 days in 2012 and so far in 2013, it has been used zero times. But we have spent $700,000 staffing that boat.

David Moseley, the head of the Washington State Ferries, tells KING 5: “It’s like insurance, I don’t like paying for it until I need it, and when I need it, I’m glad I paid for it.”

Really? $700,000 for a boat that we haven’t taken out one time all year. Isn’t that insurance policy a little pricey?

The cost comes from staffing the boat daily, says Susannah. Ferry officials offered her several explanations for this.

“I got a couple of different explanations,” says Susannah. “The first explanation was, we need them there, we need to be at the ready, boats can break down at any time. Then, I got the explanation that when they’re not that busy, they go and relieve other workers that do call in sick on a regular basis. Then, they told me that well the boat has maintenance needs every single day, so we really need the full-time crew to tick off all those chores on the to-do list.”

That one has got to be nonsense, right? That a boat that hasn’t gone out since 2012 and they have to staff it to do maintenance every single day on that boat.

“We took the maintenance chore list that they gave us for December and showed it to engineers that know what they’re talking about, very good sources of ours,” says Susannah. “And 43 percent of the items on the list would never be done because they’re only for boats that are used. It’s like changing your oil in your car that only sits in your garage, that’s something you wouldn’t do. So that explanation didn’t hold a lot of weight after I researched it.”

And it turns out other ferry systems just don’t have this luxury that you and I have to pay for here.

“I did get a hold of four different ferry systems in the country and in Canada yesterday and none of them have a setup like this,” says Susannah. “BC Ferries, they don’t have any spare boats. Staten Island, they have a couple spare boats, but they’re not staffed. That is the cost. It’s not that we have a boat there. It’s the labor. That $710,000 figure you let your listeners know about, that’s all labor, that has nothing to do with anything else.”

So we’re the only ones who do this sort of thing, and their rationale is it’s an insurance policy.

“This is insurance that we’re paying, about 1 percent of the overall engine labor room cost, I think that’s a reasonable insurance policy,” Moseley tells KING 5.

No it’s not just 1 percent. It’s real money David. It’s $710,000. This makes no sense. We staff something that’s never taken out. It’s because the union owns the ferry system. They can’t get rid of ferry employees who smear food on passengers cars, and we can’t de-staff a boat that’s never taken out. We’d rather spend $700,000 on this.

It’s frustrating. I’m glad you’re all over this series of taxpayer rip offs. That’s the only way I can view it. I know they don’t view it that way. But I don’t know how anybody sensible can watch your reporting on this and conclude anything else.

I just believe if I was governor, which I never would be, but if I was governor, I could slash 20 percent from the state budget and nobody would feel a thing except people who are ripping off the taxpayers. I truly believe there is at least that much easy, low-hanging waste that you could get rid of on the first day if you had somebody who was fiscally responsible. Nobody could ever in a million years convince me that there’s not 20 percent waste in every single government agency.

“I like to say to myself: Would this cut it in the private sector? And the answer is always ‘No way,'” says Susannah.

Taken from Tuesday’s edition of The Dori Monson Show.

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