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Annapolis, Md., to Spend $1.5M on Electric Ferry, Other EVs

The Annapolis City Council has unanimously agreed to spend $1.5 million on an electric ferry and the infrastructure needed to support it. The city also plans to purchase other electric vehicles.

Aerial view of a ferry
(TNS) — Mayor Gavin Buckley is getting his electric ferry.

In a 9-0 vote, the Annapolis City Council agreed to amend the city's capital budget Monday for the current fiscal year and next to spend a combined $1.5 million to acquire an electric ferry and build docking and charging infrastructure at City Dock and at a street-end in Eastport. Buckley advocated for the proposal in a series of council standing committee hearings this month calling it "a small plan for a small city that will pack a big punch."

The spending plan also include the purchase of other electric vehicles for the city.

After its final passage, Buckley thanked the council for "trying to do something different and making Annapolis a leader not only in the state, but I believe in the country," he said.

The electric ferry would cost an estimated $330,000 with $30,000 going toward a refundable deposit. Another $100,000 would pay for planning and conceptual designs for the docking and charging. Around $200,000 would be pulled from the capital reserve fund.

"I promised the City Council that I would make sure that this was 100% funded," said Buckley, adding that he's secured grant funding from county, state and federal partners to pay for the project. The proposal is a pilot program that the city could abandon if it doesn't work, he said.

It would take about 18 to 24 months for the ferry to arrive in city waters. That extended lead time is part of the urgency of the proposal, Buckley said.

In addition, $550,000 would be designated for an electric circulator bus, $50,000 for two electric six-passenger vans and $400,000 for DC charging infrastructure, according to city estimates. These items were added to fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1.

"It's an exciting idea and I think it will help move the ball forward not only for Annapolis but beyond" on making the city more sustainable, said Alderman Rob Savidge, a Ward 7 Democrat who chairs the Environmental Matters Committee.

City officials have assured that the city will study all aspects of the plan, including the demand for the ferry service, impacts on traffic and parking and the cost of maintenance before moving forward with the acquisition. Alderman DaJuan Gay, a Ward 6 Democrat, said he was more comfortable with supporting the proposal after hearing the city would study its feasibility before spending money on the ferry.

"We will be open to any ideas as we move through the process," Buckley said.

An amendment removing specific mention of Fifth Street from the ferry proposal was approved, which will allow other Eastport locations to be considered.

While the Planning Commission endorsed the proposal, the Maritime Advisory Board only offered comments in its March 12 report, which cited concerns including the high initial price tag for the ferry and infrastructure, disruptions to existing ferry service and dinghy space, infrastructure and flooding issues and more.

The board recommended the city allow Watermark Cruises and Tours to operate the ferry service during the pilot program, a proposal the mayor has endorsed. The board suggested the city then enter into a private-public partnership for a longer-term service "without the capital investment and ongoing operational, infrastructure and maintenance costs associated with owning the electric vessel."


The council also approved the introduction of a resolution expressing support for recommendations made by a coalition of human rights organizations regarding a proposed Police Accountability Board in Anne Arundel County.

But first, Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell-Charles, a Ward 3 Democrat and chair of the Public Safety Committee, spoke for more than 40 minutes about the current state of crime and violence in the city, reading snippets of notes and emails she has received and listing numerous shootings and other crimes that have occurred in recent months. She blamed the council for "turning a blind eye" to the violence while focusing on "high dollar items," like Hillman Garage and City Dock and the electric ferry.

She was shocked when she discovered the resolution, R-15-22, sponsored by Gay and Savidge, had been introduced.

"I thought I was doing a halfway decent job [as Public Safety chair] ... but apparently I'm not," she said, later adding that she meant no offense by her soliloquy but said she hoped it would spark further discussion on addressing public safety in the city.

Savidge said he introduced the bill quickly in response to input from the public and because of the urgency of passing the bill ahead of the next County Council meeting March 21. A vote to suspend the rules to give final passage to the resolution failed. It will be up for a final vote in two weeks.


Elsewhere on the agenda, the council unanimously passed O-38-21, which defines what an illicit discharge is under the city's Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, or MS4 laws, and gives city inspectors authority to conduct inspections on those discharges. An ordinance clarifying that aggressive panhandling is a misdemeanor offense also passed unanimously.

The council also approved a bill allowing the sale of liquor at the Market House.

The council confirmed two new members of the Annapolis Board of Supervisors of Elections, Keanuú Smith-Brown, a Democrat and Debbie Yatsuk, a Republican.

Smith-Brown ran unsuccessfully for Ward 3 alderman last year. Yatsuk is a legislative assistant at the Maryland General Assembly.

Eileen Leahy, a Democrat who currently is serving as board chair, was also reconfirmed.

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