Governor Beverly Perdue signed an Executive Order, placing a “Moratorium on the collection of new tolls for the North Carolina ferry system,” scheduled to become effective April 1. This suspension is good for one year unless ended earlier by the General Assembly.
Perdue’s Order cites a negative economic impact to the travel and tourism industry, the coastal communities are still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene last August and the ferries operate, “connecting components of the State highway system.” The governor’s action comes on the heels of the ﬁnal public hearing, attended by a full house at the 500-seat auditorium at Pamlico Community College. More than 30 people spoke, rebuking State ofﬁcials with ﬁnger-pointing comments such as, “unfair burden, double taxation, illogical, inequitable, inconsistent, morally reprehensible” and accusations of, “you’re killing the wrong people,” and for having an ulterior motive to eliminate the Minnesott Beach/ Cherry Branch Ferry across the Neuse River.
Some questioned the legality of assessing tolls on the Pamlico and Neuse River routes, which connects State Highway 306. North Carolina General Statute 136-89.187 reads in part, “Conversion of free highways prohibited.”
Beaufort, Hyde and Pamlico Counties joined ﬁnancial forces to hire a lobbyist team to stop the tolls. The team hit the ground running Monday, February 27 and the Governor signed the Order two days later.
Directing her remarks to Norman Sanderson, the lone legislator at the public hearing, Oriental resident Lee Duer admonished his actions.
“Shame on you,” Duer said. “You passed the bill, then asked for public input.”