Water taxi inspections will delay start of service

Still at question: Where is city getting money to pay for 2 boats?

Headline Goes Here

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The city is buying two new water taxis to help transport people downtown after the company running the vessels decided to jump ship.

But those boats won't be available for service until the Coast Guard completes its inspections of the purchased vessels. The Coast Guard said the inspections should be completed by June 13, the city said in a news release Friday.

"It's a service that's supported the downtown waterfront for 25 years, and it just would be a terrible shame if it were to stop for any reason," said Don Shafer, water taxi deckhand. "Thankfully, they found a way to continue the service and it will greatly benefit the downtown area."

Harbor Care out of Baltimore has been running the water taxi over the last year but couldn't come to terms with the city on a long-term contract. So at the 11th hour, city leaders decided to buy two pontoon boats from down south to avoid a lengthy interruption in service.

"The sun views in the city that you get to see, like if you have relatives who come down, it's good to show them," said Travis Bristol, a frequent water taxi rider. "So it just gives you a slow motion of beautiful Jacksonville, Florida."

Next weekend is Florida Country Superfest, and around the corner if the Fourth of July and Jaguars preseason.

"We've spent a little over $300,000 for the next two weekends to promote Jacksonville," said City Councilman Warren Jones. "The hotels, also keep in mind, they market Jacksonville and use the water taxi as a way of getting around."

"What I really have a question mark about right now is where the dollars are going to come from," said City Councilman Clay Yarborough.

The cost of the boats is about $330,000, and there's no definitive answer on where that money is coming from.

"If we're going to make such a large purchase and buy these vessels, then we need to make sure that we have the money available to do that," Yarborough said.

The city said it has resources in place to run the boats.

"I'm glad to see the city has found a way to save the water taxi," Shafer said.

Copyright 2014 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.