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Yarmouth County municipal units to apply for infrastructure funding for upgrades to ferry terminal facility

The ferry terminal in Yarmouth.
The ferry terminal in Yarmouth. - Tina Comeau

One-third of funding would be local with units looking to secure two-thirds of infrastructure funding from the federal and provincial levels of government


YARMOUTH, N.S. – The three municipal units in Yarmouth County would contribute dollars themselves, but they are looking to access infrastructure funding from the federal and provincial governments for upgrades to the ferry terminal in Yarmouth.

The application the units are looking to submit would be for a $9-million upgrade to the terminal facility on Water Street in Yarmouth.

Yarmouth Ferry Terminal. TINA COMEAU
Yarmouth Ferry Terminal. TINA COMEAU

At its June 14 council meeting, the Town of Yarmouth agreed it would fund 40 per cent of the local share of funding – which amounts to $1.2 million. The Municipality of Yarmouth approved its $1.2-million commitment at a June 27 meeting.

The local funding commitments hinge on two-thirds of the overall funding coming from the federal and provincial government levels.

The Yarmouth Ferry Terminal is a municipal-owned asset, having been transferred to the community by the federal government prior to the resumption of ferry service in 2014.

The Municipality of Argyle has also committed funding towards potential upgrades, but at a lower scale than the other two units, as it has declined the option of becoming one of the municipal owners of the facility. It is committing $300,000 as part of the application.

Also helping to round out the local share of the work would be using up to $300,000 in accumulated surplus from the ferry terminal. Bay Ferries makes lease payments to the town to use the facility, which has resulted in surplus funds.

This application would be considered Phase 1 of upgrades for the terminal. Town council was told the ferry operator has “basic and modest” upgrade needs. When ferry service resumed in 2014, there was a promise to Canada Border Services Agency that additional renewal/replacement work would be undertaken to improve the facilities, beyond what took place at the time. The timeline for these improvements has been exceeded.

The Cat ferry docked at the Yarmouth terminal facility. TINA COMEAU
The Cat ferry docked at the Yarmouth terminal facility. TINA COMEAU

The terminal’s passenger bridge, some of the wharf components and the pontoon also may need to be replaced. The terminal building’s interior and exterior could also stand more modernization.

The town says a one-time opportunity to apply for infrastructure funding through an available program has presented itself, although it was stated that $9 million would not cover all of the needed upgrades. (A design for a new terminal facility years ago had a $40-million cost attached to it.)

“With $9 million there will have to be some priorities set, and not everything we’d like to see get done will get done,” said town CAO Jeff Gushue. “That’s why this is what’s referred to as Phase 1. We don’t know what the timing will be of Phase 2. We don't get that kind of infrastructure funding every year from higher levels of government.”

It is also not known what a timeframe for work could be, other than over the period of a couple of years. If the application is successful, the allowable timeframe under this program would be to complete the work by 2023. The units obviously don’t want to take that long, but working around the sailing schedule of the ferry may mean the work takes place over a couple of years.

A couple of years ago upgrades or replacement of the ferry terminal was identified by the three councils in Yarmouth County as being their #2 regional priority. The airport was identified as the number-one regional priority. At the time, an expansion of the Mariners Centre was identified by the units as the third regional priority.

When the federal government transferred ownership of the terminal to the community prior to the resumption of ferry service by Nova Star Cruises in 2014, the government did invest $2.5 million as work was carried out to the terminal facility and the customs operation. When Bay Ferries took over the Yarmouth-Portland route in 2016, other configuration work was needed at the terminal, including changes to the ramping system since The Cat and the Nova Star had different designs. The funding for that work came from the province.

Bay Ferries is into year three of a 10-year contract with the province to provide ferry service for Nova Scotia.

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