AN ACT TO AUTHORIZE THE CREATION OF A FERRY TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY.
Enacts new Article 29, General Transportation Authority, in GS Chapter 160A to authorize the creation of an Authority to provide reliable and safe public ferry transportation services in its service area. Defines ferry transportation service as the transportation of passengers or freight by any means of conveyance, including ferry, barge, vehicle, or tram.
Details the boundaries of the service area of a Ferry Transportation Authority (Authority) that are to be determined by the Board of Trustees (Board).
Authorizes an Authority to be organized in accordance with new Article 29 upon adoption of a resolution creating an Authority by (1) the elected board of a municipality only accessible by vessel, (2) the elected board of a municipality where any mainland terminal of the Authority is located, or (3) the board of commissioners of the county where the Authority is located. Defines Ferry Transportation Authority as a public body corporate and politic organized in accordance with the provisions of new Article 29 for the purposes, with the powers and subject to the restrictions set forth in the Article. Defines vessel to mean watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as means of transportation of passengers or freight on water. Sets forth public hearing and publication of notice requirements that must be satisfied prior to the adoption of a resolution to form an Authority under this Article. Requires a resolution to form an Authority to include articles of incorporation, and requires a certified copy of the resolution signifying the determination to organize an Authority, along with proof of publication of the notice of hearing, to be filed with the Secretary of State. Directs the Secretary of State to issue a certificate of incorporation and record the certificate upon finding that the resolution, articles of incorporation, publication of notice, and public hearing conform to the provisions of the new Article. Directs the Authority to certify to the Secretary of State the names and addresses of its elected officers and the address of the principal office of the Authority when the Authority has been duly organized.
Details the membership of the Board of Trustees (Board) of the Authority, consisting of 11 members, with the mayor and mayor pro tempore of the municipality only accessible by vessel serving as ex officio members. Provides for the appointment of the nine voting members to serve staggered three-year terms. Limits service to no more than two consecutive terms on the Board. Sets out parameters for the Board's meetings and election of its officers. Subjects the Board members to the provisions of GS 136-13, GS 136-13.1, and GS 136-14 (ethics provisions for Department of Transportation officers, employees, members, and contractors). Directs the Board to submit an annual report by October 1 each year of its activities, holdings, and finances to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations.
Establishes that an Authority created under new Article 29 is a public authority subject to the provisions of GS Chapter 159. Provides that the establishment and operation of an Authority are governmental functions and constitute a public purpose, and the State or any unit of local government can appropriate funds to support its establishment and operation. Allows the State or any unit of local government to dedicate, sell, convey, donate, or lease any of its interests in any property to the Authority, and the Authority can apply for grants or any type of financing from the State, the United States, or any instrumentality thereof. Details 27 general powers of the Authority, including the power to make, enter into, and perform contracts with private parties and transportation companies with respect to the management and operation of ferry transportation services, and the power to issue bonds and bond anticipation notes under the the Local Government Revenue Bond Act (Article 5 and 9 of GS Chapter 159) for specified purposes.
Requires the Board to give at least 30 days' public notice of any change in rates, fees, charges, routes, or schedules, except in emergency situations. Requires the Board to report any changes in rates, fees, charges, routes, or schedules to the Secretary of DOT and the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations. Clarifies that the NC Utilities Commission does not have jurisdiction over the provisions of ferry transportation service within the Authority's service area.
Prohibits equipment of the Authority from being used as a charter, tour, or sight-seeing service. Allows for the equipment to be used for one-time charter service events if (1) the use of the equipment is approved in writing by the Board, (2) the revenues received by the Authority from the provision of the charter service exceed fully allocated expenses, and (3) the charter service does not adversely affect regularly scheduled ferry transportation services provided by the Authority.
Provides for the Authority to exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire fee or any lesser interest in real or personal property in accordance with GS Chapter 40A for use by the Authority.
Allows the Board to terminate the Authority at any time when it has no outstanding indebtedness. Directs that all property and assets of the Authority that are not encumbered upon its termination automatically become property of the State, and the State succeeds to all rights, obligations, and liabilities of the Authority.
Makes conforming changes to GS 62-3(23) (excluding an Authority created under new Article 29 from the term public utility), GS 159-81(1) (adding an Authority created under new Article 29 to the meaning of municipality under Article 5, Revenue Bonds), and GS 160A-20(h) (adding an Authority to the meaning of unit of local government under the statute, pertaining to security interests).
Details the terms for individuals serving on the initial Board of Trustees to achieve the staggered terms established in new GS 160A-684, effective upon the issuance of a certificate of incorporation by the Secretary of State for a Ferry Transportation Authority created under new Article 29 of GS Chapter 160A, as enacted.
Provides that if an Authority created under new Article 29 and an existing, privately owned ferry transportation service is currently operating a ferry transportation system in the service area of the Authority, pursuant to a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity issued by the NC Utilities Commission, the assets used and useful for the ferry transportation system and owned by the private ferry transportation service or its affiliates are to be acquired by purchase, gift, lease, or otherwise by that Authority at or below their appraised value. Provides that the Authority is to finance the purchase by bonds or notes, or other financing mechanisms, permitted by new Article 29. Terminates the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity issued by the NC Utilities Commission to the privately owned ferry transportation service upon purchase of the assets by the Authority, with all franchise rights to operate a ferry transportation system using the assets to be transferred to the Authority without any further action by the NC Utilities Commission. Requires an Authority that acquires the assets used and useful for the ferry transportation system from the privately owned ferry transportation service to initially maintain the same rates, fees, charges, routes, and schedules of the existing privately owned ferry transportation service as of the date of its acquisition by the Authority. Effective upon the issuance of a certificate of incorporation by the Secretary of State for an Authority created pursuant to new Article 29 of GS Chapter 160A, as enacted.
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