Savannah's cruise ship future now in hands of city council - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Savannah's cruise ship future now in hands of council

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Will the Savannah cruise ship terminal idea sail along, or be dead in the water, come Thursday afternoon? Either option could happen.

The city just got the study back on the best location for a cruise ship terminal. Now it seems some aren't happy the city council is moving so fast, particularly, one of city council member leading the effort behind the cruise ship terminal. 

Alderman Tony Thomas said Tuesday he expected his fellow council members to digest the findings of the $200,000 first phase of the cruise ship terminal staging study which tapped the Savannah River Landing as the best location for such a venture.

However, at the conclusion of the two and half hour session, council, lead by Mayor Edna Jackson, decided to move ahead quickly, while the issue and information from the study was "fresh in everyone's mind" since many council members would not be present at the July meetings.

A public hearing was set for this week's council meeting and a possible vote on whether to fund the second phase study, costing about $80,000, may take place as well.

The sequence of events didn't seem to sit well with Thomas.

"I thought we were pretty much receiving information, then have time to digest it. Discuss it. I didn't know it was going to be a shotgun approach, but, uh, whatever. The council, there are nine members on council. Whatever they want to do," Thomas said Wednesday.

Three years ago, it was Savannah City Council who created a cruise ship task force to help explore and gather information to offer recommendations to them during the process of deciding the best course of action as they navigated the cruise ship decision making waters.

However, the decision to hold a public hearing and vote on the study was also made, Thomas says, before the task force even was briefed on the study.

The task force briefing took place Wednesday afternoon.

The task force is made up of local business and community leaders, tourism officials, the Georgia Ports Authority and city officials, including Mayor Edna Jackson, who was conspicuous by her absence. Many in attendance were pleased with the information they received, but also were very non-committal about the future after hearing council already decided they may make a decision on whether they will move forward with phase two of the study Thursday, including Joe Marinelli with Visit Savannah.

"I think they did a very thorough and complete job and I am happy we have the data we have in front of us that we have," Marinelli told WTOC. But, should the city continue on with Phase two? "I'll leave that up to the city council people and follow their lead." 

Thomas was still surprised when the Mayor set a public hearing and council discussed putting the second half of the study to a vote this Thursday. 

"The task force was to formed to gather information on the concept and give recommendations to council. Somehow, someone a lot higher up the food chain than me made some different decisions," Thomas said.

The public hearing will be held immediately at the start of the city council meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, and will be tightly structured as some council members will be leaving early. If there is a vote on whether or not to continue with the cruise ship study phase two, it will happen after the public hearing.

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