A crowd of Chappaquiddick residents traversed the Edgartown harbor Monday afternoon, filling every seat and lining the hallway of the Ted B. Morgan meeting room to protest rate hikes and advocate for greater oversight of the Chappy Ferry service.

The meeting of the Edgartown selectmen began with a Powerpoint presentation from Rick Biros, who outlined the four major concerns of the approximately 50 Chappy residents standing wall to wall and spilling out the door behind him.

“Our concerns are with your oversight and the governance of the Chappaquiddick ferry,” Mr. Biros told the selectmen. “Not with the service — the service is very good.”

The ferry is a quasi-private service licensed by the selectmen, and co-owned by ferryman Peter Wells, providing daily service between Edgartown and Chappaquiddick on a small three-car barge. According to the ferry’s charter, Mr. Wells is obligated to provide a bond to the state treasurer to ensure quality of service. Even though selectmen have oversight over maximum cash rates, other special discounted rates for Chappaquiddick residents have traditionally been left to the discretion of the ferry owner.

Last May, selectmen approved a $1 rate hike from $12 to $13 for a round trip with a car and driver. Walk-on passenger fees of $4 round trip were unchanged.

But a recent increase in the discounted rate offered to year-round residents has apparently caused simmering concerns about oversight and management of the ferry to reach a boiling point.

There are different tiers of discounts, one for books of tickets that can be purchased by anyone, and a more deeply discounted tier for people who live on the small island at least 11 months a year. Mr. Wells notified the selectmen by letter on Oct. 18 that the price for year-round book tickets increased 50 cents, while year-round passenger tickets increased 25 cents. He said the most recent increase to year-round prices had been five years ago. A letter signed by 12 Chappaquiddick residents expressed concern about the rate increase without a public hearing and oversight, as well as about the long-term viability of the ferry service considering the recent loss of captains and threats from climate change.

In response, Mr. Wells defended the operation of the ferry service and said he still offered discounted rates approximately 50 per cent lower than the maximum rate. He said any advance notice of the rate increase would have prompted people to buy and hoard tickets before the price change.

“Administering the program is a constant headache,” Mr. Wells wrote. “The program is a really bad deal for the ferry and a good deal for residents. The offering of any discounts by the ferry is voluntary.”

At the meeting on Monday, Mr. Biros requested that selectmen review the rates and provide a definition of residency, determining who can qualify for the year-round rates, and form a governing board that would provide oversight, similar to the Steamship Authority. He also asked the selectmen to obtain legal advice on the proposals.

“It’s the residents who we feel need a voice,” Mr. Biros said.

Others felt the concern was broader.

“This is a long-term issue that we need to deal with for the future of Chappaquiddick and for the residents,” said resident Dana Strayton. “This is our lifeline.”

After hearing concerns, selectman Art Smadbeck agreed it was time to take a deeper look at the ferry operation.

“It would seem to me that we ought to be able to work out a process of reviewing all the rates, because that seems to be the crux of it,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “[Mr. Wells] and the board need to work toward looking at that for the future. Because the system that has been in place, has caused a lot of consternation.”

Selectmen and town counsel Ron Rappaport suggested that residents communicate with town administrator James Hagerty to hone questions before they send them to Mr. Rappaport and special counsel attorney Jeffrey Swope.

Meanwhile, they moved to form a five-to-seven member town steering committee that would focus on the specific concerns of the ferry operation. Mr. Wells said he would be available for the discussions.

“I’m happy to hear any suggestions to help the ferry run better,” Mr. Wells said.

Selectmen set March 2 as a date for written applications for the committee. They said applications should be sent to Mr. Hagerty, and that Chappy resident Peter Getsinger and Mr. Wells would participate.

“We just don’t want this to disappear,” said Chappy resident John Dropick. “And we want to move through this expeditiously.”