A conceptual design by Coplon Associates for possible use of the ferry terminal property on Eden Street shows Bay Ferries’ proposed operation confined to the shaded area. That area would include all ferry and customs operations, but overnight parking for walk-on ferry passengers would be in the town’s lot outside the shaded area. IMAGE COURTESY OF TOWN OF BAR HARBOR

Bay Ferries drafts lease

BAR HARBOR — Town councilors asked many questions but raised few concerns Tuesday about a proposed five-year lease for use of a portion of the former ferry terminal property for resumption of ferry service between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia.

A lease document was published and sent to councilors late last week, and company representatives answered many of the questions raised Tuesday by pointing to language in the lease itself.

The council is set to vote on Oct. 16 whether to approve the lease agreement, which would take effect on Dec. 1.

The proposed five-year lease is between the Town of Bar Harbor and Atlantic Fleet Services Corporation, a local company owned by Annette Higgins of Bar Harbor, which contracts with Bay Ferries to provide shoreside operations for its Maine ferry service.

Councilor Judith Noonan asked why the lessee was not Bay Ferries. Mark MacDonald, CEO of Bay Ferries, answered that it is easier for an American company to enter into contracts than it is for a Canadian company.

Councilor Matthew Hochman pointed to an obligation of the landlord to “ensure the continued availability of the North Pier” and asked, “Is the town obligated to repair the North Pier if it’s not useable?”

MacDonald answered that Bay Ferries was conducting their own assessment of the property, and “did not foresee a circumstance where the town would be responsible” for refurbishing an old pier.

Councilor Joe Minutolo said he did not see a “kill clause” in the lease, which would give the town an opportunity to back out if security requirements for an international ferry did not allow the town to use the terminal as a multi-use site.

MacDonald referred him to a section of the lease that specifies: “Tenant confirms that approval of such Facility Security Plans is a legal requirement for the conduct of ferry service from the Bar Harbor Ferry Terminal Property.” This, according to MacDonald, was the “kill clause” that the town had asked the lease to include.

The lease refers to the multiple uses under consideration for the rest of the ferry terminal property.

“Tenant agrees to work in good faith with Landlord in Landlord’s consideration and development of plans for future use of the Bar Harbor Ferry Terminal Property,” it reads.

Due to the late hour, Council chair Gary Friedman proposed ending the meeting without public comment, but Town Manager Cornel Knight advised them against that.

“If there’s some issue we can hear, address and resolve before the 16th, let’s do it,” Knight said.

When Friedman opened the floor to public comment, Ellen Grover asked where the lease contained a guarantee of payment. Councilors referred her to a paragraph in the lease containing a “binding guarantee” that the lessee’s payments to Bar Harbor are backed up by the province of Nova Scotia.

Others asked when various related documents referred to in the lease will be available for public review. They will not all be complete before the Oct. 16 council decision, but they will be before the lease is signed and goes into effect.

“There’s a bunch of deliverables that have to take place concurrently, or before, this lease being signed,” councilor Paul Paradis said. “They can’t sign this lease without providing a guarantee. There’s a whole list of things of things here that have to be done before anybody can sign this lease. Otherwise they would be in violation of it.”


Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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