BAR HARBOR—On Tuesday, Town Council members moved to hire an outside company to create a survey to find out more about the public’s specific concerns surrounding cruise ship visitation.
“Try this, to hire an experienced professional to design, produce, compile and analyze the responses of a community survey of opinions on cruise ship visitation and to pay for this from the cruise ship fund,” proposed council member Gary Friedmann.
The motion passed unanimously.
In response to concerned citizens who would like to see some changes regarding cruise ships, council members have discussed creating a cruise ship policy to regulate the number of ships for the future.
Town Council member Joe Minutolo agreed that hiring an experienced professional to generate the community survey was a smart move for avoiding biased opinions. He suggested hiring a company such as Eastern Maine Development Corp. that would not only create the survey but also help with its distribution. “This way it’s an unbiased situation to get to the people who feel like they’ve been counted out of this process,” he said.
While any changes to cruise ship policy would need to come before voters, having anything ready to go for June’s Town Meeting is likely going to be a stretch. At the council’s last meeting, a motion was carried to establish a cruise ship policy by developing a mailed survey of Bar Harbor residents, holding a public hearing and placing a proposed limit on the number of cruise ships and disembarking passengers on the June 2021 Town Meeting warrant.
Though council members Erin Cough and Matt Hochman agreed with the current motion, they thought it conflicted with the motion made last month that mentioned having survey results for June’s Town Meeting warrant. “I do hear what the people are saying, but I don’t want to rush it … you can’t propose solutions until you really hash it out,” said Cough. Due to the language about June in last month’s motion, Hochman agreed with Cough and suggested the members reconsider the older motion.
Town Manager Cornell Knight also thought that a June vote was unrealistic since it would only leave about two weeks for a company to be hired and a survey produced if it were to meet all the legal notice and posting requirements necessary for a June vote. “That’s a pretty short time to contact consultants and hear back from them about a timeframe,” said Knight.
Council member Jeff Dobbs felt it wasn’t necessary for last month’s motion to be changed just yet. Dobbs wanted to keep all the motions intact, as he felt the council should remain accountable for their June warrant goal. “Just listening to all of you now, how can we get all this done for the June warrant? This motion can be changed at a future date; we’re following a process,” he said.
Council member Jill Golthwait agreed with Dobbs and said that the motion could always be tweaked in two weeks at the next meeting. She said that because the council had yet to know about survey companies estimated timeframe, they didn’t need to make a decision right away about changing the town’s cruise ships plans for the June warrant. “It’s not like we’re putting it on the warrant tonight and then we have to take it back off; it’s not on the warrant yet,” she said.