Ferry talks approved

CRANBERRY ISLES — Town officials have been granted the authority to negotiate for a new ferry service for the residents of this multi-island offshore community. A related question seeking voter approval for $40,000 to hire a consultant, however, failed.

The Beal & Bunker ferry service, which has carried passengers, freight and mail between the islands and Northeast Harbor since 1952, is for sale, and town officials want to make sure their water link to Mount Desert Island is maintained.

At a special town meeting on Saturday, residents voted 33 to 6 to “negotiate with individuals or entities as they may deem necessary to appropriate or secure ferry transportation service from Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor to Great Cranberry Island, Little Cranberry Island and Sutton Island.”

Any final deal would still be subject to town meeting approval.

In April 2014, the selectmen created a transportation task force to look at the existing level of service and options for improvement. One possibility they have considered is having the town set up a nonprofit corporation to own a ferry service and hire a private individual or company to operate it.

Beal & Bunker owner David Bunker told a Cranberry Isles selectman earlier this year that he hoped to be out of the business by November. That prompted town officials to look at options for making temporary arrangements for ferry service this winter, while also making long-range plans. But Bunker has since said he would not leave the town without ferry service.

A related item on Saturday’s warrant, which would have authorized selectmen to spend up to $40,000 to hire a consultant to develop a plan for long-term ferry service for the town, failed to win support. It went down by a vote of 23 to 19.

Ron Axelrod, chairman of the transportation task force, has said previously that the task force would like to have a proposed arrangement for long-term ferry service to present to voters at the annual town meeting in March.

Steve Pagels, who operates the seasonal Cranberry Cove ferry service between Southwest Harbor and the Cranberry Isles, said last week that he would be open to talking with town officials about the possibility of providing year-round service that also includes Northeast Harbor.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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