Ferry terminal bond on ballot

BAR HARBOR — Funds to allow the Maine Port Authority to purchase the former Marine Atlantic ferry terminal here from the Canadian government are included in the proposed $85 million statewide transportation bond issue before voters on Nov. 3.

Voters locally and statewide also will vote on Question 1, whether to provide a wide range of public financing for political campaigns, and on Question 2, a bond to provide matching funds for the construction of energy-efficient homes and weatherization projects for senior housing.

During a legislative work session in June, Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner David Bernhardt confirmed that $3.5 million of the bond package in Question 3 is designated for the ferry terminal purchase, Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor) said.

Voters passage of the bond question “provides the quickest route towards funding for the ferry terminal,” Hubbell told the Islander this week. “But if the bond isn’t approved, it doesn’t necessarily mean the purchase can’t happen.”

In the last legislative session, Hubbell and Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) submitted complementary bills authorizing a $5 million bond to fund the purchase of the dormant facility from its owner, Marine Atlantic, a Canadian Crown Corporation. That bill is set to carry over into the upcoming session if the DOT bond fails at the polls.

“The acquisition costs are a relatively small part of what it would take to actually develop that area,” Hubbell said. “Once the state owns the property, it’s a state decision-making process about how it’s developed, improved or used.

“But that’s always been the prospect because the town was not in a position to purchase or develop the property on its own. And it doesn’t mean that local concerns aren’t important or that they’re going to be ignored.

“I know a lot of local people are concerned about what the uses and impacts will be. I want to assure people there will still be good public discussion around that.”

The Maine Port Authority and the town of Bar Harbor hope to convert the wharf and shore-side buildings and U.S. Customs facilities into a hub for visiting cruise ships. The town, the Maine Port Authority and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce have funded a feasibility study of a renovated cruise ship terminal. The study gave the Port Authority confidence that a cruise ship terminal could be commercially viable.

Bar Harbor was scheduled to have more than 146 visits this year. While smaller vessels can tie up to the head of the municipal pier, larger vessels must currently anchor offshore and ferry passengers to land aboard tenders.

A Citizen’s Guide to the Referendum Election is available on the Secretary of State’s website.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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