AUGUSTA — Lawmakers are taking a two-pronged approach to securing state funds to purchase the former International Ferry Terminal in Bar Harbor.
Early in the legislative session, Rep. Brian Hubbell, D-Bar Harbor, and Senator 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.
The Maine Port Authority and the town of Bar Harbor hope to convert the wharf and shore-side offices and U.S. Customs facilities into a dock for visiting cruise ships. Bar Harbor is 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.
“Officially the Legislature is carrying over to the second session both my bond bill and Senator Langley’s,” Hubbell said this week.
He continued that those bills will remain in reserve until the Legislature reconvenes for its second session in January.
Meanwhile, $3.5 million dedicated to the purchase of the ferry terminal is included in a massive $85 million transportation bond slated to go to voters in November. The authorization for that vote was granted by the Legislature and signed by Governor Paul LePage.
“On June 29, at the work session when appropriations worked on these bonds, DOT [Department of Transportation] Commissioner David Bernhardt assured me that the bond includes $17 million for multimodal projects and that the $17 million includes $3.5 million dedicated to the purchase of the ferry terminal,” Hubbell said via email.
He added that the next step is up to voters. “Depending on what happens with that vote in November, our bond bills are being held in reserve,” he added.
Earlier this year, Maine officials said they were very close to completing a purchase and sale agreement on the terminal.
Bar Harbor, the Maine Port Authority and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce also have pitched in to fund more than $111,000 in additional study of the commercial viability of a renovated cruise ship terminal.