Ferry terminal business plan ‘wide open’

BAR HARBOR — There was lots of applause last month when the Town Council accepted the ferry terminal property advisory committee report and voted to buy the property for $3.5 million, but disagreements remain about what, exactly, the council has agreed to do.

“The most accurate representation is that council has accepted the report, not adopted or accepted the recommendation,” council Chair Paul Paradis said Friday. “We have not made any decisions on which way to proceed because we don’t have all the information to make the decision.”

The council moved to exercise an option agreement to purchase the abandoned ferry terminal property on Eden Street for $3.5 million from the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT). That option was favored because it didn’t come with any restrictions on the use of the property.

At the same meeting, the committee delivered its recommendation for a multi-use marine facility with tender boat landings from cruise ships and a transportation hub at the property.

According to minutes from the Nov. 21 meeting, the council unanimously voted to “accept the [committee’s] report, thank the committee members for their work in a short period of time and forward the report to Bermello and Ajamil” — longtime consultants for the ferry terminal-related projects — “for a review and business plan.”

At the meeting, Paradis said that the ferry terminal property project would be a long process and urged residents to be patient.

Some residents are now hoping to convince state legislators to kill LD 1400, the bill that would give Bar Harbor the option to create a port authority by local referendum. Opponents believe the bill is now unneeded because the town adopted the committee’s recommendation on Nov. 21.

“The ferry terminal property advisory committee voted for local ownership, local control, a limit on annual cruise ship visitation, and freedom from bureaucratic oversight,” resident Art Greif said. “A Bar Harbor Port Authority (BHPA) runs counter to each of these core principles the Committee expressly endorsed.  A BHPA makes sense only if one wishes to build a mega berthing pier capable of doubling or tripling cruise ship visitation.”

Paradis said that citizens could have the wrong idea of what the council accepted. The development of a business plan is wide open at this point, he said, and it would be premature to eliminate the opportunity to create the port authority or promise everything in the recommendation.

Ahead of the Dec. 19 Town Council meeting, a proposal was submitted to the town by Bermello and Ajamil to develop a business plan for the ferry terminal property.

The plan, a four-phase project, is to conduct market analysis, create concept designs, perform financial analysis and develop the final strategy.

According to the plan, the process will take 14 weeks and cost $65,620. The plan states that the existing contract the company has with Bar Harbor has a balance of unused fees of $35,800, leaving the council to add $29,820 from a capital improvement account for the completion of a business plan by B&A.

Bermello and Ajamil also requested an additional $20,000 for local market analysis, but a summary for that fee was not available.

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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