Ferry terminal committee axed

BAR HARBOR — A proposed task force intended to inform voters of the process and timeline for development of the former international ferry terminal property was scrapped on Tuesday when councilors rejected its draft bylaws.

Dissenting councilors said the bylaws had conflicts and also disputed the need for an intermediary task force.

Resident Val Peacock initially floated the idea of creating the task force during the public comment period of the March 6 Town Council meeting. The council approved the creation of the task force and ordered town officials to work on drafting bylaws on March 24 by a 4-2 vote.

Councilor Gary Friedmann brought a motion to accept the draft bylaws on Tuesday, but it was defeated by a 4-3 vote. Councilors Paul Paradis, Stephen Coston, Peter St. Germain and Judie Noonan were in the majority. Friedmann, Matt Hochman and Erin Cough voted in favor.

Friedmann said votes to deny the creation of the task force could be construed as councilors attempted to shut out the public from the ferry terminal development process.

“I think you’re going to get some negative blowback,” Friedmann said. “There are assumptions out there that the council doesn’t want to engage citizens.”

Coston disagreed with Friedmann’s assessment, citing recent changes that required public comment at nearly all town committee and task force meetings. He also said the responsibility for development of the property should not be deflected away from the council.

“If I have to come to some sort of judgment that’s maybe not popular with somebody who would like to have the opportunity to scream at me, well they’ll find it if they want it, and that’s what I signed up for,” Coston said. “Rather than put that responsibility on someone else and keep allowing this to get convoluted, I’d rather just take the responsibility.”

St. Germain said having an intermediary between the council and the public was not necessary. Consultants Bermello and Ajamil are contractually obligated to hold public meetings based on their pending business plan, he added.

Paradis said the draft bylaws were inconsistent. One section said the task force would meet no more often than monthly, but another said it would meet every two weeks.

Hochman, who voted in favor of accepting the bylaws, said the task force could be formed and then the council could amend the bylaws later.

Town Manager Cornell Knight said in a March 30 memo to councilors that he recommended voting against the creation of the task force, saying its work is the council’s responsibility.

Peacock said after the meeting that she did not know how the council would explain the process of making decisions about the ferry terminal to citizens without the creation of the task force.

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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