Ferry terminal lease may be in jeopardy

PORTLAND — Facility and staffing requirements for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may jeopardize the plan to resume international ferry service between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia next year.

Town Manager Cornell Knight attended a meeting on Dec. 13 between Bay Ferries and CBP officials. The meeting, held at the CBP offices in Portland, was attended by all interested parties in the ferry service Bay Ferries plans to provide from the Bar Harbor ferry terminal set to start in June.

In addition to Knight, there were also staff people attending from U.S. Senator Angus King’s and U.S. Senator Susan Collin’s offices, according to Town Council Chair Gary Friedmann. Representatives from the Government of Nova Scotia were also in attendance.

Knight told the Islander last month that Bay Ferries is still working out the details with CBP on requirements for running an international ferry service from Bar Harbor. “There are some issues they need to work through,” Knight said. This meeting was an attempt to work through those issues.

According to a Dec. 11 letter sent to Friedmann from Matthew Hladik, CBP Area Port Director from Portland, CBP would require Bay Ferries to “enter into a Reimbusable Services Program (RSP) Agreement to provide the staffing resources needed, in addition to providing CBP with a fully compliant facility.”

“They want five full-time officers,” councilor Matthew Hochman summarized.

In addition for paying for CBP staff, Bay Ferries would need to renovate the building to remediate Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos found in the building on the ferry terminal property, according to the letter.

“The design and construction of a facility of this size generally takes 12 to 18 months to complete,” Hladik wrote. “Given that the ferry season typically begins in June, and sufficient funds for the project have yet to be identified, we feel that the facility presents a notable challenge to beginning international ferry service in Bar Harbor in 2019.”

Those in attendance at the Dec. 13 meeting failed to reach an agreement. “Cornell was in Portland all day and it was almost pointless,” Friedmann said. “I find it extremely disappointing.”

Last June, Bar Harbor voters authorized the purchase of the ferry terminal from the Maine Department of Transportation for $3.5 million. In October, town council voted to enter a five-year lease agreement which would allow Bay Ferries to offer international ferry service between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth, N.S.

Last month, Knight reported the town’s purchase of the ferry terminal property, which was set to close Nov. 30, was delayed on account of Governor Paul LePage refusing to sign closing documents without a change in the wording.

Now with the latest development with CBP, Friedmann said, “It’s very possible this could jeopardize the lease. I do want you to know that Cornell is working very hard on this with Senators’ offices and Bay Ferries and anyone who can help.”

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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